Get to know Bilbao beyond just its artsy image by taking a trip to the city's Casco Viejo. Dating back to Medieval times, this – the Old Quarter – and its original seven streets still retain an almost untouched charm, free of the touristy trappings you might find in other big cities.
This once walled-in neighborhood originally consisted of exactly seven streets and, for that reason, is sometimes still called Los Siete Calles (“seven streets” in Spanish). Each of these original avenues still exist, with names such as Tendería Kalea (Shoekeeper's Street) and Carnicería Vieja Kalea (Old Butchery Street). Since Medieval times, the barrio has expanded to include still more streets beyond those seven originals, and also squares like Plaza Berria and Plaze Nueva.
The Casco Viejo draws a crowd for more than just its historical appeal, too. Head to the old-world district to fulfill your culinary cravings by popping from one bar to the next for pintxos (essentially Basque tapas with a gourmet twist) and glasses of txakoli, a local dry white wine. While there, visit the nearby Mercado de la Ribera, the largest food retail market in Europe; the city's over 600-year-old church, Santiago Cathedral; or stick around on Sundays for retail therapy at the market in Plaza Nueva.
You can get to Bilbao's Casco Viejo easily via the Metro (stop Casco Viejo) tram and by bus. By foot, just head south from the Guggenheim along the Nervión River, crossing over at any one of the bridges to reach the east bank.