Arkeologi Museoa

Through the exhibition of unique artifacts and the virtual reconstruction of cave art, the Arkeologi Museoa and the Cave of Santimamiñe offer a captivating journey into the Ice Age of Biscay. These immersive experiences enable us to explore the lives of the human species that once inhabited the region, their coexistence with various animals, the technological advancements they achieved, and the remarkable art they produced.

Hematite slab with an engraved horse
Hematite slab with an engraved horse from Lumentxa cave. Photo: Arkeologi Museoa

Cultural Heritage of Biscay

The archaeological excavations of Ice Age sites began in Santimamiñe in 1916, shortly after the discovery of its awe-inspiring rock art.

Over a century has passed since the initial finding of the first cave adorned with rock art in the area, known as Venta Laperra. Today, the number of decorated caves has risen to 16, four of which can be virtually visited at Santimamiñe and the Arkeologi Museoa.

The Arkeologi Museoa houses an invaluable Neanderthal heritage, showcasing the caves and open-air sites in Biscay that hold the key to comprehending the history and ways of life of these fascinating beings.

The Arkeologi Museoa

The Arkeologi Museoa, situated in the Old Quarter of Bilbao, encompasses an expansive area of 3,000 square meters spread across five floors. Three floors are dedicated to exhibition spaces, while the remaining two floors serve as conservation areas for Biscay's archaeological and cultural heritage.

Since its establishment in 2008, our primary objective has been to safeguard the materials unearthed from archaeological excavations, along with their contextual information. Additionally, we are committed to fostering research on these archaeological collections by providing necessary research facilities and disseminating knowledge about the history of Biscay. Through guided tours, engaging exhibitions, informative courses and workshops, enlightening conferences, and thought-provoking publications, we strive to connect our past with present-day society, thereby contributing to its development.

The impressive main façade of the Arkeologi Museoa, located next to the Mallona stairs
The impressive main façade of the Arkeologi Museoa, located next to the Mallona stairs. Photo: Arkeologi Museoa

The museum offers visitors an interactive and immersive journey through the captivating history of Biscay. Within its walls, one can marvel at a wealth of Palaeolithic archaeological materials that have been excavated in Biscay since 1916. These include magnificent examples of Neanderthal technology, awe-inspiring instances of portable art, and remains of extinct animal species.

In 2019, the Arkeologi Museoa unveiled a renewed exhibition dedicated to the Ice Age, further enhancing the visitor experience. Among the new showcases is one that presents the diverse and abundant Pleistocene fauna that coexisted with humans in this region during the Paleolithic era. Here, one can observe remarkable examples of extinct fauna, such as the woolly rhinoceros, the cave bear, the cave lion, and the saber-toothed tiger. Another room houses exquisite examples of Upper Palaeolithic portable art sourced from renowned cave sites, including Santa Catalina. Adjacent to these artifacts are virtual replicas of rock art sites such as Venta Laperra, Arenaza, and Armintxe, providing visitors with a comprehensive view of these historic treasures.

Cave of Santimamiñe

In order to safeguard the geological, archaeological, and artistic legacy of Santimamiñe, a decision was made in 2006 to close the cave to visitors after 60 years of unrestricted access. Today, visitors can experience the site through a combination of exploring the renovated cave vestibule and embarking on a virtual journey through the adorned galleries.

The discovery of Santimamiñe rock art dates back to 1916, and since then, the archaeological site has undergone several excavation phases (1918-1926, 1960-1962, 2004-2019). These excavations have unveiled a remarkable Pleistocene-Holocene sequence, spanning from the Late Upper Paleolithic era to the emergence of the region's earliest hunter-gatherers and farmers. In recognition of its significance as one of the first artistic expressions of humanity during the Upper Paleolithic period, the Santimamiñe cave was included in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008. Moreover, the archaeological sequence found within the cave has made substantial contributions to our understanding of the hunter-gatherer communities during the final stages of the Ice Age in the region.

Panel of the main chamber of Santimamiñe cave, where the iconic images of bison and horses painted in black can be seen.
Panel of the main chamber of Santimamiñe cave, where the iconic images of bison and horses painted in black can be seen. Photo: Santi Yaniz


Arkeologi Museoa
Calzadas de Mallona, 2
48006 Bilbao

Barrio Basondo
48315 Kortezubi

Getting there

The Arkeologi Museoa is located next to the Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo metro station. Access by car to the quarter is prohibited, but there is a public car park only 500 metres away.

Santimamiñe: There is a public parking next to the visitor’s centre and Bizkaibus bus service has a stop in Kortezubi, 2 kilometres away from Santimamiñe.


The installations of the Arkeologi Museoa are designed to be accessible to individuals with mobility difficulties, thanks to the presence of an elevator and an entrance located on Prim Street. Additionally, the museum offers specialized programs tailored to groups of individuals with cognitive and functional diversity, ensuring an inclusive and accommodating experience for all visitors.

Unfortunately, the access to the Cave of Santimamiñe is not currently adapted to accommodate individuals with mobility issues.

two children draw animals on wallpaper

At a rock art workshop. Photo: Arkeologi Museoa

In a shallow dish, there are various small objects with labels.

Know it, meet us - a visit to the storage area. Photo: Arkeologi Museoa

Children make stone tools out of modeling clay

Making lithic tools workshop. Photo: Arkeologi Museoa

A museum display case with objects of Pleistocene fauna

The new display on Pleistocene fauna. Photo: Arkeologi Museoa

Programmes and Activities

The Arkeologi Museoa presents a captivating exhibition showcasing a wide array of archaeological artifacts, including lithic tools, bone tools, adornments, portable art, and faunal remains, sourced from renowned archaeological sites like Axlor, Bolinkoba, and Santimamiñe.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Arkeologi Museoa organizes biannual temporary exhibitions, often focusing on Ice Age subjects. Furthermore, the museum features a unique program called "Pieza a Pieza," which showcases extraordinary findings that do not fit within the permanent exhibition but provide fascinating narratives worth sharing. The museum also hosts conferences, poster exhibitions, workshops, and various engaging events.

The exhibition at the Arkeologi Museoa is presented in both Basque and Spanish, with the convenience of audio guides and guidebooks available in French and English, allowing visitors from diverse backgrounds to fully engage with the displays and artifacts.

The Arkeologi Museoa offers educational programs for different school levels. For primary school students, there is a museum visit followed by an archaeological workshop focusing on different historical periods. Secondary school students can learn about archaeology and our social environment through museum exhibits and activities.

The Santimamiñe Cave also has educational programs for primary school cycles, including a guided tour and virtual visit to the rock-art. Thematic visits at the museum include exploring Biscay's history through archaeological artifacts, getting an inside look at the museum's facilities, and examining historical events from a gender perspective. Visitors can also explore the Caves of Santimamiñe and witness research work and prehistoric art through a guided tour and virtual replica.

A view into the cave with built-in footpath
New access to Santimamiñe entrance hall. Photo: Santi Yaniz

Bilbao, capital of the province of Biscay in the autonomous community of the Basque Country, is the tenth largest city in Spain and is situated about 15 kilometres south of the Bay of Biscay. The city was founded in the early 14th century and since then serves as a commercial hub, becoming one of the most industrialized regions in Spain, joined by an extraordinary population explosion. Today, Bilbao is undergoing a huge revitalisation process. One of the most obvious signs being the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, since its foundation in 1997 a major tourist draw.

Further information about Bilbao:
Arriaga Tourist Information Centre
Plaza Arriaga s/n
phone: +34 944 795 760

Further information about the region of Santimanine:
Gernika-Lumo Tourist Information Centre
Artekalea kalea nº8
48300 Gernika-Lumo
phone: + 34 946 25 58 92