6 Things To Do in Portugalete: Exploring the region of Bilbao

O que fazer e visitar em Portugalete: ver a Puente Colgante.
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Here is everything you need to know before traveling to Portugalete, in the outskirts of Bilbao! Best things to do and visit in Portugalete, as well as hotel suggestions and information for first-time visitors to this charming city in the Basque Country.

I must say that I was somewhat surprised to learn that one of Bilbao’s main tourist attractions and a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Vizcaya Bridge (Bizkaia Bridge), is not located in the city center but in Portugalete.

However, I also discovered that Portugalete has many things to see and do, so it’s worth staying at least one night in this area.

As a confession, I particularly enjoyed the small seaside town vibe and will certainly return to Portugalete!

Best Things To Do and Visit in Portugalete, Basque Country

Cross the Vizcaya Bridge (Bizkaiko Zubia, Puente Viscaya). The suspension bridge

O que fazer em Portugalete: caminhar junto à Ponte Colgante, a ponte suspensa.
What to do in Portugalete: walk along the Vizcaya Bridge, the suspension bridge.
Comprar bilhetes para a Ponte da Biscaia.
Buy tickets for the Vizcaya Bridge.
Ver a ponte suspensa.
See the suspension bridge. Top things to do in Portugalete.
A cabine da ponte suspensa.
The gondola of the suspension bridge.
Bizkaiko Zubia, ou a Ponte Suspensa em Portugalete.
Bizkaiko Zubia, or the Suspension Bridge in Portugalete.
Ponte de Viscaya.
Vizcaya Bridge.
Elevador da Ponte da Biscaia.
Elevator of the Vizcaya Bridge.
Feira de rua.
Street fair.

The Vizcaya Bridge, locally known as Puente Colgante, is one of the main tourist attractions in Portugalete.

Designed by Alberto Palácio and entirely built of iron in the late 19th century (it was inaugurated on July 28, 1893), this architectural bridge was the first in the world to transport people and vehicles in a suspended gondola.

It stands 61 meters high and 160 meters long and is classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

To cross the river, you have two options: either buy a ticket to cross inside the suspended gondola (€0.55) or take the elevator and walk across the bridge on a walkway (€10).

Additionally, you can also cross with your car inside the suspended gondola.

Explore the historic center of Portugalete

Ruas do centro histórico de Portugalete.
Streets of the historic center. Things to do in Portugalete.
Explorar a zona histórica a pé.
Explore the historic area on foot.
Conhecer o centro histórico.
Explore the historic center.

Despite the steep inclination of the streets in the old town, it’s well worth putting on your sneakers and exploring every corner.

There is no right way to get to know the center, as it is a maze of streets and alleys, each different from the other.

In any case, you will find several café terraces, shops, churches, and monuments to visit, as well as different viewpoints to peek at the estuary and the suspension bridge.

Additionally, you will also have the opportunity to rest on the park benches of Portugalete.

Visit the Basilica of Our Lady (Andra Maria basilika)

O que fazer em Portugalete: visitar a Basílica de Nossa Senhora (Andra Maria basilika).
What to do in Portugalete: visit the Basilica of Our Lady (Andra Maria basilika).
Pórtico da Basílica de Nossa Senhora.
Portico of the Basilica of Our Lady.
Arquitetura da Basílica de Nossa Senhora.
Architecture of the Basilica of Our Lady.
Basílica de Nossa Senhora.
Basilica of Our Lady.

The Basilica of Our Lady in Portugalete is a Gothic-style temple built in 1480. However, it wasn’t until 1950 that Pope Pius XII granted it the title of basilica.

If you have the opportunity to visit this basilica, don’t forget to admire the central nave, the Spanish-Flemish Gothic statue of Christ, and the Altarpiece of Saint James.

On the exterior, the tower is quite prominent, though I particularly enjoyed observing the details of the wing’s façade and admiring the landscape from the basilica’s viewpoint.

This monument is only available for visits on weekdays, so plan your trip in advance.

Vista para a Ponte da Biscaia, a partir da Basílica de Nossa Senhora.
View of the Vizcaya Bridge from the Basilica of Our Lady.

Visiting the Museums of Portugalete

Museo Torre Salazar, em Portugalete.
Museo Torre Salazar.
Rialia - Museo de la Industria em Portugalete.
Rialia – Museo de la Industria.

Visit the Museums of Portugalete. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: whenever possible, I include museum visits in my travels, as I believe it is a very convenient way to learn about the history of places.

And in Portugalete, it couldn’t be any different.

So, if you enjoy dedicating a couple of hours to local museums, I have two suggestions to share with you.

In Portugalete, I recommend the Salazar Tower Museum, where you can learn about the history of Portugalete and the Lord of Salazar; and the Rialia Museum, or Rialia – Museum of Industry, for those interested in exploring the history of the Basque steel industry.

Rest in front of the Convent of Santa Clara

Convento de Santa Clara, atual Centro Cultural de Portugalete.
Convent of Santa Clara, now Cultural Center.
Jardim no Convento de Santa Clara.
Garden at the Convent of Santa Clara.

The Convent of Santa Clara was founded in 1614 by nuns from Orduña and Portugalete. However, since 1979, no nuns have lived in the convent, and it currently functions as the Portugalete Cultural Center.

It is located on one of the city’s steep hills, and although it’s outside the historic center, you’ll likely pass through this area when heading to the center or the riverside.

It is a majestic building with a bell tower and a small garden. Therefore, my suggestion is to take a few minutes to rest while you’re near the Convent of Santa Clara.

And just to give you an idea of how steep the hill is, there’s an escalator in front of the convent to help people get up!

Escadas rolantes em Portugalete.

Take a boat cruise or a water bike ride

Fazer um cruzeiro em Portugalete.
Take a cruise in Portugalete.
Explorar o Golfo de Biscaya de barco.
Explore the Bay of Biscay by boat.
Tours de barco em Portugalete.
Boat tours.

With the Bay of Biscay right there, it’s no surprise that one of the popular activities in Portugalete is taking a boat tour.

If this is something you’d like to do, the boats are docked just a few meters from the Vizcaya Bridge, and you can buy tickets on-site.

The tours last between 15 minutes and 2 hours and 45 minutes, depending on how many stops you want to make, and prices start at €2.

However, if you want to try something different, in Portugalete you can ride a water bike!

Since it’s a guided tour, you’re never alone in the water, which I think makes it a worthwhile alternative to consider.

👉 Check out how the water bike tour works in Portugalete.

Accommodation in Portugalete

Hotel URH Palacio de Oriol, hotel 4 estrelas em Portugalete.
Hotel URH Palacio de Oriol, hotel 4 estrelas.

Portugalete is relatively small, but it has several bars and restaurants offering fish and seafood that I didn’t get to try as I didn’t stay in the city.

I also didn’t experience Portugalete after nightfall, but I’ve heard that the bars in the center are very lively.

Therefore, the next time I travel to the region, I’m sure I’ll stay at least one night in Portugalete, and the 4-star Hotel URH Palacio de Oriol has caught my attention.

Everything you need to know before traveling to Portugalete

O que fazer e visitar em Potugalete: ver a Puente Colgante.
What to do and visit in Portugalete: see the Puente Colgante (Suspension Bridge).
Portugaldetako itsasmetroa.
Portugaldetako itsasmetroa.
Caminho de Santiago em Portugalete, País Basco.
The Camino de Santiago in Portugalete, Basque Country.
Remadores no rio Nervión.
Rowers on the Nervión River.
Mercado de rua, venda de livros aos domingos em Portugalete.
Street market, book sale on Sundays.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.
Monumento a Evaristo de Churruca (Evaristo Txurrukari monumentua).
Monument to Evaristo Churruca (Evaristo Txurrukari monumentua).

How to get from Bilbao to Portugalete

Mapa do metro de Bilbau, País Basco.
Map of the Bilbao Metro, Basque Country.
Estação de metro em Portugalete.
Metro station in Portugalete.
Bilhete de metro.
Metro ticket.

The best way to get from Bilbao to Portugalete is by using the metro. Take line 2 in the direction of Kabiezes.

It’s important to confirm that the metro carriage indicates Kabiezes, as line 2 branches off to Plentzia in central Bilbao.

Purchase your metro ticket from one of the automatic machines in the stations and validate it to enter the platform.

If you want, you can buy two tickets, with the second one for your return trip from Portugalete.

How many days are needed to explore Portugalete?

Marina em Portugalete.

I only stayed one day in Portugalete, and I think it’s enough to visit the main tourist attractions.

However, accommodation in Portugalete is more affordable compared to Bilbao, so if you’re planning a road trip, I recommend staying two to three days in Portugalete.

In addition to saving on accommodation, you can also better enjoy the city just a few kilometers from Bilbao.

Is it worth visiting Portugalete?

Centro de interpretación de pesca Agurtza.
Agurtza Fishing Interpretation Center.

Yes, it’s definitely worth visiting Portugalete, as despite its proximity to Bilbao, it’s completely different from that city.

As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the peaceful and safe atmosphere of Portugalete.

Does Portugalete have anything to do with Portugal?

Despite uncertainty about the origin of the name Portugalete, one thing is certain: it has nothing to do with Portugal.

The most widely accepted explanation is that Portugalete derives from the name “puerto de galeotes,” meaning port of galleys. However, others believe that the name originates from “Porto de Ugaldeta,” which refers to the riverbanks of the port.

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