Bilbao, a stay in the Basque Country
Formerly a major industrial centre, Bilbao, the capital of Vizcaya, is the largest city and the most important economic centre of Euskadi, the Basque Country.
The banks of the Nervión River are the nerve centre of the city. Casco Viejo with its pedestrian streets lined with Basque houses and its shopping area with fashion boutiques is the historical centre. With San Francisco and its alternative culture, bohemian bookshops and cafés and of course their pintxos bars, they concentrate the commercial and tourist, cultural and artistic activities of Bilbao.
An innovative assemblage of stone, glass and titanium, the Guggenhiem Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, opened in 1997, has not only changed the city’s appearance, but has also given it international renown by welcoming tens of thousands of tourists every year. An architectural craze completed by various museums, as well as monuments and buildings, some of which date back to the Middle Ages.
Aste Nagusia, Semana Grande in Spanish, the biggest festival of Bilbao takes place every year. The Great Week begins on the first Saturday after August 15th and lasts 9 days and 8 nights to reach its peak on the following Friday, the “big día”. On the agenda: bullfights, concerts, street shows…
Bilbao, the main locations
Inaugurated in 1851 in the heart of Casco Viejo, the old Bilbao, the neo-classical Plaza is a mandatory meeting place for the bilbotarra. The inhabitants of Bilbao who like to frequent bars and restaurants hidden under its many arcades especially on Sundays which is market day.
The funicular railway and Artxanda viewpoint
Funikularreko Plaza. Tram: Castaños/Funikularra.
Using this funicular, built in 1913 by a Swiss company to reach Mount Artxanda at an altitude of 250 m, is the best way to have a complete view of the city from the viewpoint installed at the top. A popular tourist attraction, the watchtower is surrounded by green spaces and sports areas that are very popular with Bilbao residents.
The funicular runs every day and starts every quarter of an hour from the Plaza del Funicular located 10 minutes walk from Ayutamiento, the Town Hall.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 7:15 am to 10 pm, Sundays and public holidays from 8:15 am to 10 pm and until 11 pm every day from June to September.
It should be noted that several elevators connect different points in the city.
Calle de la Virgen de Begoña, 38. M° Casco Viejo.
The Baroque Basilica of Begoña is the oldest religious building in the city. It houses a statue of Begoña, his patron saint.
Its construction was taken care of by simple followers, merchants, residents of the city and shields with the emblems of merchants and corporations crowning the pillars of the nave instead of the traditional noble coats of arms can be seen.
Nestled on the heights of the Bilbao, if its architectural aspect alone deserves a visit, the historical importance of the basilica is not negligible for its links with Carlism and of which it became a sanctuary.
Visits: Monday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 4:30 pmand then from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Free admission.
Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao
Avenida Abandoibarra, 2. Tram Guggenheim.
The Guggenheim Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Bilbao, one of the foundation’s five museums, opened its doors in an innovative structure designed by Frank Gehry.
An assemblage of titanium, glass and stone, its unique silhouette has made the museum one of the most famous contemporary buildings in the world, a reputation that is reflected in the city’s notoriety.
Inaugurated in 1997, the museum, which welcomes as many visitors for its structure as for its permanent exhibition, was awarded the Gold Medal for Merit of Fine Arts by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Among the works on display, traditional paintings and sculptures are in the minority, while gigantic sculptures by Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois and Jeff Koons are widely represented. Eclectic, the museum offers four to six annual exhibitions.
Opening hours: open daily from 10am to 8pm, closed on December 25th, January 1st and Mondays from September to June. Admission: 13 €.
Maritime Museum of the Ría de Bilbao
Muelle Ramón de la Sota, 1. Tram 7: San Mamés.
The history of the navy in Bilbao and the importance of its port through an exhibition of model ships built in the most emblematic shipyards of the city, boats, marine watercolours as well as various objects and elements related to the port and maritime activity of Bilbao.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 8pm, until 6pm from October to April. Admission: 6 €.
Ribera 22 bis. Tram 7: Ribera.
Built in 1929 in the heart of Casco Viejo on the banks of the river Ría, Ribera’s market is the largest covered market in Europe with a surface area of 10,000 square metres. Art deco, the exterior has bay windows and blinds as well as floral decorations, inside its displays are filled with fish and seafood.
The market is open from 8am to 2pm and then from 5pm to 7pm Monday to Friday, from 8am to 2.30pm on Saturdays.
Doña Casilda Park
Gran Vía/Paseo de Abandoibarra. Tram 7 Abandoibarra.
The Doña Casilda park, the largest public garden in Bilba, was created at the beginning of the 20th century and has an interesting collection of trees. A romantic atmosphere emerges from this park with a pond surrounded by a neo-classical merry-go-round.
Various statues in homage to great figures dot the garden. On one side of the park, a place to relax, the pleasant terrace of the cafeteria of the nearby Museum of Fine Arts.
Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao
Plaza del Museo. Tram 7 Abandoibarra.
Contigued in Doña Casilda Park, the Museum of Fine Arts offers a journey through the history of art from the 12th century to the present day. The museum’s collection contains both ancient and contemporary art, sculptures, drawings and engravings as well as decorative art objects.
Opening hours: every day except Tuesday from 10am to 8pm. Open 24 and 31 December from 10am to 2pm. Price: 7€.
Basque Museum of Bilbao
Miguel de Unamuno Plaza, 4. Subway: Zazpi Kaleetako geltokia.
Opened in 1921 in a baroque building in the old town, the Euskal museum exhibits the history of the Basque people. Equipped with many objects and ancient vestiges of Bizkaia, the museum shows the traditional Basque way of life through the marine and fishing world, iron industries and the manufacture of armour, crafts and traditional trades.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm, 10am to 1:30 pm and then from 4pm to 6pm on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm on Sundays. Admission: 3 €.
Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve
Declared of ecological interest by UNESCO, the territory of the Urdaiai Biosphere Reserve is concentrated around the Urdaibai estuary where it protects a great diversity of landscapes, animal and plant species.
If the tides on the banks of the estuary reveal sandbanks, marshes and lakes follow one another, followed by oak groves, valleys and pastures, elm woods or pine trees.
To better discover the environment of the reserve, the ideal way is to go by boat with an experienced guide who will comment on this walk.
Among the treasures of the reserve are the changing beach of Laida and the spectacular beach of Laga dominated by the imposing rock of Ogoño.
There are several viewpoints in the area to admire beautiful panoramas: that of Ogroño or those of the chapels of Ibarrangelu or Ereño. Inside the park do not miss the caves with rock paintings of Santimamiñe or the forest with painted woods of Oma.
Access: via N-637 to Larrabetzu then BI-2713, BI-2121 and BI-2224.
Urdaiba Bird Center
Orueta Auzoa, 7 Gautegiz-Arteagako
Located in the biosphere reserve, this interpretation centre is dedicated to ornithology, bird migrations and their habitats. Managed by the Aranzadi Science Society, the centre has six rooms, including a conference room and some equipped with audiovisual modules, three observation points, a reception area and a shop.
Rates: adults 5 €, children 2 €. Closed on Monday.
Access: via N-637 to Larrabetzu, then BI-2713, BI-2121 and BI-2224.
Beach of Laga
Counting as one of the most beautiful beaches in Vizcaya, the 575 meters of golden sand of Laga are located in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve next to Cape Ogoño in the municipality of Ibarrangelu. A well-known surf spot, it is also used for sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and hang-gliding from the Ogoño rock (279m).
Access: Ibarrangelu, biosphere reserve.
The painted forest of Oma is located in the municipality of Kortezubi, between the Biosphere Reserve. This approach by the sculptor-painter of Bilbao, Agustín Ibarrola, was initiated in 1984 with the aim of making a link between the work of Palaeolithic and modern artists in this space where art integrates with nature, which serves as a canvas.
Access: Oma district. Kortezubi.
Caves of Santimamiñe
Located on the right bank of the Urdaibai estuary and on the side of the Ereñozar mountain, the caves were discovered in 1916 by curious young boys.
These rock paintings from the Upper Palaeolithic represent horses, bison, bears, or goats and deer within a site of great geological interest containing stalactites and stalagmites.
Closed since 2006, however, the caves offer guided tours lasting one and a half hours, divided between the entrance to the cave and the Interpretation Centre of the San Mamés hermitage, allowing you to see the inside of the cave and the paintings.
Access: hamlet Basondo. Kortezubi. Open every day from 10 am to 2 pm and then from 3 pm. to 7 pm. Admission: 5 €.
At the gates of the Biosphere Reserve, the city of Guernica, a symbol of freedom and peace for the Basques, offers many sites of tourist interest. A historical city with a rich cultural heritage, Guernica is also a good base for visiting the Basque hinterland and discovering its traditions and the area protected by the reserve.
In the city centre, the Plaza de los Fueros, which forms a vast monumental complex, is dominated in its centre by the statue of Don Telllo, who founded the city in 1366. Not far away, the Town Hall and the old courthouse have been converted into a Museum for Peace which retraces the bombing of Guernica by German aviation. On the heights, the Gothic church of Santa Maria contains a Walcker organ from 1889.
Nearby, rue Allende Salazar, the Parc des Peuples d’ Europe, a mix of sculptures and collections of trees and plants, you can also see the House of Assemblies, symbol of all Basques and the mythical Tree, emblem of Basque rights and freedoms and meeting place for members of the Vizcaya Assembly since the Middle Ages.
Another interesting feature is that the weekly Monday market, which is the largest in the whole of Vizcaya, is transformed into an animal fair on the first Monday of each month and into an agricultural fair in which thousands of people participate on the last Monday of Guernica.
Access: by N-637 roads to Larrabetzu then BI-2713, BI-2121.
A city of maritime tradition, Bermeo was founded in 1236 and its fishing port is the most important of the Bustarialdea. Located on the side of Mount Sollube, the coastline of the city is interspersed with rocks, cliffs and islets such as San Juan Gaztelelugatxe, connected to the mainland by a stone bridge, Aketx or Izaro.
Some of the monuments of its old town are classified of historical and artistic interest, such as the Ercila Tower, currently the Fisherman’s Museum, Santa Eufemia church, the oldest, and the Town Hall built in 1732.
Access: by road BI-631 from Bilbao.
Departure from England in the rain, towards the sun of the Basque Country
Bilbao Time Lapse
Tourist visit of Bilbao
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