Geez, this is my day to be negative on the board,,and I hate to ever be negative. We drove over to Bilbao (3 years ago) while we were spending a couple of days in San Sebastian, and were very disappointed. Yes, the museum is absolutely stunning from the outside, and the architecture is even intersting inside the museum. But, we had the feeling they spent all their money on the building and had nothing left for the art (it was not impressive). As to the location, the museum sits next to railroad tracks in an ugly part of town (the entire town is pretty ugly) and it takes a lot of skill to take a photograph that hides the background. My DW and I really like Spain, but Bilbao would be near the bottom of our list of charming places in Spain. Ok, enough of my negative attitude! Time to watch some basketball (smile).
Bilbao is on our itinerary also, Prinsendam, in June. It seems like the museum is a must, but since Hank advises the town isn't so hot, is it worthwhile to take a ride or bus ride or train ride over to San Sebastian. It would have to be quick since we only have the day. Any recommendations. It sounds like San Sebastian is a good place to shop also.
We spent several days in San Sebastian and really enjoyed the city and its beach. We still remember watching the locals come to the beach right from work and change from their suits and dresses into swim suits right on the beach. We once watched a woman put this big bag over her head (it had a hole for her head and a draw string to tighten around her neck) and than totally change from her work clothes into her beach outfit. We saw a business man come on the beach in an expensive looking suit, and simply strip down to his swim suit right on the sand. It was nice to be on a beach that was more than a tourist place, but rather a major part of the local culture. San Sebastian also has a nice walkable center with plenty of stores and small shops...and there are some excellent restaurants..especially for seafood. At the risk of offending anyone who lives in Bilbao, once you have seen the Guggenheim there is no reason to ever return to Bilbao.
We have been on cruise on board MS Midnatsol in Jan/Feb 2006. We have been told that MS Midnatsol was the first cruise ship at that new harbour;-) One of the harbours was Getxo, which is the harbour of Bilbao. We didn't go to Bilbao, we just went around Getxo, and we think it is a nice city, worth to visit.
Google maps the 16,6 km (ca. 21 Minutes)for Getxo <-> Bilbao.