In less than a week you can visit the highlights of Spain's northern Basque Country while enjoying its rich culture. It begins in Bilbao with city tours, then a Basque cooking class followed by a visit to the famous Guggenheim Museum. Then you're off to the Cantabrian Mountains to see how rural Basque residents live before heading to one of the most beautiful seaside cities in the country, San Sebastian.

Highlights

  • Tour Bilbao's historic center and visit the Guggenheim Museum
  • Take a cooking class and learn how to prepare traditional Basque cuisine
  • Visit the Basque countryside and the Cantabrian Mountains
  • Stroll the streets of San Sebastian on a guided tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Bilbao - Food & City Tour Bilbao
Day 2 Cooking Class & Guggenheim Museum Tour Bilbao
Day 3 Day-Trip to the Basque Countryside Bilbao
Day 4 Transfer to San Sebastian - Coastal Tour & Wine Tasting San Sebastian
Day 5 Walking Tour of San Sebastian San Sebastian
Day 6 Depart Spain  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Bilbao - Food & City Tour

Plaza Nueva, Bilbao
Plaza Nueva, Bilbao

Welcome to the capital of the Spanish Basque Country!

Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel in the city center. After unpacking you'll hit the streets with an expert guide for a city tour. There's a lot to enjoy about Basque culture here, not least of which is the incredible food. To that end, this tour combines the culinary offerings of the Spanish Basque Country with the highlights of Bilbao.

On this walking tour, you'll visit the city's historic Casco Viejo ("old quarter"). Bilbao is located near the estuary of the River Nervión, and the Casco Viejo is right on the waterfront. This is a pedestrian area filled with colorful old buildings, cafés, bars, markets, and boutiques.

In the heart of Casco Viejo, in fact, are Las Siete Calles, the original "seven streets" of the city, which date back to the 1400s. As you stroll the cobbled streets, you'll visit emblematic buildings such as the 14th-century Bilbao Cathedral, the Plaza Nueva (New Square), the 16th-century Church of Saint Anthony and the Mercado de la Ribera (Seaside Market), the largest covered market in Europe. 

The old quarter is also the best place to indulge in the local cuisine. The Basque region is known for a type of tapas called pintxos (pronounced "peenchos"). Many bars, cafés, and restaurants in Casco Viejo serve some version of these bite-sized delicacies, and they're best paired with a glass of txakoli, the local white wine. This tour includes tastings of both the food and wine in Bilbao's old quarter.

Day 2: Cooking Class & Guggenheim Museum Tour

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Get ready for a culinary exploration into traditional Basque cuisine, as today you're taking part in a cooking class. It begins with a visit to La Ribera Market where an instructor will lead you through the stalls and help you pick out fresh ingredients. Then you'll head to a professional kitchen where you'll learn how to prepare traditional recipes like pisto a la bilbaína (Basque ratatouille), bacalao al Pil-Pil (Spanish cod with garlic sauce), plus dessert. After class, you'll enjoy your culinary creations with a glass of wine.

In the afternoon, you'll visit the Guggenheim Museum. This guided tour focuses as much on the architecture of the museum as it does the exhibits. The building is a contemporary masterpiece designed by Frank Gehry— a glimmering titanium structure with sleek lines sensually curving in seeming defiance of physics. Inside, the museum's 24,000 square-meter space houses a treasure trove of works from great artists such as Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, and Eduardo Chillida.

Day 3: Day-Trip to the Basque Countryside

Spend the day in a Basque village
Spend the day in a Basque village

In the morning you'll meet your driver/guide for an excursion into the Cantabrian Mountains and the Basque countryside. During the drive, you'll learn all about Basque culture and what makes it unique when compared to other regions of Spain. You'll see this culture firsthand when you stop in a rural village to meet some locals.

Tradition runs deep in these villages, as residents have their own customs and even their own music, which they play on hand-made instruments. Also, because farm labor is so prevalent in the country, locals have created their own sporting events based around displays of physical prowess. You'll get a front-row seat to some of these Basque rural sports, which include the wood-chopping contest aizkora proba, plus stone-lifting competitions and tug-of-war games.

After the games, you'll enjoy a homecooked lunch served with local wine. Then it will be time to transfer back to Bilbao.

Day 4: Transfer to San Sebastian - Coastal Tour & Wine Tasting

San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian, Spain

In the morning you'll leave Bilbao for San Sebastian. While it's only an hour drive from one city to the other, the Basque coast is too stunning to rush. We've therefore turned this journey into a full-day tour that begins when you meet a personal driver/guide and head off from Bilbao for the wild Cantabrian Coast.

Your first stop is the islet of Gaztelugatxe, perched atop which is a hermitage dating back to the 11th century. This little island is most noteworthy for the long stone bridge that connects it to the mainland. Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as the filming location for Dragonstone, which was featured in season seven.

From Gaztelugatxe, you'll continue driving a few minutes along the coast to the colorful fishing village of Bermeo. Not only is this the Basque region's most important fishing port, but it's also located at the edge of Urdaibai, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and protected area home to some of Spain's most gorgeous coastal landscapes. From Bermeo, you'll travel a couple of miles deeper into Urdaibai to the town of Mundaka, which sits on an estuary home to magnificent wetlands. 

At this point, you'll drive a short way to the Gorka Izagirre winery, which boasts the largest txakolí wine cellar in Basque Country. This local white wine pairs perfectly with the delectable fish and shellfish of the region, and you'll discover its white fruit and floral notes on a tasting tour. Then you'll head just up the hill to an adjacent Michelin-starred restaurant where you'll sit down to an elaborate gourmet tasting menu with wine pairings.

After the meal, you and your driver will continue east to San Sebastian. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can spend the remainder of the day at leisure.

Day 5: Walking Tour of San Sebastian

Tour the waterfront in San Seabstian
Tour the waterfront in San Seabstian

In the morning you'll meet a private guide and enjoy a four-hour tour of San Sebastian. It begins in the famous Old Town, which is situated in the east of San Sebastian between the ocean and the River Urumea. You'll stroll around the neighborhood, stopping at pintxos bars and cafés as you go. 

At the edge of Old Town is the iconic San Sebastian City Hall. Constructed in 1887, it used to be the Gran Casino during the Belle Époque period until it was closed in 1924. The building still overlooks the bay, where an elegant promenade with railings and street lamps runs along the crescent-shaped La Concha Beach.

For great views, you and your guide can take a ferry to the iconic offshore island of Santa Clara, or ride a funicular up to Mont Igualdo, which offers sweeping panoramas. You might also stroll the banks of the Urumea River, where you'll find the 19th-century Victoria Eugenia Theatre, the palatial Maria Cristina Hotel, and many aristocratic houses dating to the turn of the 20th century. You can get some good pictures walking across the Puente María Cristina, the bridge that crosses the river.

After the tour, you'll return to your hotel and can spend the remainder of the day however you see fit. Once the sun goes down, however, you'll likely want to head back out and indulge in San Sebastian's famous dining scene.

Day 6: Depart Spain

Adios, Spain!
Adios, Spain!

It's time to say farewell to Spain! Depending on the time of your flight or train reservation, squeeze in one more morning of sight-seeing, perhaps picking up some last-minute souvenirs. At the designated time you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport or rail station for your departure onwards.

Map

Map of Ultimate Tour of the Basque Country: Bilbao & San Sebastian - 6 Days
Map of Ultimate Tour of the Basque Country: Bilbao & San Sebastian - 6 Days