Casco Viejo

Lonely Planet review

The compact Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s atmospheric old quarter, is full of charming streets, boisterous bars and plenty of quirky and independent shops. At the heart of the Casco are Bilbao’s original seven streets, Las Siete Calles, which date from the 1400s.

The 14th-century Gothic Catedral de Santiago has a splendid Renaissance portico and pretty little cloister. Further north, the 19th-century arcaded Plaza Nueva is a rewarding pintxo (Basque tapas) haunt. There’s a lively Sunday-morning flea market here, which is full of secondhand book and record stalls, and pet ‘shops’ selling chirpy birds (some kept in old-fashioned wooden cages), fluffy mice and tiny baby terrapins. Elsewhere in the market, children and adults alike swap and barter football cards and old stamps from countries you’ve never heard of; in between weave street performers and waiters with trays piled high. The market is much more subdued in winter. A sweeter-smelling flower market takes place on Sunday mornings in the nearby Plaza del Arenal .