Madrid to Bilbao road trip via wine country - Madrid to Bilbao road trip via wine country -

Madrid to Bilbao road trip via wine country

If you are planning a road trip from Madrid towards the North of Spain you may want to consider stops in Ribera del Duero and Rioja wine country.   Save this URL in your favorites list. Our team of local experts has put great care into the preparation of this itinerary. This is a free travel guide.

The Roadtrip in a nutshell

This road trip in Spain takes you from Madrid to Northern Spain (Bilbao). You will picture yourself next to a Roman aqueduct, sleep in a castle and walk down medieval squares. You will enjoy wine at Avant-Garde bodegas with astonishing architecture and also taste in underground ancient caves.  Every day you will be able to enjoy local gastronomy. Each of the steps suggested in this itinerary provides the opportunity to enjoy traditional local dishes accompanied by the best high-quality wines of each region.  You will drive at your leisure and be able to enjoy some of Spain´s hidden gems.

This itinerary is built to be enjoyed in 7 days. It can easily be extended to include San Sebastian, Santander or the French Basque coast in it.

Madrid to Bilbao road trip

Itinerary Content

7 nights to get the most out of itor 10 nights if you want to  add San Sebastian and the French Basque country

End of March, April, May, June and first 2 weeks of July. September and october are also good months.

List of recommended hotels for this roadtrip

Detailed road trip planner day by day

Bilbao or San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela

Top stops to enjoy in this roadtrip


2 days recommended

Capital of Spain and Europe´s capital city with more trees!  Madrid is a city full of contrasts in which everybody feels welcomed. Exciting nightlife co-exists with top art galleries and romantic parks. If this is your first time in Madrid, you will want to see the Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol, and at least one of Madrid´s most famous art museums (Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum).

Some recommendations in Madrid

  • Visit the rooftop of the Círculo de Bellas Artes for an afternoon drink and some of the best views of Madrid.
  • If the world of sports is of interest to you, then Real Madrid´s stadium is a must. Do the stadium tour and afterward, have a drink or a meal at the Real Café Bernabeu with views of the field.
  • Visit El Retiro park for a relaxing stroll and a break from the busy Madrid streets. Pick a spot underneath a shady tree, see the Palacio de Cristal, and if you´re up for it, take the rowboats for a spin.
  • The Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple in the center of Madrid. Best visited around sunset in which you can also enjoy the views of the Royal Palace and Casa de Campo.


Enjoy a free tour with a great itinerary in Madrid and its old districts. Best enjoyed on your arrival day to apply all recommendations

Prado museum guided tour

One fo the most demanded tours in Madrid. El Prado is an amazing art gallery, best visited with a local art expert

Bernabeu Stadium

Real Madrid is the most awarded team in the world. This tour is a must for any sports fan and an activity not to be missed in Madrid if you travel with children

Madrid tapas walking tour

A great way to enjoy Madrid like locals do whilst you discover its top highlights and have a fun and tasteful evening in Madrid


1 day for Segovia or 2 days to explore Avila, La Granja and Pedraza

Best way to get to Segovia from Madrid

  • The quickest route is taking the AP-6 and AP-61 though you will miss interesting landscapes and attractions
  • The other (recommended) route is a bit longer but you can make a stop to see the Royal Palace and gardens of La Granja (the Spanish version of Versailles) and drive through the National Park of Sierra de Guadarrama. Take the AP-6 to the M-601 at Collado Villalba (Exit 39). (More turns on this road. Not recommended for people who get car sick.) You can also decide to enjoy a detour and visit the Monastery of El Escorial and the valley of the Fallen. 

Top attractions in Segovia

Before stopping in Segovia, we recommend you take the panoramic route around the city. Take the street called Paseo Conde de Sepúlveda and continue on this road for spectacular views of the Cathedral, the Alcázar and the Roman aqueduct. We recommend this post with more information.

You can park on Av. la Vía Roma (paid public parking) near the aqueduct or walk from your hotel. The typical walking route starts from the aqueduct to the Plaza Mayor and the Alcázar. The tourist information office is next to the aqueduct.


1 day or 2 in case you are a wine lover

Take the A-601 to Cuéllar and exit onto the SG-223 direction Peñafiel. Cuellar has an interesting castle. You may want to consider visiting Valladolid (capital of the region of Castilla Leon)

Top attractions in Ribera del Duero

  • Castillo de Peñafiel. The castle holds a museum dedicated to wine. It opens from 16:00 till 20:00.
  • Plaza Viejo Coso. A good example of a Castilian square. Pay attention to the small doors. This square is used today still as a bullfighting ring.
  • Near Peñafiel you have the Monastery of Valbuena. It is said that is the first place in Ribera del Duero area producing wine. Nowadays it is a hotel, but you have the possibility to visit the exhibition «Las Edades del Hombre»
  • Ribera del Duero Golden Mile is part of the road from Peñafiel to Valladolid where we find the most famous wineries in Ribera del Duero such as Vega Sicilia, Dominio de Pingus, Abadía de Retuerta, Aalto and Finca Villacreces.


2 days recommended

  • If you arrive driving from France it makes more sense to start the itinerary in Hondarribia or in San Sebastian. Otherwise,
    Bilbao has excellent connections by plane (Madrid and Barcelona have daily flights) ,ferry with the United Kingdom and is a good point of departure for our road trip into Northern Spain.
  • Bilbao has undergone a radical transformation in recent years and has gone from being an industrial port city to become one of the cities with the most vibrant culture and varied gastronomy in Spain.

Top attracions in Bilbao

The famous Guggenheim Museum is Bilbao´s main highlight. You will find the tourism office where you can ask about the local events/activities taking place on this day. We recommend making your way to the Casco Viejo (old quarters) by taking a lovely walk along the river.
In front of the Museum, you will find Puppy (Jeff Koons), or Mother (a huge spider sculpture); both are children´s favorites.

Teatro Arriaga. Oldest theatre in town, still operating. Interesting neo-baroque style.

Ensanche . An old town called Abando, it became part of Bilbao in 1870. The Ensanche is the Business center and dynamic area of Bilbao. Its main boulevard is Gran Via.

Market La Ribera . An exciting and massive local market. Art deco style

Museo de Bellas Artes ; essential collection from artists like Goya, El Greco, Francis Bacon, Gaugin, Chillida…

Funicular to Mount Artxanda. The funicular from 1912 is not only a fantastic architectural example but also allows you to enjoy incredible views of Bilbao.

You can find more information on this post wit the best things to do in Bilbao in 1 day

Best things to do near Bilbao and top excursions

Getxo. An upmarket destination, Getxo is famous for its architecture (with a clear British influence) and summer houses. Its famous bridge over the Nervion River connects with Portugalete, a working-class town that grew to provide services to the harbor.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Just a 40-minute drive from Bilbao, you will find San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. A fantastic church on top of a small island with breathtaking views. Bear in mind that you will need approx. 3 hours to walk to the church and return to the parking lot. Another option is to enjoy one of the boat excursions that depart from Bermeo


A great itinerary to discover Bilbao in the most unexpensive way. Book it now or you will miss your place! This is the most demanded tour in Bilbao


Almost a private tour to enjoy this amazing master piece that changed Bilbao forever. This is the best option to enjoy the museum.

San Mames Stadium tickets

A children´s favorite. Atletic is one of Spain´s most charismatic soccer teams and the tour is a really interesting one. A top tour if visiting with kids

GAME OF THRONES - San Juan de Gaztelugatxe excursion

World-wide famous after being shown at Game of Thrones. Great landscape and worth the visit

Casual and fine dining options

  • Rio-Oja Restaurant (Located on Txacur Kalea. You can enjoy a sit-down meal while enjoying authentic local food. They specialize in “cazuelas”.)
  • Gure Toki (One of our favorite bars in Plaza Nueva.)
  • Taberna Basaras (Located on Calle Pelota. A classic in Bilbao.)
    Bar Santa María (Located on Calle Santa María.)
  • Best ice cream in town. If you enjoy ice cream and would like to end your tapas night with the one we strongly recommend a visit to Heladería Adelia Ivañez (Posta Kalea). You will be able to taste Spanish turron (the typical dessert at Christmas time). This is in our view Bilbao´s best ice cream maker.
  • Asador Ibañez A family-owned restaurant, Ibañez is a great option if you want to enjoy high-quality gastronomy based on the excellent quality of its meats, fish… SPECIAL OFFER
  • Sidreria La Gabarra: Sidrerias are very popular in the Basque country. Simple menus, very friendly atmosphere. Our favorite one is this one located on the other side of the river and 15 minutes walk from the Guggenheim. This is a very popular restaurant among locals. We recommend trying «Menu sidreria» SPECIAL OFFER If you prefer to stay in the «Casco viejo» and try a Sidreria, Arriaga is could be an option for you.
  • Despensa de Etxanobe. This is the bistro style concept, yet with prices close to 100€, of Michelin starred Etxanobe. Excellent quality and for many a better option than more expensive Michelin star alternative. BOOK A TABLE
  • Mina. Next to the Guggenheim museum and a very convenient option if you plan to visit the museum, Mina takes pride in its commitment with sustainability and the use of local seasonal products. Only tasting menus are served. BOOK A TABLE


1 day recommended (2 or 3 if ou are a foodie)

San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque language) began its tourism in the 19th century when Queen Isabella II. She chose the city as a holiday resort making it fashionable for other aristocrats in the same way as other important cities in France like Biarritz.

San Sebastian is one of the most elegant and beautiful cities of Spain. La Playa de la Concha(la Concha beach) is the heart of this city and the gastronomic capital of Spain. The Old Town (Parte Vieja) is well known for having the highest concentration of bars in the world. These bars offer a great variety of local pintxos (Basque tapas)

Top attracions in San Sebastian

  • La Concha La Concha is the central axis of San Sebastian and the reason why the city exists. Every tourist or resident walks it each day from one side of the city to the other. It has been considered by several publications as the most beautiful urban beach in Europe.
  • Casco Viejo. This is the heart of the city and heaven in you search pintxo and tapas bars.
  • Basilica of Santa María del Coro: its location in the old part of San Sebastian and with mount Urgull behind it make of this baroque-style church a top highlight in San Sebastian.
  • Mercado de la Brecha San Sebastian is an important gastronomy tourism destination and a visit to its oldest market is a must to get a good glimpse at top local quality products: local cheeses, sausages, and meats … time for pintxos after this!
  • Igueldo. This mountain offers the best views of San Sebastian. You can drive to Igueldo, but also enjoy the beautiful cog railway. There is a mid-size funfair at the top of the hill.
  • Peines del Viento. This is the most famous sculpture in the city and a Master piece from Eduardo Chillida.
  • Aquarium. Not the best aquarium in Spain, but local authorities have put in lots of effort and it is highly recommended if you visit with children on a rainy day.
  • Plaza de la Constitucion This square used to be a bullfighting ring and it is used still today for many local festivals.
    You can find more interesting things to do in this post with ideas and the best things to do in San Sebastian in 1 or 2 days
  • Top excursions
    • Getaria (25km east of San Sebastian) is a beautiful village in the spanish Basque Country. It is famous for the quality of its gastronomy, which uses the grill for both meat and fish. More information on Getaria on this post with the best things to do in Getaria in 1 day
    • Zumaia (7 kms east of Getaria) Zumaia offers one of the most interesting landscapes in the Basque country: ths Flisch . A 15 minutes walk with spectacular cliffs and shapes. IN Zumaia itself the Parroquia de San Pedro, a gothic, fortress type of church is very interesting.


An unexpensive way to get to know San Sebastian. 2,5 hours with a local expert and the most important sights. Book well in advance!


Almost a must do to enjoy local tapas or pintxos with local guides. We strongly recommend not to got the cheapest tours available


A great tour enjoy amazing views of San Sebastian from the sea. Perfect if you travel with children. Also, very inexpensive!

Recommened tapas bars and fine dining options in San Sebastian

You will find hundreds of options to enjoy pintxos in San Sebastian. Many of them are crowded, and despite it may not be very convenient it indicates you will find something tasty inside…

La Mejillonera – a Very typical bar that serves, as its name indicates, mussels. They are prepared in many different ways.
A Fuego Negro –more avant-garde than traditional pintxos
Néstor – Its specialty pintxo is the tortilla. You should arrive before lunch or dinner to try it or otherwise, it will be gone
La Cuchara de San Telmo – One of our favorites, great pintxos
Gambara – If you enjoy mushrooms this is your place. Great selection of wines too.
La Viña – Their cheesecake is their main highlight. It is very tasty but too many people have found out…

San Sebastian holds more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world. Expensive tasting menus… but sometimes a life time experience.
Nineu. Located at the beautiful Kursal building, Nineu is not a Michelin starred restaurant and your wallet will not get empty here. You can, however, enjoy high-quality gastronomy in a chic atmosphere.
Restaurante Kokotxa – Fantastic tasting menus and top quality since it got its 1st star in 2007.
Mirador de Ulía –innovative cuisine with a nod to its Basque roots. Its terrace offers a great atmosphere, especially during summer.
Arzak – A legend and the name behind a real revolution in Basque gastronomy
Akelarre –3 stars like Arzak. Located just 10 minutes from the center and with amazing views

More road trip ideas in Spain

Port and church of Getaria near San Sebastian
From Bilbao

Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela Road trip

Design a fantastic road trip in northern Spain from Bilbao to Sntiago de Compostela with this free itinerary planner that includes recommendations to discover the north of Spain by visiting elegant cities such as San Sebastian, Santander and Oviedo and small fishing villages, all with their traditional architecture. This road trip itinerary has been selected as one of Spain’s best holidays by The Times. Our team of local experts recommends top hotels, restaurants, hidden gems, and activities to enjoy … Read More

Bodegas Ysios in Rioja Alvesa

Rioja road trip – Rioja at its best

Discover the best of La Rioja with this short but complete road trip itinerary in Spain´s top wine region in which you will visit emblematic wineries and taste their wines, explore magnificent landscapes, taste the traditional gastronomy of Rioja, get to know its culture and curiosities, and enjoy activities related to the world of wine. We have carefully selected each of the services recommended to make this the best way to discover this wonderful region. … Read More

Gaudi architecture in Barcelona
From Barcelona

Barcelona to Madrid road trip via wine country

Design a fantastic road trip in northern Spain from Bilbao to Sntiago de Compostela with this free itinerary planner that includes recommendations to discover the north of Spain by visiting elegant cities such as San Sebastian, Santander and Oviedo and small fishing villages, all with their traditional architecture. This road trip itinerary has been selected as one of Spain’s best holidays by The Times. Our team of local experts recommends top hotels, restaurants, hidden gems, and activities to enjoy … Read More

White village and sea during a roadtrip in Spain

South Spain roadtrip:12 Highlights

Recommendations and itineraries for a road trip across the South of Spain written by our local destination experts. We aim at providing recommendations that offer overall great road trip experience, value and a fantastic selection of ideas collected with all the inside knowledge of our local experts. … Read More