Guide of BILBAO

Bilbao is a port city in Spain's Basque region with a population of around 345,000, situated in the north-central part of Spain, approximately 16 kilometres south of the Bay of Biscay; it is the de facto capital of Basque country. The city is just full of beautiful architecture, culture, and food.  Surrounded by two small mountain ranges, Bilbao is a culinary city, famous for its sparkling white wine, Cava, and delicious buttery pastries!

A brief history of Bilbao

The city was established in the 14th century by the Haro family, its location on the estuary of the River Bilbao meant it became a vital commercial hub in the Basque region. The city prospered as the port facilitated the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Bilbao came under attack during the Carlist Wars of the 1800s, but the city survived, and the city thrived during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Bilbao experienced a second phase of industrialization based around heavy manufacturing in the latter part of the 20th century, and the population also increased significantly. 

During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Bilbao was the seat of the autonomous Basque government, and the city was heavily attacked by the Nationalist Army who destroyed all of the 'city's bridges in May 1937. The Basque separatist group ETA also formed in Bilbao in 1959, and they carried out various terrorist attacks in the name of autonomy for their region.  

Sadly, the oil crisis in the 1970s put a stop to development in Bilbao; it halted manufacturing and caused many factories to close, which created lots of unemployment. In the 1990s the city underwent massive redevelopment project based around ambitious cultural plans to clean up the city, stimulate tourism and the economy. The municipality aimed to create a new urban landscape, led by a flagship piece of architecture, The Guggenheim Museum. Built in 1997, the museum has brought art and culture to the city and is still enjoyed today by locals and tourists alike.

Things to do in Bilbao

When Bilbao you should visit the famous Guggenheim Museum, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, it was opened in 1997 by the King of Spain. It features permanent and visiting exhibitions by Spanish and international artists and is one of the largest museums in Spain. The building itself is big, bold and hailed as one of the most admired pieces of existing contemporary architecture. Another cultural outing could be to The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, located inside the city's Doña Casilda Iturrizar park; it features a valuable and quite comprehensive collection of Basque, Spanish and European art from the Middle Ages up to the contemporary age, by artists including Sorolla, Mary Cassatt, Paul Gauguin, Henri Le Sidaner, James Ensor, Peter Blake and Francis Bacon. For something more historical, then why not visit the Bilbao Cathedral, built during the 14th and 15th centuries or the Basilica of Begoña, built in the 16th century. Both buildings are magnificent and provide the city with a rich traditional architectural heritage to match Bilbao's contemporary credentials.

Beaches around Bilbao

Sopelana is a beautiful beach surrounded by cliffs when the weather is right; it's also possible to surf here and there are lessons available and boards to hire! There are a couple of nearby cafes and great views from the cliffs. Pletzia beach is located at the end of the metro line and is a long strip of sand that is perfect for sunbathing and playing ball games, situated in a town of the same name, it gets busy during the warm summer months, the waves are also smaller on this beach, so it's a better option for those with children.

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Travel guides and tips: BILBAO

Discover how to reach and what to do to Bilbao: tips, events, local festivals, culture, food and all the other details to explore Bilbao can be found on our blog!

Food is one of the best reasons to visit somewhere new and it's impossible to understand a culture without tasting the foods from each region. Food and wine are always inextrica...