Below is a brief guide of Bilbao, a city of contrasts whose historical roots combine with a cosmopolitan atmosphere that envelops the visitor right from the start. A walk through its streets brings a multitude of experiences and we can appreciate the city transition from an industrial centre to one of design.
When it’s time for something to eat you will discover why the numerous varieties of Basque cooking enjoy worldwide recognition and the importance of the cultural scene, with its own language and multiple traditions, makes Bilbao an interesting place to visit.
The Bilbao of Today:
As a result of the international recognition awarded by the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, the city has been able to position itself as an example of regeneration. In this environment, you will have the opportunity to appreciate Bilbao at its most cosmopolitan and modern, with its most significant museums, as well as the most recent buildings designed by well-known architects such as Cesar Pelli, Arata Isozaki, and Alvaro Siza.
Designed by Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum was one of the most ambitious cultural projects of the 21st century. Its contemporary art collection includes works by leading artist of the second half of the 20th century, with renowned names such as Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol.
Current exhibitions are: Joan Miró. Absolute Reality. Paris, 1920–1945 and Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection.
Monday to Sunday, 10:00 to 19:00
This museum contains important examples of ancient, modern and contemporary paintings. It has a special interest in the Spanish school of art and in Basque artists, by whom it has a large collection of works.
Monday to Saturday, 10:00 to 20:00 (closed Tuesdays)
Sundays and public holidays, 10:00 to 15:00
It is based on elements and objects that tell the history of maritime activity on the “Ría de Bilbao” and its port, as well as maritime culture in general, with special attention to the pieces that relate the lives and accomplishments of the men and women who made the maritime history of this town. Besides the boats that are exhibited in the museum’s dykes, there is a collection of scale model boats constructed in the famous Bilbao Estuary.
Monday to Sunday, 10:00 to 19:00
Art Inside and Out:
This space presents an open-air garden museum that can be explored in approximately 15 minutes. It is located along the river estuary with sculptures by notable contemporary artists such as: Dalí, Chillida, Koons, Bourgeois, Kapoor and Valdés among many others.
The river estuary and its bridges:
Walking for the river estuary and its bridges is an option to explore the history of the city. The Zubizuri Bridge or the Arrupe footbridge are icons of the New Bilbao, while San Antón Bridge, La Merced or the Arenal bridge are great representative’s symbols of the city´s past.
The Bilbao of Always (el Bilbao de siempre):
Declared a historical-artistic monument, visiting the old neighborhood (Casco Viejo) in Bilbao allows you to discover the heritage and history of the city. For example, taking a walk through the “Seven Streets”, from Somera to Barrenkale Barrena street, where the city originated and where the port was. You will adore the charming shops and the atmosphere charged with the enjoyment of the local people who love to frequent these streets and plazas.
Traditional Seven Streets (siete calles):
- Somera as the first.
- Artekale is the second.
- Tendería the third.
- Belostikale the fourth.
- Carnicería Vieja the fifth.
- Sixth, Barrenkale
- Finally the seventh, Barrenkale Barrena.
Cathedral of Santiago:
Built in the fifteenth century, in a Gothic style, this cathedral is a pilgrimage point along the Northem Route of St. James´Way and it has been renovated several times, the last time in 2000.
The Arriaga Theatre is Inspired in the Paris Opera and was opened in 1890. Today, the Arriaga continuously hosts the city’s programmes of music and theatre.
For Food Lovers:
On the other hand, the old town it is one of the emblematic places to taste the well-known “pintxos” (miniature creations that can be found in any bar) and combine with an activity known as “txikiteo” (going from bar to bar drinking small glasses of wine).
Plaza Nueva, new because there was another old square and new because it never fails to reinvent itself. It is a porticoed square full of bars and restaurants, making it an ideal place to taste the famous “pintxos”.
The Ribera Market is a typical neighborhood market, famous for the variety of foodstuffs and quality of its local products. The building has a stunning original stained-glass window inside while the outside is traditional style.
- Idiazábal cheese
- Tinned seafood
- Cod pil-pil style
- Hake Biscay style
- Marmitako tuna stew
- Baby squid
- Txakolí (White wine)
- Sagardoa (natural cider)
- Rioja Alavesa (wines)
- Carolina (puff party topped with meringue)
- Pastel de arroz (pastry base with creamy topping)
- Pastel Vasco (Basque tart)
- Bollo de Mantequilla (sweet butter bun) and Arrese truffles
The Urban Bilbao:
Ensanche of Bilbao:
The Ensanche of Bilbao exhibits bourgeois elegance that can be appreciated in the architecture surrounding of Plaza Moyua, the city’s focal point. There is also the Gran Via Don Diego López de Haro, Bilbao’s main arterial road, named in honour of the town’s founder. Moreover, there is a significant amount of commercial activity in its layout
Entertainment and Culture:
Azkuna Zentroa “Alhondiga Bilbao”:
The Azkuna Zentroa “Alhondiga Bilbao” is located just five minutes walking from Plaza Moyua. That building was formerly a wine and liquor store converted into a cultural centre in the 20th century.
The exterior classicism contrasts with the interior design by Philippe Starck, one of the most renowned designers nowadays. The atrium contains 43 columns that represent the cultures of different countries around the world.
Furthermore, it offers a wide variety of leisure services including a library, sports facilities, cinemas, and gastronomic offerings.
Anywhere in Bilbao is good for shopping. Each area has its speciality, but there are always a variety shops, ranging from the most traditional to design stores or peculiar shops offering authentic Basque products. The most renowned shopping streets in Bilbao include:
- Colón de Larreátegui
- Máximo Aguirre
- Rodríguez Arias
- Marqués del Puerto
Artxanda Funicular Railway:
Climb aboard this rack railway to enjoy panoramic views of the Bilbao skyline. Cable Car departs every quarter of an hour. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 7:15 – 22:00. Sundays and holidays: 8:15 – 22:00.
The Flower Market:
Every Sunday morning there are several flowers stands in the “El Arenal” area. Enjoying a pleasant walk near to river estuary, you will find flowers and plants grown and picked by local producers.
Other useful information:
Before you go, learn a few words in the Basque language (Euskera):
- Hello: Kaixo
- Goodbye: Agur
- Yes: Bai
- No: Ez
- Welcome: Ongi etorri
- Good morning: Egun on
- Good afternoon: Arratsalde on
- Goodnight: Gabon
- How are you?: Zer Moduz?
- See you: Ikusi arte
- See you later: Gero arte
- Please: Mesedez
- Thank you: Eskerrik Asko
- You are welcome: Ez horregatik
- Congratulations: Zorionak
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