Bilbao and the Basque Country are both well known for delicious food.
Did you know that there are 11 Michelin Stars in Bilbao? But despite this, one of the best places to indulge in some of the city’s best food is at the La Ribera Market.
Open every day of the week (apart from Sundays) we’ll run through why a visit to this market should be on top of your list of things to do in Bilbao.
Things to know about the Ribera Market in Bilbao
Although the market is traditionally a place for local people and restaurants to buy their groceries, there’s a number of reasons why you’d still want to visit this special place as a tourist.
1. It’s one of the largest covered food markets around
The Ribera Market spans more than 10,000 square metres and houses more than 180 small businesses. In 1990, the Guiness Book of Records recognised the Ribera Market as the biggest covered food market in the world!
Today, the market offers up a variety of ingredients from nearby rural and coastal environments. From vegetables from Biscayan farms, seafood from the local port to meat raised in the nearby towns.
The proposition of the market is always focused on quality, variety and freshness. So you can be rest assured whatever you pick up from the market will be of the finest produce and locally sourced.
2. It houses a food court
If staying in a hotel and don’t have cooking facilities, or you’re simply on vacation and don’t want to be cooking, you can still make the most of the market.
That’s because in 2015, the market installed a food court to ensure it wasn’t just a place for traditional grocery shopping.
These days, the food court houses a range of different dining options. You can get everything from pintxos, to bocadillos (baguette sandwiches) through to steaks and seafood.
3. You can take in the views from La Ribera Bilbao
Located in one of the old fishmongers spaces on the ground floor of the market, you’ll find the trendy cafe-bar (La Ribera Bilbao).
It has a privileged spot in the market, with views out over the River Nervión through the huge glass windows.
A space that caters for anytime of day, it has a restaurant come dining area, a bar alongside a space for relaxing and catching up on your favourite book. It makes it the perfect place for a quick coffee, aperitivo (aperitif), brunch or dinner.
There’s even an events calendar with the bar regularly hosting jazz bands and musicians, alongside up and coming national and international groups.
4. It’s not the original market
Although the history of the Ribera Market dates back to the 14th century, the current building was only constructed in 1929.
The old building had to be replaced after it suffered unsustainable levels of heat and poor ventilation.
The unique building you’ll find today was designed by Pedro Ispizua. He trained with Gaudi and used a rationalist and art deco style in the Ribera Market, which appears from distance as a ship docked in a port.
Inside, the rationalist style is evident with the building very much designed for functionality over anything else. It features large open spaces (ideal for moving traders around) and large windows that allow plenty of natural light.
5. The market has had to reinvent itself
Whilst today the market is one of the most popular things to visit in the city, that hasn’t always been the case.
The Ribera Market has suffered a number of different setbacks over the years, but has each time had to reinvent itself to remain contemporary and a place worth visiting.
Set next to the river, the market has been prone to flooding, but none greater than the devastating 1983 flood.
The opening of Mercabilbao (another local food produce market in Bilbao) in the 1970’s also threatened La Ribera Market with closure.
However, since then, the market has thrived, remodelling itself as a local neighbourhood market where citizens and local restaurants can get their high quality produce.
How to get to the Ribera Market
Located next to the River Nervión and the Old Quarter of Bilbao, the market is easily accessible by foot from the majority of the city.
By bus, you can reach the market at the Ribera 20 stop. Bus numbers 11, 22, 40, 50, 56, 58, 75, 77, 85 all pass through this route.
By metro and Euskotren, the nearest stop is the Casco Viejo station, which is about an 8 minute walk via. streets Cruz and Tendería.
The Euskotren Tranbia (tram) has a closer stop (Ribera) just across the road from the market on tram route number 5.
Finally, if you’re coming by car, the easiest place to park is at Parking El Arenal which is about a 9 minute walk from the market.
Things to do near the La Ribera Market
Whilst visiting the market, there are a number of other points of interest on your doorstep.
1. The Casco Viejo (1 minute walk)
The Ribera Market actually forms part of the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) of Bilbao. But there’s plenty more to explore in these famous Seven Streets.
2. Stroll the banks of the River Nervión (1 minute walk)
If you’ve over indulged a little in the markets, the banks of the River Nervión is the perfect place to walk off all that food!