Bilbao, Spain. The capital of the province of Viscaya in the Spanish Basque Country, is one of the most important northern cities in Spain.
Bilbao, the capital of the province of Viscaya in the Basque Country autonomous community of Spain, is one of the most important northern cities in Spain. Bilbao is a city that has experienced a tourism boom in recent years; partially due to the urban development and the creation of new cultural spaces, expositions and museums such as the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, Maritime Museum, Museum of Artistic Reproductions, etc.
Throughout its history, Bilbao has grown from a small fishing village into one of the most industrialized cities in Spain. The city was born in the Bilbao ria of the Nervión river estuary. In the year 1300, the Lord of Biscay, Don Diego López de Haro, pronounced Bilbao to be a city and put Bilbao's port as well as the businesses and merchants there under his protection, making them compete with other northern ports.
King Alfonso XI of Castile was especially important to the history of Bilbao because he was the one who made the Way of St. James's pilgrim route pass through the city from 1315 onwards. This route made Bilbao grow in importance as a commercial center for the travelling pilgrims. This helped increase commerce with England, northern Europe and the Mediterranean and also increased its shipbuilding activities. 150 years later the important neighborhood of El Arenal was formed, marking a significant growth of the city.
Bilbao has been involved in various conflicts throughout its history: the Matxinada mutiny against the creation of customs at the port in 1717, the French occupation during Napoleon times, the Carlist wars and the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
The 19th century brought industrialization to Bilbao that would transform its landscape. The creation of the blast furnace industry, used to produce industrial metals such as iron, made the city skyline fill with smoke chimneys. This transformation caused Bilbao to lose its status as a principal Spanish tourist destination.
The decline of the blast furnace industry and the industrial restructuring that came in the late 20th century made Bilbao rethink its city role. The city began a new process of transformation to beautify the city and offer services as well as creating new natural and cultural spaces.
What to Visit in Bilbao
Bilbao offers many options for those who want to visit: the old town center full of monuments, its many bridges over the inlet and its marketplaces and excellent tapas (pintxos), food and gastronomy.
The Basque Country boasts one of the most important gastronomical regions in Spain with world renowned chefs, and Bilbao is representative of this. To enjoy some great Bilbao tapas, head to the city's Indatxu and Abando neighborhoods.
There are various important museums in Bilbao including the Bilbao Museum of Artistic Reproductions, the Maritime Museum and the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.
The Bilbao Museum of Artistic Reproductions is situated in the Corazón de María church located on San Francisco Street, number 14. The museum has a large selection of top-notch artistic reproductions that have been lent by various European museums that allow the visitor to learn about the history of art. You can view copies of universally recognized artistic masterpieces such as these sculptures: Moses by Michelangelo, the Charioteer of Delphi ancient Greek sculpture and the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace.
The Bilbao Maritime Museum is located on the docks of the old Euskalduna shipyard on the left bank of the river. The history of these shipyards is very important to Bilbao; it is here that the first modern navel construction occurred. The shipyards closed in 1984 after a long crisis. Today, they have been transformed into a museum that represents the city and culture of the time that depended on the inlet with a long maritime tradition.
For younger people, there is also a Playmobil exhibition that teaches children about naval life using small toys and accessories.
The Guggenheim Museum established one of its centers in the city of Bilbao and has become a symbol of cultural development in the city. The building, made of titanium, rock and glass, is a grand architectural masterpiece designed by an American, Frank O. Gehry. The innovative design is a prime example of vanguardist architecture.
The Guggenheim's purpose, like other museums in the city, is to unite, conserve and investigate modern and contemporary art making it a good way to discover new artistic tendencies.
The museum is located next to the river, 16 meters below the city elevation and the La Salve Bridge, one of main entrances to Bilbao, crosses over it.