The grand, gilded auditorium of the Teatro Arriaga hosts a varied programme of classical concerts, flamenco and recitals.
Until 20 January, the curvaceous characters of Colombian artist Fernando Botero take over the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, with more than 80 paintings and sculptures on display.
The inexpensive, three-course menú del día (menu of the day) at Harrobia might feature salt cod-stuffed peppers, or salad with goat’s cheese and dulce de membrillo (quince paste).
Hearty winter specials, including stewed lentils with duck, pull the crowds at URbare, and are best accompanied by some local Basque wines.
Casa Vasca isn’t cheap, but is known for its exquisite Basque dishes, such as grilled swordfish with clam sauce and hake with salsa verde.
Perfect for budget travellers who want to be in the centre of things, Hotel Bilbi (rooms from €29) is cheerful and spotlessly clean, with a good Wi-Fi connection.
The Tryp Arenal Hotel (rooms from €70) offers river views, great value for money and a pleasant café for breakfast.
The NH Deusto (rooms from €45 per night) is an easy stroll from the Guggenheim. Its rooms have large bathrooms, free Wi-Fi and multi-language TVs; breakfast costs extra, but brings a generous spread.
Ultra-modern shopping centre Zubiarte houses over 100 name-brand shops, cinemas and restaurants.
Cocktails and jazz jams on the piano get the crowd humming at Kasko.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the Cotton Club turns up the tempo with DJs and live bands, who take to the stage at around 11pm.
One of Bilbao’s biggest and most popular discos, Fever offers no fewer than three dance floors. Like everything in Spain, it keeps late hours: regulars arrive after midnight, then party until dawn.