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Bilbao is a municipality and city in Spain, a major city in the province of Biscay in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. It is the largest municipality of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country and the tenth largest in Spain, with a population of 353,187 in 2010. The Bilbao metropolitan area has roughly 1 million inhabitants, making it one of the most populous metropolitan areas in northern Spain; with a population of 875,552 the comarca of Greater Bilbao is the fifth-largest urban area in Spain. Bilbao is also the main urban area in what is defined as the Greater Basque region.
Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain, some 16 kilometres (10 mi) south of the Bay of Biscay, where the economic social development is located, where the estuary of Bilbao is formed. Its main urban core is surrounded by two small mountain ranges with an average elevation of 400 metres (1,300 ft).
After its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de Haro, head of the powerful Haro family, Bilbao was a commercial hub of the Basque Country that enjoyed significant importance in Green Spain. This was due to its port activity based on the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialisation, making it the centre of the second-most industrialised region of Spain, behind Barcelona. At the same time an extraordinary population explosion prompted the annexation of several adjacent municipalities. Nowadays, Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalisation process, started by the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, and continued by infrastructure investments, such as the airport terminal, the rapid transit system, the tram line, the Alhóndiga, and the currently under development Abandoibarra and Zorrozaurre renewal projects.
Bilbao is also home to football club Athletic Club de Bilbao, a significant symbol for Basque nationalism due to its promotion of Basque players and one of the most successful clubs in Spanish football history.
|POPULATION :||• Municipality 345,141|
• Metro 950,155
|FOUNDED :||15 June 1300|
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|AREA :||• Municipality 41.50 km2 (16.02 sq mi)|
• Urban 18.22 km2 (7.03 sq mi)
• Rural 23.30 km2 (9.00 sq mi)
|ELEVATION :||Highest elevation 689 m (2,260 ft)|
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
|COORDINATES :||43°15′25″N 2°55′25″W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.5%|
• Female: 50.5%
|AREA CODE :||94|
|POSTAL CODE :||48001 – 48015|
|DIALING CODE :||+34 94|
|WEBSITE :||Official website|
Situated on the banks of the Nervión, Bilbao is the largest city in Spain's Basque Country. Milder and rainier than most other parts of Spain (temperatures here rarely fall below freezing in winter nor rise above 35°C even in the height of summer), the greenery of Bilbao is both a blessing and a curse: the climate here is as much a welcome relief from the heat of the dry plains in the south as a thorn in the side of those hoping for a day at the beach. But the shore of the Bay of Biscay isn't really the main attraction—instead, Bilbao is perhaps the premier venue in the world to experience the ancient culture and language of the Basque people, which has stubbornly held its own over thousands of years and is now completely unlike any modern-day culture in Europe.
The first notion of Bilbao as a tourist destination came with the inauguration of the railway between Bilbao and the coastal neighbourhood of Las Arenas, in the municipality of Getxo in 1872. The connection made Bilbao a minor beach destination.
The real tourist surge though would come much later with the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997. Thereafter tourist arrivals registered a continued upward trend, reaching over 615,000 visitors in 2009. The trend was exponential considering that in 1995, Bilbao only counted 25,000 tourists. Bilbao also hosts 31% of the total Basque Country visitors, being the top destination of this autonomous community, outranking San Sebastián. The majority of tourists are domestic visitors, coming from Madrid and Catalonia. International travellers are predominantly French, crossing the border just to the east. The others arrive from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Tourism generates about 300 million euros yearly for the Biscayan GDP. Bilbao also draws business tourism, having been equipped with facilities like the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall, and the Bilbao Exhibition Centre, in nearby Barakaldo.
Remains of an ancient settlement were found on the top of Mount Malmasín, dating from around the 3rd or 2nd century BC. Burial sites were also found on Mounts Avril and Artxanda, dated 6,000 years old. Some authors identify the old settlement of Bilbao as Amanun Portus, cited by Pliny the Elder, or with Flaviobriga, by Ptolemy. Ancient walls, which date from around the 11th century, have been discovered below the Church of San Antón.
Bilbao was one of the first towns founded in the fourteenth century, during a period in which approximately 70% of the Biscayan municipalities were developed, among them Portugalete in 1323,Ondarroa in 1327, Lekeitio in 1335, and Mungia and Larrabetzu in 1376. The then lord of Biscay, Diego López V of Haro, founded Bilbao through a municipal charter dated in Valladolid on 15 June 1300 and confirmed by King Fernando IV of Castile in Burgos, on 4 January 1301. Diego López established the new town on the right bank of the Nervión river, on the grounds of the elizate of Begoña and granted it the fuero of Logroño, a compilation of rights and privileges that would prove fundamental to its later development.
On 21 June 1511, Queen Joanna of Castile ordered the creation of the Consulate of Bilbao. This would become the most influential institution of the borough for centuries, and would claim jurisdiction over the estuary, improving its infrastructure. Under the Consulate's control, the port of Bilbao became one of the most important of Spain. The first printing-press was brought to the town in 1577. Here in 1596, the first book in Basque was edited, entitled Doctrina Christiana en Romance y Bascuence by Dr. Betolaza.
In 1602 Bilbao was made the capital of Biscay, a title previously held by Bermeo. The following centuries saw a constant increase in the town's wealth, especially after the discovery of extensive iron deposits in the surrounding mountains. At the end of the 17th century, Bilbao overcame the economic crises that affected Spain, thanks to the iron ore and its commerce with England and the Netherlands. During the 18th century, it continued to grow and almost exhausted its small space.
The Basque Country was one of the main sites of battles of the Carlist Wars, and the Carlistsvery much wanted to conquer the city, a liberal and economic bastion. Bilbao was besieged three times between 1835 and 1874, but all proved unsuccessful. One of the main battles of this time was the Battle of Luchana in 1836, when Liberal general Baldomero Espartero defeated the Carlists, freeing the borough.
Despite the warfare, Bilbao prospered during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when it rose as the economic centre of the Basque Country. During this time, the first railway was built (in 1857), the Bank of Bilbao was founded (later to become the BBVA), and the Bilbao Stock Exchange was created. Many industries flourished, such as Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, founded in 1902. The borough grew in area with the Abandoensanche and was modernized with new avenues and walkways, as well as with new modern buildings such as the City Hall, the Basurto Hospitaland the Arriaga Theatre. The population increased dramatically, from 11,000 in 1880 to 80,000 in 1900. Social movements also arose, notably Basque nationalism under Sabino Arana.
The Spanish Civil War started in Bilbao with a number of small uprisings suppressed by the Republican forces. On 31 August 1936, the city suffered the first bombing. The next month, further bombing by German planes occurred, in coordination with Franco's forces. n May 1937, the Nationalist army besieged the town. The battle lasted until 19 June of that year, when Lieutenant Colonel Putz was ordered to destroy all bridges over the estuary, and the troops of the 5th Brigade took the borough from the mountains Malmasin, Pagasarri, and Arnotegi.
With the war over, Bilbao returned to its industrial development, accompanied by a steady population growth. In the 1940s, the city was rebuilt, starting with the bridges. In 1948, the first commercial flight took off from the local airport. Over the next decade, there was a revival of the iron industry. The demand for housing outstripped supply, and workers built slums on the hillsides. In this chaotic environment, on 31 July 1959, the terrorist organization ETA was born in Bilbao, as a faction of the PNV.
After the fall of Francoist Spain and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, in a process known in Spain as the transition, Bilbao was able to hold democratic elections again. This time Basque nationalists rose to power. With the approval of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country in 1979, Vitoria-Gasteiz was elected the seat of the government and therefore the de facto capital of the Basque Autonomous Community, although Bilbao was larger and more powerful economically. In the 1980s, several factors such as terrorism, labor demands and the arrival of cheap labor from abroad led to a devastating industrial crisis.
Since the mid-1990s, Bilbao has been in a process of deindustrialization and transition to a service economy, supported by investment in infrastructure and urban renewal, starting with the opening of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum (the so-called Guggenheim effect), and continuing with the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall,Santiago Calatrava's Zubizuri, the metro network by Norman Foster, the tram, the Iberdrola Tower and the Zorrozaurre development plan, among others. Many officially supported associations such as Bilbao Metrópoli-30 and Bilbao Ría 2000 were created to monitor these projects.
Its proximity to the Bay of Biscay gives Bilbao an oceanic climate(Cfb), with precipitation occurring throughout the year and without a well-defined dry summer. Precipitation is abundant, and given the latitude and atmospheric dynamics, rainy days represent 45% and cloudy days 40% of the annual total. The rainiest season is between October and April, November being the wettest. Snow is not frequent in Bilbao, although it is possible to see snow on the top of the surrounding mountains. Sleet is more frequent, about 10 days per year, mainly in the winter months. Bilbao is nearest of the subtropical boundary of all the Atlantic coastal cities in the country with an August daily mean of 20.9 °C (69.6 °F). There is also a drying trend in summer with only around 50 millimetres (2.0 in) of rainfall in July - but not dry enough to be considered Mediterranean.
The proximity of the ocean also means that the two best defined seasons (summer and winter) remain mild, with low intensity thermal oscillations. Average maximum temperatures vary between 25 and 26 °C (77.0 and 78.8 °F) in the summer months, while the average minimum in winter is between 6 and 7 °C (42.8 and 44.6 °F).
Extreme record observations in Bilbao are 42.2 °C (108.0 °F) maximum (on 13 August 2003) and −8.6 °C (16.5 °F) minimum (on 3 February 1963). The maximum precipitation in a day was 225.6 mm (9 in) on 26 August 1983 when severe flooding was caused by the Nervión river.
Climate data for Bilbao
|Average high °C (°F)||13.4|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||9.3|
|Average low °C (°F)||5.1|
|Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología|
The municipality of Bilbao is located near the northern edge of the Iberian Peninsula, about 16 kilometres (10 mi) from the Bay of Biscay. It covers an area of 40.65 square kilometres (15.70 sq mi), of which 17.35 square kilometres (6.70 sq mi) are urban and the remaining 23.30 square kilometres (9.00 sq mi) consist of the surrounding mountains. The official average altitude is 19 metres (62 ft), although there are measurements between 6 metres (20 ft) and 32 metres (105 ft). It is also the core of the comarca of Greater Bilbao. It is surrounded by the municipalities of Derio, Etxebarri, Galdakao, Loiu, Sondika, and Zamudio to the north; Arrigorriaga and Basauri to the west; Alonsotegi to the south; and Barakaldo and Erandio to the east.
Bilbao is located on the Basque threshold, the range between the larger Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees. The soil is predominantly composed of mesozoic materials (limestone,sandstone, and marl) sedimented over a primitive paleozoic base. The relief of the province is dominated by NW-SE and WNW-ESE oriented folds. The main fold is the anticline of Bilbao which runs from the municipality of Elorrio to Galdames. Inside Bilbao there are two secondary folds, one in the northeast, composed of Mounts Artxanda, Avril, Banderas, Pikota, San Bernabé, and Cabras; and other in the south, composed of Mounts Kobetas, Restaleku, Pagasarri and Arraiz. The highest point in the municipality is Mount Ganeta, of 689 metres (2,260 ft), followed by Mount Pagasarri, of 673 metres (2,208 ft), both on the border with Alonsotegi.
Bilbao has been the economic center of the Basque Countrysince the times of the Consulate, mainly because of commerce in Castilian products on the town's port, but it was not until the 19th century when it experimented with big development, mainly based on the exploitation of the iron mines and siderurgy, which promoted the maritimal traffic, the portuary activity and the construction of ships. During those years Banco de Bilbao (Bank of Bilbao), founded in Bilbao in 1857 and Banco de Vizcaya (Bank of Biscay), which was established in 1901, also in Bilbao, made their appearance. Both entities merged in 1988 creating the BBV corporation (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, Bank of Bilbao-Biscay). BBV merged with Argentaria in 1999, creating the current corporation, BBVA. The savings banks that were established locally, Caja de Ahorros Municipal de Bilbao (Municipal Savings Bank of Bilbao) in 1907, and Caja de Ahorros Provincial de Vizcaya (Provincial Savings Bank of Biscay) in 1921, would merge in 1990 and form Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK). There is also the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of Bilbao and the Stock Exchange Market of Bilbao, founded in 1890.
After the dramatic industrial crisis of the 1980s, Bilbao was forced to rethink its very economic foundations. That is how it transformed into a successful service town. Bilbao is home to numerous companies of national and international relevance, including two among the 150 world's biggest, according to Forbes magazine: BBVA at #40 and Iberdrola at #122. The city's GDP per capita is of €26,225 in 2005, considerably above the country average of €22,152. According to the official economic yearbook, the strongest sectors are construction, commerce, and tourism. The unemployment rate reached 14.4% in 2009, well below the national rate, of 18,01%. Nevertheless, it is the highest rate in the last ten years.
Port of Bilbao
The historical port was located in what today is an area called the Arenal, a few steps from the Casco Viejo, until the late 20th century. In 1902, an exterior port was built at the mouth of the estuary, in the coastal municipality of Santurtzi. Further extensions led to a superport, that in the 1970s replaced the docks inside Bilbao, with the exception of those located in the neighbourhood of Zorrotza, still in activity.
The port of Bilbao is a first-class commercial port and is among the top five of Spain. Over 200 regular maritime services link Bilbao with 500 ports worldwide. At the close of 2009 cargo movements amounted to 31.6 million tonnes, Russia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries being the main markets. In the first semester of 2008, it received over 67,000 passengers and 2,770 ships. This activity reported 419 million euros to the basque GDP and generates almost 10,000 jobs.
The borough of Bilbao consists of eight different districts. Each district is further subdivided into neighbourhoods, totalling 35:
|1||Deusto||Arangoiti,Ibarrekolanda,San Ignacio-Elorrieta, and San Pedro de Deusto-La Rivera.||4.95||51,656|
|2||Uribarri||Castaños,Matiko-Ciudad Jardín, Uribarri,and Zurbaran-Arabella.||4.19||38,335|
|3||Otxarkoaga-Txurdinaga||Otxarkoaga and Txurdinaga.||3.90||28,518|
|4||Begoña||Begoña, Bolueta, and Santutxu.||1.77||43,030|
|5||Ibaiondo||Atxuri, Bilbao La Vieja, Casco Viejo, Iturralde,La Peña,Miribilla, San Adrián, San Francisco,Solokoetxe, and Zabala.||9.65||61,029|
|6||Abando||Abando and Indautxu.||2.14||51,718|
|7||Errekalde||Amezola,Iralabarri,Iturrigorri-Peñascal,Errekaldeberri-Larraskitu, and Uretamendi.||6.96||47,787|
|8||Basurto-Zorroza||Altamira,Basurto,Olabeaga,Masustegi-Monte Caramelo, and Zorrotza.||7.09||33,658|
Prices in Bilbao
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€0.90|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€4.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€25.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€48.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€7.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€3.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€2.50|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€8.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€12.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.15|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€4.80|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€2.00|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€66.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€32.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€78.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€1.50|
50 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
217 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Bilbao Airport (IATA: BIO) is served by Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Air Berlin, TuiFly, AerLingus, Iberia, Air Europa, Vueling and several other airlines. Easy Jet flies from London Stansted to Bilbao airport. You can also fly with Ryanair to Santander.
To get to downtown Bilbao from the airport, take Bizkaibus A3247 from the arrivals sidewalk: there is no arrivals hall. The bus will stop at Alameda Recalde, Plaza Moyua and Gran Via before terminating at Termibus busstation near the San Mamés stadium. The 2015 timetable for the reverse journey [www]. A single ticket costs €1.45, or if using CreditTrans select zone 2 on the machine inside the bus.
Taxis to downtown Bilbao from the airport cost about €25-30.
RENFE—runs intercity trains to Madrid, Barcelona, Vigo (Galicia). All Renfe trains leave from Abando Station.
FEVE—runs regional trains to Santander (3 daily), and León (1 Daily). They are very slow, and make a stop in almost every single town they pass through. From Santander you can continue to Oviedo (Asturias), and La Coruña (Galicia). This journey has three legs, but it is only possible to do 2 legs in any one day. FEVE trains leave from Santander Station (next to Abando Station)
EuskoTren—runs a local service to San Sebastian, with connection there for Irun (on the Spanish-French border). It takes two hours to reach San Sebastian. Trains leave from Atxuri Station.
All buses to other provinces leave from the TermiBus terminal. There are regular connections to Santander (75 minutes) San Sebastian (60 minutes) and Madrid (arriving at Avenida de América bus station, 4–5 hours) among others.
The bus companies connect Bilbao with many cities in Spain more cheaply and frequently than the rail companies.
The company linking Bilbao to Santander is ALSA (tel: +34 902422242), and in theory you can get info about buses from Santander to Bilbao at [www]. Be prepared for long waiting lines of half an hour as there are only two ticket offices. It's usually better to buy the ticket the day before or print your ticket on the company's website. Instead of printing, you can also use the text message they send to your mobile as proof of purchase. Moreover, you can now use four automatic machines.
For Vitoria-Gasteiz, take La Unión Alavesa buses.
Distances to/from Bilbao: MAdrid 395 km, Barcelona 615 km, A Coruna 570 km, Lisbon 900 km
Transportation - Get Around
By Public Transport
If you are going to take more than a few journeys on public transit, a Barik card would be a good investment. It is convenient, and can save you a considerable amount compared to single tickets. It is valid on the Metro, bus and tram services in Bilbao, though not on the Renfe trains. It can be bought from shops in the vicinity of Metro stations. The card itself costs €3.00, and at the time of purchase it can be charged up with whatever amount is desired. It is easy to add further credit in the machines in Metro stations. Barik cards can be used by more than one person - so you may see a family of four swiping their card four times.
- MetroBilbao Convenient, Norman Foster designed Metro. It is clean and efficient, and security guards are often in evidence to reassure the public. Single line within Bilbao, splitting into two lines after San Inazio station. Line one runs from Etxebarri to Plentzia; line two from Etxebarri to Santurtzi. Trains run every couple of minutes at peak hours, and the stations are mostly very close together, meaning a lot of stops if you are going on a long journey. Tickets cost from €1.40-1.60, depending on how many zones your journey covers, or a daily card is available for €4. If using the Barik card, place your card over the reader in order to enter at the automatic gates, and do this again at the end of the journey when exiting.
- Bilbobus City bus service.
- EuskoTran A green tram from Atxuri Station to Basurto. The single line runs along the river passing the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. Single tickets cost €1.15, and are sold from machines at tram stops. Don't forget to validate the ticket before boarding. If using the Barik card, swipe it once per passenger before boarding: do not re-swipe it at the end as it will have already debited your card with the flat fare.
- EuskoTren Local train service leaving from Atxuri Station for Bermeo, Guernica/Gernika and San Sebastian (Donostia). Some good views but the train is slower than buses. The Barik card cannot be used.
- BizkaiBus For buses which operate outside Bilbao city limits.
- Artxanda Funicular. Spectacular views of Bilbao. The Barik card can be used on this service.
Taxi Bilbao: Tel: +34 944 448 888. This single number is used by all taxi operators in Bilbao. Your cab should appear within five minutes.
Bilbao is difficult to drive in. Hilly one-way streets, and frequent construction projects, make it a nightmare for drivers in parts of the city. Having an automobile map helps a lot; without it allow at least 30min extra to find the right exit from the city.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk along the river between the Guggenheim Museum and the Casco Viejo.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
The local custom is to call what are known in Spanish as tapas by the Basque name, pintxos, probably much more elaborated than their Spanish cousins due to the Basque love of gastronomy.
Friday and Saturday nights are most popular time for eating pintxos - as it is for going to bars.
- Aritz, Calle Zugastinobia 4. Was once one of the best Pintxos bars in Bilbao, quite out of the way (almost hidden really in a very small, one way street away from the main thoroughfares). Ask for it and you will be given directions. It is worth the walk since they have won the local Pintxo contests for ages. Closed as of Feb. 2008 and as the summer of 2008 reopened with what appears to be new management with less emphasis on its prize-winning pintxos. It's worth going to this street though because there are dozens other pintxos bars.
- Restaurante Kasko, c/Santa María, 16, . This restaurant claims that their Pintxos are a miniaturization of Basque cooking culture. The Pintxos are presented very nicely and in an appetizing way on the bar counter. Staff proficient in English, occasionally live Piano music. Can be crowded at times.
- Bilbao Cafe bar, Plaza Nueva, 6, .
- Charley Bar, Plaza Nueva, 8, .
- Fernando, Plaza Nueva, 12, .
- Víctor, Plaza Nueva, 2, .
near the Diputación
- El Globo, c/Diputación, 8, .
- La Viña del Ensanche, c/Diputacion, 10, .
- à table, Dos de Mayo 18, . Cozy place in the old quarter of Bilbao.Is an authentic Basque-French restaurant offering a true flavour of that traditional cuisine.Good cellar.Reservation required.Service in English.
- Agape, c/Hernani, 13, .
- Batzoki Bilbao, c/Tendería, 17, . Located in the first floor above a popular Pintxos-bar. Great evening menú de degustación on weekends offering lots of tasty starters, a main plate (can be chosen from several options), an assortment of desserts and a bottle of D.O. Rioja for about 30 euros. Very friendly and helpful service, nice quiet dining atmosphere.
- Casa Vasca, c/ Lehendakari Aguirre, 13/15 (Deusto), . Traditional Basque cuisine.
- Harrobia, casco viejo; c/del Perro, 2, . Modern Basque cooking.
- Matxinbenta, c/Ledesma 26, . Mon-Sat 8AM-11:30PM. Basque food, specialities include fresh tuna in piquant tomato sauce and piperada. Reservations required.
- Zortziko, c/Alameda de Mazarredo 17, . , Tue-Sat 9AM-11:30PM. Traditional Basque dishes such as pigeon breast or marinated sea bass. Formal environment with late Victorian style furnishing, frequently booked days in advance. Ask about reservations to dine in the wine cellar.
Sights & Landmarks
- Cathedral of St. James (Santiago). Gothic Style 14th century Cathedral, named after Bilbao's official patron saint. Three naves and small Gothic cloisters. The building was designated a cathedral in 1949. Its Neogothic tower and main façade were designed by Severino de Achúcarro in the 1800s. The adjoining square (Plaza de Santiago) bosts a fountain designed by Luis Paret during the reign of Carlos III with the inscriptionPor el bien público (For the good of the people).
- Iglesia de San Antón. Gothic style church from the first half of the 15th century (1422). Dedicated to San Anton in the 16th century, the building is a mixture of styles including a renaissance portico and baroque tower which was built in 1777. The church was constructed on the ruins of a former alcazar, and is shown on Bilbao's shield.
- Basílica de Begoña. Overlooking Bilbao, this is perhaps the most symbolic religious building in the city. Built in the 16th Century by Sancho Martinez de Arego, who was also responsible for the Iglesia San Anton. It is a basilica of three naves. During the first Carlista War, in 1835, the façade and the tower were destroyed. The present ones were designed Jose Maria Basterra and constructed between 1902 and 1907.
- Iglesia de San Nicolás, Esperanza, 1 (Arenal, Casco Viejo), . The Iglesia de San Nicolás, finished in the 19th century, is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. One of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Vizcaya.
- Iglesia de San Vicente Martir (Plaza de San Vicente), . Gothic church built in the 16th century.
Other places of interest
- Vizcaya Bridge. Also known as Puente Colgante (the hanging bridge), this is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Spain listed in the "Industrial" category.
- Alhondiga. An amazing building which has recently modernized (according to designs by Philippe Starck and Thibaut Mathieu). It is an amazing complex containing a library, several bars and restaurants, a cinema and even a roof swimming pool with a glass floor! A must visit!
- A flower puppy. Just in the front of the Guggenheim Museum, created by Jeff Koons, it's one of the most famous symbols of modern Bilbao
- Birthplace of Miguel Unamuno, c/La Ronda 16 (Next to Plaza Unamuno, Metro station: Casco Viejo). Spanish author born on the 29th of September 1864. His works include the novels Niebla and San Manuel Bueno, Martir, which are both read in AP Spanish Literature classes in the United States. Unamuno died on the 31st of December 1936 in Salamanca.
- Teatro Arriaga, . Originally inaugurated on the 31st of May 1890, on the site of several former theaters, the first Teatro Arriaga burnt down on the 22nd of December 1914. The second Teatro Arriaga opened on the 5th of June 1919. Evocative of the Opera House in Paris, the theater has an ornate façade and beautiful interior. The theater, and the square in front of it, were named after Juan Crosótomo de Arriaga, a composer from Bilbao. There is a tourist information office in the theater building: the entrance is on the left side as you face the theater.
- Estación de Santander (Santander Station, FEVE Station). Also known as La Concordia, was built between 1898-1902 on the banks of the Nervión. Designed by the engineer Valentín Gorbeña, with the art nouveau main façade added later with a design by the architect Severino Achúcarro.
- Estación Abando (RENFE station) (Next to Santander Station). Even if you are not going to take a train, visit the platforms, there is an impressive stained glass atrium depicting some traditional Basque jobs.
- Puente de San Antón. Next to the Iglesia de San Antón sits Bilbao's most emblematic bridge.
- Mercado de la Ribera. Another emblem next to the Iglesia de San Antón is the Mercado de la Rivera. One of the biggest covered markets in Europe. It was built in 1929 on the site of the original Rivera Street market. Produce fish and meat are sold in the market every morning, except Sundays.
- Plaza Nueva. Bilbao's Plaza Nueva was originally named Plaza de Fernando VII. Construction began on the plaza on December 31, 1829 and finished exactly 20 years later on December 31, 1849. This plaza was the seat of the Diputación de Vizcaya until July 1900 when the Diputación moved to its new home on the Gran Vía. The Academy of the Basque Language (Euskaltzaindia) currently occupies the old Diputación building in the Plaza Nueva. There is a market of used books, stamps, coins, and other small items in the plaza every Sunday morning. The Plaza Nueva is surrounded by buildings and only has entrances on some sides.
- Palacio de la Diputación. Ornately decorated palace situated on the Grand Vía. Baroque-style monument designed by Luis Aladrén in 1897 to serve as the seat of the Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (Vizcaya) and inaugurated on July 31, 1900. The interior is just as lavish as the exterior, with beautiful stained glass windows.
- Palacio Euskalduna. A convention center and concert hall housed in a modern building at the far end of paseo Uribitarte. Home to the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra and Bilbao Opera.
- Plaza Moyua and Gran Vía. On the strech of the Gran Vía between Plaza Abando and Plaza Moyua is the main shopping and fashion district of Bilbao. On this short stretch you can find tons of clothes shops (For, Zara, Mango, H&M) as well as department store El Corte Ingles. This is a must-walk street.
- Parque Etxebarria. The site of a former steel factory, this park was created in the 1980s as the first step of reorienting Bilbao from the industrial sector to the service sector. Wonderful views of the Casco Viejo and the Teatro Arriaga. There is a prominent chimney in the park, left over from the site's time as a factory. The park hosts a fun fair in August.
- Ayuntamiento (City Hall), Plaza Ernesto Erkoreka, .Also known as la Casa Consistorial or Udaletxea. The city hall opened in 1892. Designed by architect Jaquin Rucoba in neo-baroque style. Don't miss the main reception area, called Arab Salon.
- Zubizuri. The graceful white pedestrian bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. It spans the Nervión connecting the riverwalks Campo Volatin and Mazarredo. Be careful, the bridge is slippery when wet!
- El Tigre. Tiger statue on top of a building in Deusto. Seen from Euskalduna Performance Center.
- Bilbao Airport. Curvaceous white 'bird-like' building by Santiago Calatrava. Strangely missing an arrival hall.
- Biblioteca Municipal de Bidebarrieta, Bidebarrieta, 4 (Casco Viejo, near Teatro Arriaga), . Commissioned by El Sitio society at the end of the 19th century, this building was built by architect Severino de Achucarro as a social hall. Now home to the city's historical archives and library.
- Palacio de Ibaigane, Alameda Mazarredo, 23, .Home to the Athletic Club de Bilbao, Bilbao's football team. Built in the early 20th century. Note the arched entranceway. The nearest metro stop is Moyúa.
- Palacio de Olábarri (Palacete del Puerto Autónomo de Bilbao), Campo Volantín, 37, . An interesting mix of several architectural styles. In the late 19th century it was the residence of Bilbaino entrepreneur José María de Olábarri. Now the seat of Bilbao's port authority.
- Santa y Real Casa de la Misericordia, Sabino Arana, 2 (Next to Plaza del Sagrado Corazón), . Constructed in the mid-19th century as a charitable house for the poor.
Museums & Galleries
- Guggenheim Museum, Abandoibarra etorbidea, 2. Tue-Sun, 10:00 to 20:00; Jul and Aug: Mon-Sun, 10:00 to 20:00. Closed Jan 1 and Dec 25. Frank Gehry's spectacular twisting titanium-clad modern art museum is perhaps the most celebrated building of the 1990s, even starting what would be called the 'Bilbao-effect': The idea in urban planning that a star-quality building can single-handedly change the entire image of a city. Although this effect is unproven in its pure form, the Guggenheim nevertheless changed the world wide perception of Bilbao. The graceful, sensuous curves, evocative of the ships that used to be ubiquitous along the docks of Bilbao, are covered in titanium squares, which resemble the scales of a fish and shimmer in the sunlight. In keeping with the maritime theme, appropriate for the setting, the skylights of the largest gallery (formerly known as the Fish gallery) are designed to look like the fins of fish. Many parts of the building are purely decorative, and don't serve any purpose. The permanent collection is not particularly impressive, but the museum always hosts at least one interesting temporary exhibit, frequently comprised of masterpieces from the other Guggenheim collections.Adults €13.00; students under 26: €7.50; children under 12: free.
- Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art), Plaza del Museo, 2.Tue-Sat, 10AM-8PM; Sun and public holidays 10AM-2PM; Mon: closed. 1 Jan and 25 December: closed. The Museum of Fine Art's remarkable collection currently boasts more than six thousand works dating from the 12th century to the present day, and includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and decorative objects. General: €6.00; groups, students, senior citizens and unemployed: €4.50. Free of charge on Wed, and for children under 12. Artean Package, €13.50 (tickets for both the Guggenheim Museum and the Fine Arts Museum). Prices change for special exhibitions.
- Basque Museum (Euskal Museoa), Plaza Unamuno, 4. Tue-Sat: 11AM-5PM, Sun 11AM-2PM. Mondays and public holidays: closed.Established in 1921 to focus on the prehistory, archaeology, ethnography and history of Euskadi (Basque homeland). Not a particularly well laid out museum. It will be of passing interest to people who study Basque culture. Adults: €3; students and groups €1.50. Children under 10 and seniors: free. Thu: free.
- La Ría Maritime Museum, Muelle Ramón de la Sota, 1. Winter: Tu-F 10AM-2PM,4-6PM, Sa-Su 10AM-2PM,4-8PM; summer: call to check.Located in what used to be the Euskalduna shipyard, next to the current Euskalduna Performing Arts Center. The Museum covers an area of 27,000 square metres, 7,000 for indoor exhibitions and 20,000 for outdoor exhibitions, the three docks, the walkway surrounding them and the estuary. Adults: €5; Students, people over 65: €3.50. Children under 6: free of charge.
- Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum), . Martín Agüero, 1, Plaza de Toros de Vista Alegre, (Near Plaza Zabalburu). Next to a bullring, the Museo Taurino highlights the role bullfighting has played in Euskadi. €3.
- Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro (Museum of Sacred Art), Plaza de la Encarnación, 9-B, Atxuri, . A former convent founded in 1515 by Dominican nuns. General: €2. Students, seniors, and under 18: €1. Free on Thursdays.
- Museo de Reproducciones Artísticas (Museum of Artistic Reproductions), Conde Mirasol (no number), . Full-scale reproductions of the world's most famous works of art. Call ahead for a guided visit.
Things to do
- In the summer see an open air concert at the Kiosko del Arenal El Arenal Parque (across from Plaza Arriaga). The stage was built in 1923, and renovated in 1985.
- Beginning the first Saturday after August 15 and lasting for 9 days is Aste Nagusia / Semana Grande, the city's fiesta (holiday). An interesting time to come, but be prepared for lots of noise, music, street theater and events, with firework displays in the evening. Details from the tourist office in Teatro Arriaga.
- Walk through the seven streets of the Casco Viejo.
- Climb the Mallona stairs from Plaza Unamuno to Parque Etxebarria for the great views.
- Walk along the river.
- Walk through Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, admiring the ponds and gardens, next to the Fine Arts Museum.
- Take the Artxanda Funicular, again for the views.
- Go kayaking or rent a boat from Bilbobentura [www] (a company that rents out kayaks on the bank of the river nervion).
- Football - Bilbao is home to Athletic Club, known commonly asAthletic de Bilbao, which is known for its policy of only signing players native to the Basque Country. Despite this restriction, the club is one of only three (the other two being giants Barcelona and Real Madrid) never to have been relegated from La Liga, the Spanish top division.
- First Saturdays Flea Market. Dos de Mayo Street transforms every first Saturday into a flea market selling antiques, books, and second hand clothes.
Festivals and events
Semana Grande (Spanish for Big Week, Aste Nagusia in Basque) is Bilbao's main festival attracting over 100,000 people. It begins on the Saturday of the 3rd week of August each year, lasting 9 days and has been celebrated since 1978. People from around Spain, and increasingly from abroad, attend the celebrations.
The celebrations include the strongman games, free music performances, street entertainment, bullfighting and nightly firework displays. The best views of the display are from the town's bridges. Each year, there is something different occurring, thus a festival programme (these are available all over the city) is strongly recommended.
On weekend nights a lot of people gather in the bar area in eastern Casco Viejo, get their drinks from any of the bars and hang around on the streets before heading to nightclubs.
- Bar Jamon Jamon, c/Luis Power 3, Deusto (Deusto Metro Station),. Simple neighbourhood bar. Good ham baguettes (bocadillo). Freshly baked baguettes, counter-carved Spanish Ham and the friendly service of Luis and Nekane. Not fancy but familiar with authentic atmosphere.
- Cafe Nervión, c/La Naja 7. Wonderful views of the river.
- Lamiak, c/De la Pelota (Casco Viejo). Comfortable coffee house, with chocolate cake to die for.
- Three spectacularly decorated bars (which are owned by the same people) are:
- Cafe Iruña, c/ Colon de Larreategui 13. With its Arabesque motifs and antique mouldings it is a sight to behold. If you go at night, you can also get some nice shikabobs - some of the only ones you'll find in Bilbao.
- Cafe La Granja (in Plaza Circular, across from the BBVA tower).
- Cafe Boulevard (on the Arenal, across from Teatro Arriaga).
- Kafe Antzokia, San Vicente 2, . This former theatre was converted into a multi-purpose venue in 1995. It is best known for promoting the Basque culture, both as an artist’s venue and for the clientele. With a varied schedule of concerts of Basque and international bands, it serves as a night club on weekends. Run by a cultural association aimed at promoting the use of Basque language, it also hosts a restaurant, a Basque academy and a community radio station.
- Bar Juantxu, c/ Licenciado Poza, 39.
- Dakar, C/ Heros, 13, . Nightly karaoke and Spanish dance music.
- Galeon, Alda. Mazarredo, 25, . Maritime motif a mermaid statue at the entrance and decoration resembling the inside of a ship.
- Gran Casino Nervión, C/ Navarra, 1, . Two bars, on-site restaurant. Formal/semi-formal dress required.
- La Mutua, C/Ercilla, 2, . Serving breakfast during the day, and reopening at 11:30PM for the night.
- Otxoa, C/Lersundi, 8, .
- Panko. Great stylish place that sells bread, pinxtos and meals. Good selection of regional wines
Safety in Bilbao
With a rate of only 33.4 crimes per 1000 inhabitants, the Basque Country has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe.
Crime rates can, however, vary significantly between rural and urban areas, though urban areas are still not particularly dangerous. Avoid the San Francisco area, however. Violent crime is extremely rare, but the usual precautions will keep you out of trouble.
While some may advise you not to wear any Spanish symbols, the reality is that the vast majority of Bilbainos will not even notice, much as it is true that a small minority might be upset about them. As a statistical precaution it is also best to avoid referring to the Basque Country as Spain.
Take into account that inhabitants of the Basque Country are divided between those who support independence or autonomy from Spain and consider themselves primarily or entirely Basque and others who consider themselves primarily or entirely Spanish. Within these currents, there are further subdivisions of opinion ranging from supporters of the terrorist group ETA at one end to those who supported the fascist regime of General Franco at the other (though an overwhelming majority of people fall somewhere in between these extremes).
These political issues have dominated life in the Basque Country for generations and you will still find coverage of them in news media across the Basque Country every day. Also certain bars will have a distinctly Basque nationalist clientele (such bars will generally have posters and slogans on the walls) where pro-Spanish opinions will be unwelcome, but which are otherwise perfectly safe places to go and indeed interesting to anyone who would like to learn more about the Basque identity. If speaking to strangers, bear these divisions in mind and try not to cause offence.