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Bilbao Mini Guide
Why Should I Visit Bilbao?
Bilbao is a huge and important port city on the north coast of Spain. It’s reachable by air and also by ferry from Portsmouth in the UK
. It has a mild and damp climate making it a very green part of the country and is becoming well known in the world of architecture for the modern designs used in the remodelling of parts of the city including the European Guggenheim Museum.
What’s Its Story?
The first evidence of the existence of a settlement here comes from the second century before Christ. Then there is evidence in historian’s writings of a Roman city here called Amanum Pontus and Flaviobriga. The first record of the name Bilbao being used comes from 1300 when its charter was granted. The Spanish Civil War began here and in recent decades it’s been the centre of activity in the Basque Separatist struggle for independence.
How Can I Get There?
We’ve already mentioned the ferries and there’s Bilbao Airport only seven miles away from the city. Several budget airlines fly here including easyJet.
What Should I See in the City?
The most important sight is going to be the Guggenheim Museum. Acknowledged as a design icon in itself, it houses a great collection of art. Link this visit on a joint entrance ticket with the Museo de Bellas Artes which holds over 12,000 works of art documenting the evolution of art over more than eight centuries.
Where Should I Go in a Hire Car?
If you’ve got a hire car and want to venture out of the city, try the Ebro Valley, home to the world famous Rioja wine. There are plenty of vineyards where you can do tastings. Further along the coast you have the Basque Mountains and beyond that the Western Pyrenees. Santander
isn’t too far away either and the route is quite dramatic passing huge sea cliffs, interspersed with small sandy coves. Another interesting thing to do is to visit the village of Guernika which was cruelly bombed during the Spanish Civil War and has become somthing of an icon for the struggle.
What Can I Do Whilst I’m There?
If you’re feeling energetic you could hire a boat or a kayak and paddle along the river that passes the city. There are plenty of places to walk too and some great views if you make it to the top of the hills that surround the city. If walking is too adventurous, take the funicular up to the top of Artxanda and enjoy the view without the effort.
For the Shopaholic
The Dos de Mayo Street flea market is great for antiques, bric-a-brac and second hand clothes. There’s also the largest covered market in Europe at the Mercado de la Ribera. Products of the region include much leather goods including handbags and shoes.
The cuisine of the Basque Country is among the best in Spain and if you find a traditional restaurant you can treat yourself to their more varied tapas called Pintxos, a tuna stew called Marmitakos and wash it down with the local Txakoli sparkling wine.
If you arrive in the city in August prepare yourself for loud music, revelry, street theatre and dance as part of the Aste Nagusia or Semana Grande city festival or fiesta. For nine days no one seems to sleep or work and people party ‘til they drop.
- Bilbao is fun for children too. The Aste Nagusia festival incorporates children in its themes and has many activities for them to enjoy. Within the Bilbao International Fair in December, a special children's theme park is opened for the season and under an hour from Bilbao is Karpin Abentura, a theme park for kids.
- Continuing the theme for children, the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra performs family concerts every Saturday from January to May. Tickets are free for children and the music is introduced in a way that makes it accessible for kids.