by Karen Quinn, Apr 10 2019
Of the many fun things we did during our recent visit to Bilbao, my number one thing to do in this fantastic Spanish city is a visit to the Guggenheim. Opened in 1997 the building itself is a fantastic work of art. The Guggenheim came about as the Basque government decided it needed to modernize and attract more visitors, it seems to have worked as the Guggenheim attracts more than a million visitors each year.
The Guggenheims distinctive titanium cladded modernist design is by American architect Frank Gehry. He also created the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA which is similar in design.
We arrived on a rainy day in the late morning and the light still managed to make the buiding shine, it’s even better when the sun is shining.
Whilst I highly recommend taking the time to explore the indoor exhibits and appreciate the building from its interior, there are plenty of sculptures to see outside the museum. My animal loving daughter’s favourite was the 12 metre high “puppy” by artist Jeff Koons which is covered in around 70,000 colourful flowers.
Another one which will grab the kids attention is the fearsome metal spider “Maman” on the river side of the museum. I thought it was named so for the eggs in the spiders metal tummy but apparantly it’s a tribute to the artists mother.
If you’ve ever seen the bean sculpture in Chicago then you may recognise the style of another of Anish Kapoors sculptures, “Tall Tree and the Eye”, again found on the riverside of the Guggenheim.
I absolutely loved the colours of the tulips sculpture, also by Jeff Koons and how they reflect the surrounding city, to get a good picture of these, you’ll need to go into the museum itself. This small terrace is also a great place to view La Salve Bridge.
Exhibits inside the Guggenheim Bilbao
Frank Gehry didn’t just create an architectural masterpiece from the outside, the interior of the building is also breath-taking with huge ceilings, loads of light and high walkways, perfect for housing some of the largest and most interesting installations I’ve seen.
Piper absolutely loved the larger ones such as The matter of time by Richard Serra where you walk through huge spiral sculptures, sometimes feeling like your wandering a never ending rusty maze and Jenny Holzers light installation specifically created for the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
Some exhibits are not suitable for children but you can just whizz through or avoid these rooms altogether.
We ended our visit in the Zero gallery which is a huge curved projection and Kaleidascopic room taking you on a journey through the history of Bilbao and Gehrys approach to designing the Guggenheim. The Zero Gallery can be found in the main entryway so I think most will visit there first although I found it to be a great way to end our visit.
The Guggenheim houses many temporary exhibits as well as permanent ones so what you see may be slightly different to what I did and also presents a great excuse for me to return!
Family friendly features at the Guggenheim Bilbao
As part of your entry ticket, you will get a free audio tour which is very interesting and clearly marked as you wander around the exhibits. There is also a specific tour for children which my 8 year old loved listening to as she took in the works on display.
There is a small children play area on the ground floor where kids can add flowers to their own “puppy” or choose a book to sit a read a while.
The Guggenheim has strict rules on touching some of the exhibits, but some, such as the Matter of Time are made for exploring. This is a bit confusing for children so make sure you keep an eye on the rules and let them know, if they do touch something by accident, they will be told a firm “no”.
Eating at the Guggenhiem Bilbao
The Museum has two restaurants and a café. We chose to end our visit at the small café, thinking this would be safest with a child. The café serves all the usual delicious pinxtos you will find all over the Basque Country, burgers, hot dogs and soups. We tried the leek soup which was delightful and the hotdog which was less so.
On the day we visited, the museum and café was extremely busy, even though it wasn’t the holidays or weekend. We couldn’t find seats inside the café, I think they were filled with local school groups and had to sit outside which, although covered from the rain was still pretty cold.
Guggenheim Bilbao hours
The museum is open from 10am – 8pm. It is closed on Mondays.
Tickets for the Guggenheim
Seniors and students: €7,50
Children under 12 are free
You can pre-order tickets for the Guggenheim Bilbao directly from their website or if you would prefer something a bit more personal, then Get Your Guide will organize a two hour private guided tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao for just £162.89 for two people.
Address of the Guggenheim Bilbao
Parking for the Guggenheim Bilbao
The museum does not have onsite parking facilities. We parked in the nearby shopping centre (Zubiarte Bilbao) and walked for around 10 minutes along the river to reach the museum. The Guggenheim recommends the Pio Baroja car park or the Plaza Euskadi car park.
You can read about everything else we got up to on our visit to Bilbao in my Ultimate Bilbao with kids destination guide
If you and your kids enjoy modern art, you might also like our review of the Dali museum in St Pete
And for another contemporary architectural masterpiece – our visit to the awesome Atomium
Or another of our favourite Spanish city breaks – Palma, Mallorca with kids
Make sure you pin for later for planning your visit to the Guggenheim museum, Spain
This post contains affiliate links which means we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through these links at no extra cost to you!