Just nine miles south of the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao sits off the coast of north-central Spain. Formerly an industrial port, the capital of the Biscay region has undergone a revamp in recent years. A charming and modern city, Bilbao is now crammed full of art galleries, theatres and monuments of interest, making it the perfect destination for art and modern history lovers. The city has become known for its interesting and particular blend of architecture, melding the classical with the modern: the world-famous Guggenheim museum takes pride of place on the trendy streets and stakes its claim as the catalyst that prompted the ‘Guggenheim effect’ across the city, cementing its status as one of the trendiest destinations in Europe. In fact, the place has such a distinctive feel that the director of the James Bond film The World is not Enough decided to set his film amongst its contoured glass and steel, stone edifices and otherworldly objets d’art.
Bilbao is not without history. In fact, despite its cutting edge architecture and modernised spaces the city, as with the entire Basque Country, is steeped in history. Remains of settlements found at the top of Mount Malmasín were dated to the 3rd or 2nd Century BC, and Bilbao was granted city state status at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Since then, the city has held on to its sense of cultural heritage. A walk through the Casco Viego (Old Town) will reward travellers with its lively but laid-back atmosphere, with open-air food markets selling fresh fruit and cafés offering drinks and Pinxtos (Basque tapas). The area is pedestrianised, allowing locals and tourists to mingle under the arches of the cathedral, San Antón. The cathedral is particularly pretty at night, especially when viewed from one of the five bridges connecting the Old Town to the newer parts of the city.
If you want modernity, then head out into the main city centre with its shopping districts and bustling main streets. Your first port of call, if you’re on a shorter stay, should be the Guggenheim Museum. Almost a metonym now for the town itself, the museum frequently tops lists of most innovative, interesting and beautiful feats of architecture in Spain, as well as in the world. Frank Gehry, the architect behind the museum, designed the contoured buildings, sculptured gardens and interconnecting blocks based on childhood fascinations. The exhibitions and permanent collections inside are just as impressive, featuring contemporary works by artists including Kandinsky, Picasso, Miro, Dali, Modigliani, Matisse, Klee, Pollock, Chagall and Moholy-Nagy. Serra’s The Matter of Time is unmissable. The best view of the building is from the riverside. Don’t forget to climb up to the bridge when you’re inside, to look out onto the city. The views here are rivalled only by the impressive panoramas from the top of Mount Artxanda (catch a funicular to get here from the Plaza del Funicular, a short walk away from the museum across the Zubizuri Bridge).
There’s plenty more to do and see in this fascinating city. From the Euskal Museoa to the Catedral de Santiago, from Baroque to Basque, Bilbao is a city of art, architecture, history, modernity and much, much more.
Last Edit by ASchilz on 9/09/2011 EDIT NOW >>