disability cruising, Handicap, Traveling with disabilities

Disabled Cruisers Guide to Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

The disabled cruiser visiting Bilbao will discover that most of the central area of town, and nearby areas, are wheelchair accessible. All sidewalks have been adapted to allow wheelchairs an easy passing. Downtown Bilbao is the Plaza Moyua.

It’s easy to explore Bilbao on your own. Once in the center of town, most everything is walkable, while a useful tram line links the museums along the riverfront to Casco Viejo. The Guggenheim Museum is Bilbao’s most celebrated landmark. The museum is wheelchair accessible except for its High Gallery.

The surface of the sidewalks/pavements in Balbao are easy to walk/roll on and cobble-free. On most popular streets a lift is also available where you encounter stairs. The gradient on the bridge to cross the river is easy, but it is paved with a slip-free surface that is somewhat akin to carpet, and not quite as easy to traverse as a smooth surface. 

On the East/North side of the river, there is a wide promenade that allows pedestrians and people in wheelchairs to walk/roll along the river without worrying about traffic. Pedestrian crossings are generally signal-lit with an audible assist for people with vision impairment. In the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter), this part of the city is extremely easy to walk/roll, no hills and only one or two very mild grades, with very little traffic and good rolling surfaces for wheelchairs. Most of the businesses have step-free access. 

Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao is located in the Basque region of northern Spain.

Places of interest include the Guggenheim Modern Art Gallery and the Cathedral de Santiago or take a bus tour of the city taking in all the sights.

The city’s museums and its Old Quarter are now linked by a linear park and pathway that parallels a revived riverfront. Several architecturally intriguing bridges give access to the river’s north side and to the funicular to the top of Mount Artxanda for a view of the city and its hilly surroundings.

The nearest beach to the port of Getxo is around 800m walk away.

Where You’re Docked

The Cruise Terminal is situated in Getxo. There are taxi ranks, buses, car rental and tourist bus parking here.

Bilbao is reachable via the metro system. The nearest station being at Neguri, a 20 minute walk away down a pleasant promenade.

Good to Know

Basque and Spanish Language street signs are often both in use, so you may think you are in the right place on your map, only to find that the sign is in Basque, rather than Spanish. Keep looking, and you’ll often find a translation nearby. Pickpockets are a problem, though no more so than in most European cities.

Getting Around

Most cruise lines will provide a shuttle into Bilbao, usually to the plaza in front of the opera house at the edge of the old city center. Some lines charge for this service. The independent-minded can walk to the Bilbao Metro at Neguri Station (Line 1) in Getxo. In addition, Bilbobus routes 3411 and 3413 operate into Bilbao center from Getxo. Both stops are 10 to 15 minutes’ walk from the ship. Nearly all the city center’s principal sights are within walking distance.

Local transit includes the metro, Bilbobus (city bus) and EuskoTran (city tram). The most useful transit line runs along the Nervion River, parallel to the river walk, with stops at Teatro Arriaga (opera house) and the Guggenheim Museum. Walking from the opera house to the Guggenheim will take about 25 minutes. For the Disabled Cruiser Bilbobos (city bus) ensures good accessibility and comfort, for people with reduced mobility with accessible Bilbobus stops and bus access ramps. EuskoTran (city tram) has attempted to avoid unnecessary elements and architectural barriers that may pose obstacles to people with some type of disability by the careful design of the stops and the tram carriages. There are two spaces on each tram reserved for people with limited mobility issues. 

Taxis are available at the port and within the city. The green light atop the cab indicates it is available. Renting a car is not recommended, as the hilly topography makes driving very confusing. For the Disabled Cruiser there are taxis adapted for the transport of people with reduced mobility, with ample space to access safely and comfortably, equipped with a wide ramp to be able to access it with special wheelchairs. Since these taxis are limited it is advisable to schedule in advance.


Spain is noted for its leather products (clothing, handbags, etc.) in varied shades like brown, rust red, orange and blue. Particularly attractive are bags with wicker detailing.

International visitors generally agree that Bilbao and neighboring San Sebastian offer some of the best food in Spain, especially if you are a seafood-lover. Try mussels in a tomato and anchovy sauce, squid cooked in its own ink, and salted cod with mushrooms in a garlic sauce or lemon and parsley.

Points of Interest

  • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – Designed by architect Frank Gehry, this art museum is itself a work of art. The curvy building is clad in titanium, glass and limestone, and its shiny panels are meant to resemble fish scales. The Disabled Cruiser will be delighted that the complex is wheelchair accessible. There are lots of steps, but there are lifts available for disabled access. Walk up the bridge next to the museum to get a great view of the building. There is an elevator on one side of the bridge that is wheelchair accessible.
  • Old Quarter – East of the Nervión River is medieval Bilbao. It is connected to the rest of the city by four bridges. Stroll the old plazas and climb the 64 steps uptown or the Disabled Cruiser can take the elevator to the Basilica.
  • Bermeo – This fishing village was the provincial capital until 1602. It’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Things to see include the 14th century arch of San Juan and other medieval structures in the old quarter.
  • San Sebastian – This seaside town boasts beautiful beaches, historic landmarks, a lively nightlife, designer shops, and superb Basque restaurants, including more than its share of Michelin award winners. For the Disabled Cruiser San Sebastian streets are made of cobblestone and the promenade has low curbs and are quite accessible. Most of the old parts of town were built for walking and carts.
  • Guernica – Guernica is best known as the scene of the April 26, 1937 aerial bombing by Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe in support of Franco. Pablo Picasso commemorated the day in a painting of the same name. The Disabled Cruiser visiting the Museo de la Paz de Guernica will be happy that the building is fully accessible to wheelchair users.
  • Hondarribia – Situated west of the Bidasoa river mouth on a promontory that faces Hendaye, France, this tiny border town is home to an ancient old quarter. View the medieval walls and explore the castle.
  • Biscayan Coast – Picture perfect views of this breathtaking coastline, characterized by its steep cliffs overlooking sparkling beaches fringed by lush vegetation, are best obtained from the beach town of Bakio.
  • Gastronomic Traditions – From small plates called “pinchos” to Michelin star restaurants, the cuisine of the Basque country is widely considered to be the best in Spain. Explore its culinary traditions in cooking demonstrations and food trails through its marketplaces.

Bilbao Accessible Excursions

The city of Bilbao, with massive green hills on three sides and a river valley to the north, sprawls itself out across the remaining open spaces in an ungainly and awkward mess. Its 14th-century historic district and more modern commercial center hug the banks of the Nervion River. 

Bilbao City Tour

This 5 hour accessible Bilbao City Tour begins when you are picked up by your private guide and transport from the cruise port. During this tour, you explore the history of Bilbao and its transformation into the cosmopolitan city it is today. This day passes along the buildings and landmarks that have made the city famous.

Highlights of this tour:

  • Guggenheim Bilbao Museum (outside visit)
  • The ‘city’s Underground
  • The Isozaki Towers
  • Old Quarter also called “Seven Streets.”

This private accessible tour makes use of an accessible vehicle for transportation to various sites. The tour requires some walking/rolling using a no step route with mild to no cobblestones and curb cuts. The tour can be adjusted to your wishes.

Bilbao, Guggenheim, and the Basque Coast

This 8 hour accessible Bilbao, Guggenheim, and the Basque Coast Tour begins when you are picked up by your private guide and transport from the cruise port. Discover everything about Bilbao and its surroundings during this tour. You will see the spectacular Guggenheim with an inside private guided visit, the ‘titanium building,’ and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Including views of the Basque coast.

Highlights of this tour:

  • Guggenheim
  • Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
  • The Old City
  • Suspension bridge
  • Artxanda Hill Viewing Point
  • Gaztelugatxe Viewing Point
  • The town of Mundaka

This private accessible tour makes use of an accessible vehicle for transportation to the various sites. The tour requires some walking/rolling using a no step route with mild to no cobblestones and curb cuts. The Guggenheim museum is fully wheelchair accessible; Bilbao center is cobble free and with curb cuts; Gaztelugatxe is partially wheelchair accessible. The tour can be adjusted to your wishes.

For Bilbao Accessible Excursions please click here.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s