A Travel Price Comparison for Spain Madrid vs. Bilbao for Attractions, Nightlife, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Madrid or Bilbao?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Madrid and Bilbao can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Madrid

Madrid is a diverse, compact, and friendly city. With plenty of activities and things to do, it's a huge city that draws plenty of visitors. And you can't forget about the live music, food, and shopping.

Bilbao

Bilbao is a friendly, industrial, and authentic city. Since it's a large city, you'll find plenty of things to do. Other reasons to visit include nightlife, shopping, and museums.

Madrid and Bilbao: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Very walkable
  • Big city activities
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Scenic old town
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for students
  • Less walkable


Is there more to do in Madrid or Bilbao?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Madrid than Bilbao. It is bigger and it has more sights, attractions, and activities for travelers. Madrid is very popular for its food, music, shopping, and big city activities, while Bilbao attracts visitors for its museums and historical sights. Madrid is more touristy than Bilbao and is popular for its art and architecture, its tapas and culinary scene, and its lively flamenco dancing. It is also well known for The Prado Museum. Bilbao is famous for it's world-class culinary scene, its modern museums, and its lovely parks.

How is Madrid different from Bilbao?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Bilbao and Madrid. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Madrid or Bilbao?

Madrid
Bilbao

Bilbao is a great city for its historical sights. Also, Madrid is not as popular, but is still a nice city for its sights and museums.

You'll find a good number of museums and monuments packed into Bilbao. A favorite museum in town is the popular Guggenheim Museum. From its iconic building to the unique exhibits, this is a must-see stop during your visit. Other highlights around town include the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, the Museo Vasco, as well as the city's unique bridges.

Madrid offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. There are a number of cultural sights in the city including Museo Nacional del Prado, the Royal Palace and Gardens, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.


Is the Food Better in Madrid or Bilbao? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is an amazing city to visit for its restaurant scene. However, Bilbao is not a culinary destination.

Eat your way through Madrid, as it has many local or world renowned restaurants to choose from. The city has a mix of flavors that come from all of Spain. There are amazing markets where you can grab a meal or snack. There are also many high quality restaurants around town where you're guaranteed a good meal. Local favorites include roast suckling pig, Spanish omelette, and meat and chickpea stew.

Bilbao is not a culinary destination. The food scene is among the best in Spain. The city has several world renowned restaurants, including a few Michelin-starred restaurants, but there are also smaller eateries that cater to the locals and tourists alike. Make sure you try the pintxos, which are small dishes that are the Basque region's answer to tapas. Many include seafood and are cooked with olive oil and garlic.

Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Nightlife?

Madrid
Bilbao

If the nightlife is your priority, you'll find very good options in both Madrid and Bilbao.

The nightlife in Madrid has something for everybody. Many tourists and international students hang out in the Huertas area, while Malasaña has a bohemian, hipster vibe with small clubs that play indie music. Chueca is a fun area that's known for being gay-friendly with many good bars. Finally, you'll find that the area around Avenida de Brasil is where famous DJs often perform.

Bilbao offers plenty to do in the evening. There's a great late night scene that centers around eating and drinking. There are lively nightclubs, a good live music scene, and no shortage of people heading out on the town.

Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Music?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is an amazing city to visit for its live music scene. However, Bilbao is not a live music destination.

Live music, and music in many other forms, is everyone in Madrid Rock, jazz, and flamenco are all popular in the city. Some of the most well known music venues include Sala Caracol, Sala Clamores, and Costello Club.

Bilbao is not a live music destination.


Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for its Old Town?

Madrid
Bilbao

Bilbao is a city with good options for its historic old town. However, Madrid does not have a historic old town.

Bilbao is a good destination for visiting its old town. The old town, often called Casco Viejo, is filled with historic architecture, great local bars, and some interesting shopping.

Madrid does not have a historic old town.

Is the Shopping Better in Madrid or Bilbao?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is an amazing city to visit for its shopping opportunities. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for its shopping areas.

The abundance of shops in Madrid make it a world-class shopping destination. Gran Vía is a main thoroughfare in Madrid that is also popular for shopping. Calle Fuencarral is where you'll find the fashion shops and Calle Preciados is a fun pedestrian area to explore.

Many visitors explore the shopping areas in Bilbao. Gran Vía is the most popular shopping street in town. There are also historic boutique shops around the old town.

Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Families?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is well known for its family-friendly activities. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for its kid-friendly activities.

Madrid is a very kid-friendly city. Kids love splashing around at Madrid Río, taking a ride on the cable car (Teleférico), and exploring the city's many parks and playgrounds. There's even a maze at Sabatini Gardens. Restaurants around the city are also very kid-friendly.

Bilbao offers lots of family activities. The city offers some great museums such as the Guggenheim Museum. Families will also enjoy taking a ride of the Artxander Funicular, and exploring Mercado de la Ribera. You can also enjoy walking around Park Abandoibarra and exploring the creative sculptures.


Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Couples?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is well known for its romantic activities. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for couples.

Couples visit Madrid frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. Fun and romantic activities around town include taking a boat ride at Casa de Campo, riding a bike in one of the many parks, and enjoy dinner and show in the evening.

Bilbao is a good city for couples to visit. The city is filled with a vibrant enjoy with parks and outdoor strolls that couples will enjoy. There are also many great museums and romantic restaurants as well as some great shopping streets.

Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is well known for backpackers. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for backpackers and budget travelers.

Madrid is a great city to visit for backpackers. The many hostels around town make it easy for backpackers to find affordable accommodation while also meeting other travelers.

Plenty of budget travelers visit Bilbao. There are plenty of hostels to choose from and a good social scene that makes it easy to meet other backpackers.

Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Students?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is an amazing city to visit for students. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for its student-friendly activities.

Madrid is a very popular place to visit for students. With several great universities, this city is popular with international and study abroad students. The city also has a diverse population and an active nightlife that appeals to students.

It's common for students to visit Bilbao. This is a popular study abroad destination with many great museums and educational opportunities for international students.


Is Madrid or Bilbao Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is an amazing city to visit for its public transit. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for times when you don't have a car.

Public transit in Madrid is top-notch. The system includes the Madrid Metro, buses, and a light rail system.

Many visitors use the public transit system in Bilbao. The metro system has three lines. There is also a tram and bus system.

Is Madrid or Bilbao a more walkable city?

Madrid
Bilbao

Madrid is an amazing city to visit for its high level of walkability. Also, Bilbao is still popular, but not quite as popular for its ease of walking around.

Getting around Madrid on foot is easy. Most tourists stay in the central part of Madrid where it's compact and relatively easy to walk to most tourist sights.

Bilbao is a somewhat walkable city. It's a fairly walkable city with several pedestrian-friendly areas.

For even more information, also check out Is Madrid Worth Visiting? and Is Bilbao Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Bilbao or Madrid?

How long in Madrid or Bilbao?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Madrid and Bilbao. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Madrid than in Bilbao. Usually, 2-5 days is a good amount of time for Madrid, and 2-3 days is enough time in Bilbao.

Families should spend more time in Madrid than Bilbao. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Madrid, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Madrid than Bilbao. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Madrid that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Madrid than Bilbao if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Madrid.


  • How many days in Madrid or Bilbao? Ideal Length of Stay
    Madrid 2-5 
    Bilbao 2-3

One day in Madrid or Bilbao?

Madrid is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the destination of Bilbao. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Madrid or Bilbao?

Madrid is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Bilbao is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Five days in Madrid or Bilbao?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Madrid. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Bilbao. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

A week in Madrid or Bilbao?

Travelers enjoy the nightlife and live music when visiting the compact big city of Madrid. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the colorful destination of Bilbao. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


Which place is cheaper, Bilbao or Madrid?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Madrid is €136, while the average daily cost in Bilbao is €137. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Madrid and Bilbao in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Madrid 77
    Bilbao 72
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Madrid 154
    Bilbao 144
Compare Hotels in Madrid and Bilbao

Looking for a hotel in Madrid or Bilbao? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Madrid


Hotels in Bilbao


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Madrid Hotel Prices and Bilbao Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Madrid 19
    Bilbao 26
Typical Local Transportation Prices in Madrid

Some typical examples of transportation costs in Madrid are as follows:


  • Taxi Ride
    26

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Madrid

Also for Madrid, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Madrid Airport MAD Round-Trip Transfer in Private Van: $175
  • Private One-Way Transfer to OR from Madrid Airport with private pick up: $78
  • Arrival Private Transfer Madrid Airport MAD to Avila City by Business Car: $231
  • Arrival Private Transfer Madrid Airport MAD to Madrid City by Van: $73
  • Arrival Private Transfer by Business Car from MAD Airport to Madrid: $53
  • Arrival Private Transfer from MAD Airport to Madrid in a Minibus: $141
  • Arrival Private Transfer from Madrid Airport MAD to Segovia City by Minivan: $227
  • Arrival Private Transfer from Madrid Airport MAD to Toledo or Avila by Van: $181
  • Arrival Private Transfer from Madrid MAD Airport to Madrid city by luxury car: $82
  • Arrival Transfer from Madrid Airport MAD to Madrid in Private Car: $81
  • Arrival Transfer from Madrid Airport MAD to Madrid in Private Van: $88
  • Arrival Transfer: Madrid Airport MAD to Madrid in Business Car: $77

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Bilbao

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Bilbao:

  • Private Transfer from Vitoria Airport to San Sebastian city: $293
  • Private Transfer from Vitoria city to San Sebastian Airport: $293
  • Private Transfer from Vitoria to San Sebastian: $293
  • Private Transfer from Bilbao to San Sebastian: $270
  • Private Transfer from Bilbao city to San Sebastian Airport: $270
  • Private Transfer from Bilbao Airport to Santander Port: $255
  • Private Transfer from Bilbao city to Santander Airport : $255
  • Private Transfer from Bilbao city to Santander: $255
  • Private Transfer from Bilbao to Santander Port: $255
  • Private Transfer from Vitoria Airport to Logroño city: $247
  • Private Transfer from Vitoria to Logroño: $247
  • Private Transfer from Vitoria city to Logroño Airport : $247

Is it cheaper to fly into Madrid or Bilbao?

Prices for flights to both Bilbao and Madrid change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Madrid 34
    Bilbao 45
Typical Food Prices in Madrid

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to Madrid:


  • Coffee
    2.00
  • Ice Cream
    3.00
  • Kebabs (for 2)
    16
  • Croissant
    1.50
  • Lunch at Airport (for 2)
    16

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Madrid

For Madrid, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Madrid Tipsy Tapas Guided Food Tour with Dinner: $39
  • Torres Bermejas Flamenco Show in Madrid with Dinner, Tapas or Drink: $39
  • Madrid Tipsy Tapas Guided Food Tour with Dinner: $42
  • Ultimate Madrid Tapas Crawl Food tour: $42
  • Tapas Dinner Party Food Tour with Guide: $42
  • Drunken Tapas Food Tour with Dinner in Madrid: $42
  • Tipsy Tapas Food Tour with Drinks and Food: $42
  • Madrid Tapas Dinner Party with Guide: $43
  • Madrid Tipsy Tapas Tour with Dinner and Drinks: $43
  • San Miguel Market and Street Food Tour: $43
  • Skip the Line: Flamenco Show with Dinner and Workshop in Madrid Ticket: $50
  • Flamenco Show at Corral de la Morería in Madrid with Optional Dinner: $55

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Bilbao

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Bilbao.

  • Basque Food Tour with Guide: $87
  • The Original Bilbao Food Tour with Wine Pairings: $103
  • Pintxos and Tapas Cooking Class in Bilbao : $110
  • The Original Bilbao Food Tour with Wine Pairing: $110
  • Basque Flavours: High End Food Tour of Bilbao with a Local: $110
  • Basque Pintxos and Tapas Cooking Class with Open Bar: $114
  • Basque Pintxos and Tapas Cooking Class in Bilbao: $116
  • Paella Cooking Class with Sangria in Bilbao: $135
  • Private Food Tour, Food Lovers with Tastings: $135
  • Paella Cooking Class (with Basque Sangria) in Bilbao: $143
  • Traditional Basque Cooking Class with Wine Tasting: $157
  • Small-group Immersive Basque Cooking Class in Bilbao with Open Bar: $165

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Madrid 34
    Bilbao 29

Tours and Activities in Madrid

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Madrid.

  • First Discovery Walk and Reading Walking Tour: $3.25
  • Tour Madrid of the Austrians Old City: $3.30
  • Free Tour - Majestic Madrid: $3.31
  • Guided tour of the Madrid of spies: $3.31
  • Literary Quarter Tour: $3.31
  • Escape Game and Tour: $4.33
  • Ticket Entrada al Museo del Turrón de Madrid: $5.41
  • Mapfre Foundation Entry Ticket: $5.41
  • Private Audio Guided Walking Tour in Madrid: $5.50
  • Manzanares River’s Story: A Self-Guided Audio Tour in Madrid: $5.99
  • Manzanares River’s Story Self-Guided Audio Tour: $5.99
  • City Exploration Game and Tour on your Phone: $6.44

Tours and Activities in Bilbao

Here are a few actual costs in Bilbao for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • PRIVATE San Sebastian and Basque Coast Tour from Bilbao: $292
  • Pintxos Tasting in Bilbao Small Group or Private Walking Tour: $82
  • 2 Hours Private Family Guided Walking Tour in Bilbao: $199
  • 3-day Bilbao Bike Tour and Guggenheim Museum Ticket: $259
  • 3-day Bilbao Pinxos Experience with Guggenheim Museum Ticket : $268
  • Awesome Bilbao – Private Family Walking Tour: $389
  • BILBAO-City Highlights Bike Tour: $36
  • Basque Coast Tour: Vizcaya Bridge, Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo and Gernika: $66
  • Basque Country 7-Day Guided Tour from Bilbao: $1,158
  • Basque Country Full Day Tour with Lunch from Bilbao: $105
  • Biarritz and French Basque coast small group tour lunch included: $298
  • Bike tour with Pintxos & Drinks in Getxo (Scenic Bilbao Seaside): $61

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Madrid 20
    Bilbao 21
Typical Alcohol Prices in Madrid

Some typical examples of the costs for nightlife and alcohol in Madrid are as follows:


  • Beer
    5.00
  • Drinks and Tapas (for 2)
    13

Sample the Local Flavors in Madrid

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Madrid:

  • Pub Crawl with Tapas and VIP Club Entry: $9.74
  • Madrid Pub Crawl with VIP Club Entrance: $11
  • Visit to the Winery with Wine Tasting and Appetizers in Navarra: $12
  • Guided Pub Crawl Madrid Experience and Club Entry: $15
  • Pub Crawl Madrid Running since 2005 Bar Exploration: $16
  • Pub crawl & Party Tour Madrid: $16
  • Pub Crawl Madrid-The Original since 2005-Shots-Fun-Clubs-Dance: $17
  • Pub Crawl Madrid: $19
  • Madrid's Live Music Bar Crawl: $21
  • Pub Crawl Madrid: $22
  • Wine Tasting near Plaza Mayor: $22
  • Wine tasting in the heart of Madrid: $28

Sample the Local Flavors in Bilbao

Also in Bilbao, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Pub Crawl Bilbao: $24
  • Pub Crawl Bilbao: $25
  • Immersive Evening Spanish Wine Tasting w/ Sommelier: $54
  • Pintxos and Wine Tasting Tour with Local Guide: $80
  • Txakoli, Gaztelugatxe, & Urdaibai with wine tasting: $81
  • Basque Vineyard Visit: Txakoli Wine Tasting & Pintxos from Bilbao: $149
  • Guided tour of Txakoli wine tasting and tasting of wine and typical products: $149
  • Bilbao Txakoli Wine Tour: $179
  • Bilbao Txakoli Wine Tour: $182
  • Guided Txacoli Wine Tasting: $189
  • Rioja Wine Tour: 2 Wineries From Bilbao: $199
  • Rioja Wine Tour: Winery & Traditional Lunch From Bilbao: $203


When comparing the travel costs between Madrid and Bilbao, we can see that Bilbao is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Europe, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Madrid Expensive? and Is Bilbao Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Madrid or Bilbao?

Madrid has a larger population, and is about 9 times larger than the population of Bilbao. When comparing the sizes of Madrid and Bilbao, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.