3 Great Hikes Around Bilbao

As my friend Kaitlyn put it, “Spain is closed on Sundays.” Such a perfect description—the country in its entirety just about shuts down, save for a number of bars and panaderías. In Granada I mourned the lack of open H&Ms and grocery stores, but here in Bilbao, I’ve started seeing Closed Sundays as a positive, and have come to designate them my Hiking Days (contingent on rain and resaca, of course). One of the major reasons I chose to live in Basque Country was because of the incredible landscape, and it would be a shame to let my year go by without taking proper advantage. For a while during the winter I was like, “It’s cloudy, I don’t think we should risk the outdoors today,” until several Basque colleagues informed me, “If you’re waiting for the sun, you’ll never leave your apartment.” They were right, so I’ve learned to suck it up and have made an effort to explore new places every weekend. The sun has even made some guest appearances! Here are three hikes in Bilbao and the surrounding area that I’d highly recommend:

1. Puerto de Getxo


This one is really a stroll, for all the couch potatoes out there! The city councils of Bilbao and Getxo have built the pier along the river up beautifully, with a wide path to ride bikes, jog, or walk arm-in-arm with your 80-year-old husband, your dog and your cane. This stroll is suitable rain or shine; since it’s on a tiled walkway, you won’t have to worry about mud. You can also tailor the length to your liking, as the metro line runs relatively close alongside. Kaitlyn and I got off at the Areeta stop and walked a couple blocks to the water, where we had great views of the Puente Colgante linking Algorta and Portugalete. This bridge is pretty famous in the area, and takes passengers and cars from one side of the river to another. We then walked along the water for about an hour to Neguri, passing the beautiful Puerto Viejo de Getxo with boats docked in the harbor. If there’s one thing I’ll never tire of, it’s little Basque towns full of fishing boats. You can catch the metro at any number of stops to head back, depending on how far you want to walk, but we decided to loop back to where we started.

Walking in Getxo.

Walking in Getxo.

El Puente Colgante linking Portugalete and Getxo

El Puente Colgante linking Portugalete and Getxo


(Sidenote: Getxo—and more specifically the town of Neguri—is known as Bilbao’s posh suburb, so make sure to take your eyes off the ocean once in a while to check out the enormous houses and historic mansions lining the walkway.)

2. Bidezabal—Sopelana

Beach at Bidezabal

Beach at Bidezabal

This hike starts at one beach and ends at another—so what’s not to love? In between are kilometers (I’m so Euro) of rugged cliffs overlooking the sprawling Atlantic. We went on a windy day, and walked right by a group of windsurfers who were taking full advantage! The trail is mostly paved, so again, a fine option if it’s been wet and rainy, but also there are some places you can wander off to a dirt trail and feel a bit more like you’re roughing it. The hike takes about two hours, and at the end, you can have a picnic at the gorgeous beach of Sopelana!

Basque coast

The Basque Coast never ceases to amaze.


Some entertainment along the hike.

Ride the metro to the Bidezabal stop, and then walk down about 10 minutes to the beach. From there, a trail heads along the bluffs all the way to Sopelana. Catch the metro back from Larrabasterra station, about a 15-minute walk from the beach.

3. Artxanda


Midway up the hike to Artxanda

You don’t even have to catch any public transportation to enjoy the nature and hikes in Bilbao. There are a series of hikes in the very hills that surround the city, and many of them link up to one another in an extensive network of trails known as the “Green Belt.” I was blown away when I first discovered these (thanks to some maps from the Tourism office—only took me till February to venture in there!). One minute I’m standing in front of the Guggenheim on a bustling street, and the next, I’ve crossed the bridge and am climbing up into the mountains, surrounded by one or two retirees and joggers. One of my favorite things to do while I was living at home over the summer was take long hikes with my mom into the mountains around my town, and this was like an homage to that time. Although I would have loved my mom to join me on this hike in Bilbao (and get a latte with her at the end), this was a pretty good substitute for our summer ritual! Depending on how long you want to hike, you can keep following the trails (the Green Belt stretches for 99.3 kilometers!) or take a number of cut-offs that head back down to the city. My favorite route so far has been to head up through the neighborhood of Deusto, climb a steep grade to the peak of the hill (where you get views of the valley and airport on the other side), pass the funicular viewpoint of Artxanda, and then gradually head around to the neighborhood of Begoña, which rests above Casco Viejo (the old part of town). Then take a gorgeous (and seemingly never-ending) set of stairs down to Casco, and grab a frozen yogurt from La Casa del Yogur, to be enjoyed in the sunny Plaza de Santiago while gazing up at the cathedral. If you’re brave and your legs are sturdy, you can head home walking, or catch the tram, bus, or metro. This route takes me 2.5 hours, but like I said, you can make it shorter or longer depending on your timetable.


Kaitlin, Taylor and I climbing the thumbprint statue in the lookout plaza. Photocred: Taylor Newton

Luckily the few places that do remain open on Sundays revolve around eating and drinking, so feel free to celebrate your athletic exploit with a glass of wine and some pintxos upon return. You earned it!

Do you think you would enjoy a place that gives true meaning to the term “lazy Sunday?” How would you spend them—streaming Modern Family in bed, or hiking around Bilbao? (Hey, no judgement here!!)