In my post about the famous Guggenheim Bilbao, I admitted I wanted to visit the city only to take a look at the museum’s structure.
But, I am glad this futuristic building was constructed to attract visitors (or attention) to Bilbao.
I arrived in the city a grey Tuesday afternoon. I was half-dead from the six hours train trip from Barcelona (there are no high-speed trains to the city).
In a blurry haze, I walked the terminal’s halls trying to decide what to do. Since I was interested only in the museum, I didn’t make any research about the city. I know. Bad, bad traveler. I should be rolling my eyes at myself at this moment.
My husband stood in one corner of the terminal while I went out in search of help. Turns out the touristic information center was located next to the train station (I can’t believe my luck sometimes).
An awesome guy gave me a map, explained how to get to the hotel, pointed out the most important sights in the city and gave me instructions to get to the Guggenheim. Everything worked to perfection.
That afternoon we explored a bit of the city but concentrated in Gehry’s designed museum. The next day, we had several hours to explore before departing to San Sebastian.
Bilbao is a city located in Northern Spain in the autonomous community of the Basque County. The metropolitan area has more than one million inhabitants making it one of the largest urban areas in Spain.
Bilbao has enjoyed an economic powerhouse status since its foundation in the early 14th century. Due to the city’s proximity to the Bay of Biscay, its port was able to export iron extracted from local quarries. Throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialization. That prompted a population explosion and progress in many aspects.
After the dramatic industrial crisis of the 1980s, the city turned itself into a service provider attracting national and international companies.
The city aimed to gain tourist dollars with the construction of the Guggenheim in the late nineties. The rest is history. Nowadays, Bilbao is the city that receives more tourists in the Basque Country (more than San Sebastian).
As I previously mentioned, I am glad I took some time to discover what Bilbao has to offer. I really liked the city. Find out why below.
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After spending about four hours exploring the Guggenheim Museum, we strolled along the Nervion River.
We found colorful palaces, modern hotels and some street art here and there.
In addition, we observed the characteristical architecture of the city.
Zubizurri means “White Bridge” in Basque. The tied arch bridge over the Nervion River was designed by Santiago Calatrava (the same architect who designed the City of Art and Sciences in Valencia).
Old Town (Casco Viejo)
This is where the original seven streets of the village of Bilbao are located. Somera Street is considered the place where Don Diego Lopez de Haro read the foundational letter on June 15, 1300.
In the Old Town, other notorious sights such as the Plaza Nueva (New Plaza), Santiago Cathedral (the oldest in the “village”), Unamuno Plaza and San Nicolas Church can be found.
If you are, do not forget to visit the Ribera Market, the largest covered market in Europe.
The market has an area to try creative, contemporary food. Too bad it was closed when we were there.
And let me mention the Old Town is the ideal place to have delicious pintxos.
Lopez de Haro Avenue
This is one of the main commercial avenues in the city. In here, you will find all the popular and chic stores you will find in other big cities in Spain.
This plaza bisects the Lopez de Haro Avenue in two pieces. The plaza is surrounded by palaces (Chavarri Palace and Montero House) and the Carlton Hotel.
It cannot be appreciated in my photos but this plaza contains metro station entrances designed by Norman Foster (famous for designing the Reichstag Dome in Berlin and The Gherkin in London).
Alhondiga Bilbao (Azkuna Zentroa)
This multi-purpose venue consists of a cinema multiplex, a fitness center, a library, showrooms, an auditorium, shops, and a restaurant.
The Alhondiga was brought back to life by Philippe Starck and Thibaut Mathieu.
After visiting this space, we walked around and found a lot of nice buildings.
This plaza caught our attention because of its modern office building.
Bellas Artes Museum, Dona Casilda Park and Euskadi Plaza
We visited the Bellas Artes Museum since it is free on Wednesdays. We continued walking around several parks and plazas. During the walk, we found many palaces and colorful buildings.
Did I mention Bilbao is located in the Basque Country? I think so. Well, I do not have to tell you the food was great there.
We visited Panko, a restaurant serving international food with a Basque twist at very affordable prices. We arrived in time to take advantage of the lunch specials and were able to have an entrée, main dish, and dessert.
I later found out Panko was considered a “To Watch” newcomer in the Gastronomic Guide of Spain.
Also, we were able to eat at Foodoo. Again, we ate the tree course lunch special and it was delicious.
This is only a tiny sample of what Bilbao offers in terms of food. I am telling you! The food here is great.
Would you be interested in visiting Bilbao?
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