Bilbao started life as a small village of blacksmiths, sailors and farmers before profiting from extensive supplies of iron ore and a safe harbour away from the coast, converting Bilbao into the economic capital of the Basque Country. Industrial decline has since allowed Bilbao to re-invent itself from a polluted industrial mass to an elegant, cultural European city.
The Guggenheim effect
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Highly impressive structure
Modern art gallery & exhibitions
Leisure and shopping centres
Bars and Restaurants
Nuestra Señora de Begoña Basilica.
Grand civic buildings
Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park
Museo de Bellas Artes gallery
The new Bilbao is the work of renowned architects such as Sir Norman Foster (the underground) and Frank O. Gehry for the city changing Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The Guggenheim has led an incredible cultural boom with visitors captivated by the titanium, granite and glass structure resembling a futuristic vessel floating out onto the estuary. Inside the museum houses an extensive modern art collection shared with its sister galleries in New York and Venice. Close by the defunct Euskalduna shipyards have been rebuilt into one of the finest Conference Centres in the world.
Despite these modern masterpieces Bilbao’s heart still beats in the old town Casco Viejo. Pedestrian streets are lined with shops interspersed with state of the art establishments, bars and restaurants in which to taste the renowned Basque cuisine. The 14th century Santiago Cathedral presides over the old town and Plaza Nueva is the setting of Sunday markets and the Santo Tomás Fair. Take the funicular railway to the top of Mount Artxanda for impressive panoramic views over the city and to see the Nuestra Señora de Begoña basilica.
Arenal is a long promenade of notable buildings such as the Casa Consistorial (town hall) and the Deusto University running alongside the estuary. It links the Casco Viejo to the 19th century suburb Gran Via full of department stores and grand civic buildings. Nearby you will find the Albia Gardens and the ever popular bar Iruña where literary and political discussion over a coffee is a favourite local pastime. The last stretch of Gran via brings you to Bilbao’s largest green space, the Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park; gardens, walkways, ponds, sheltered corners and the excellent Museo de Bellas Artes gallery which has benefited greatly from the Guggenheim effect.