It Rains In Spain

Guide to Bilbao

Bilbao      San Sebastian      Vitoria

Guide to Bilbao. It Rains in Spain Guide.

Guide to Bilbao – Introduction

Bilbao is a dizzying, pounding cultural crash bang and wallop of a city. It’s thoroughly reinvented itself from a slightly drab industrial monolithic city to a hub of liberal arts, mind bending architecture and terrific gastronomy. Add to the mix the unique Basque language, culture and attitude and you have one heck of a great urban centre. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it.

Bilbao has long been a powerhouse in the region. Created on the banks of the Nervion river by Diego Lopez de Haro in the 14th Century, Bilbao rose to extreme prominence with the discovery of iron in the surrounding areas. Thus began centuries of industrialisation which brought both wealth and poverty in equal measures. Bilbao was a major focus during the Carlist wars in the first half of the 19th century and the opening salvos of the Spanish Civil War echoed in the streets of Bilbao through the actions of Republican soldiers in the city. There followed extreme repression by Franco and his Nationalists, with the Basque elements of Bilbao surpressed brutally. Nowadays, Bilbao is the proud symbol of a resurgent Basque Country looking always forward but staying true to its roots and history.

The spirit of Bilbao is infectious, as is the youthful element and the sense of creativity and culture. It feel like a city on the move, at the vanguard of gastronomy and liberal arts. A great place to start your exploration of the Basque Country.

What to See and Do in Bilbao

  1. Explore the Casco Antiguo – Bilbao’s old core sitting alongside the river, with it’s famous siete calles (seven streets – the hub of tapas and drinking spots).
  2. After a casual stroll around the casco antiguo, explore it in more detail by taking note of the fabulous facade of the Teatro Arriaga, the neoclassical Plaza Nueva square and the 14th century Catedral de Santiago.
  3. Pay homage to Bilbao’s love of gastronomy by heading to the Mercado de la Ribera (the fresh produce market) near the banks of the river, marvelling at one of the largest foodie heavens in Europe.
  4. Go to Bilbao’s iconic building, the Frank Gehry designed Museo Guggenheim, stunning from the outside and fascinating on the inside.
  5. Explore ‘newer’ Bilbao in the Abando district of the city, where the city dwellers spend most of their time in amongst the dense collection of shops and restaurants.
  6. Try and catch a game of football at the San Mames Stadium (or the Cathedral as its known nationwide) to see the famous Athletic Bilbao and sample the raucous atmosphere.
  7. Get to know the Basque culture in more detail by visiting the Museo Vasco, an interesting collection detailing the history of this unique region.
  8. Get a unique view over Bilbao by taking a trip on the Funicular de Artxanda which takes you up to the hill of the same name, offering fabulous views over the urban centre.

Where to Stay in Bilbao

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Reader’s Tips

This section is specifically designed for our readers to share their top tips with other would-be travellers. If you visited a particularly wonderful restaurant, or stayed in a fantastic hotel, or even ate a tremendous local dish, please let us know here! Any tip whatsoever will be greatly appreciated by our Spain loving community of travellers.

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