Bilbao is the capital of the Basque Country and is located in the north of Spain. The drive time from Madrid is about 5 hours (400 km), or you can take one of the many flights offered daily to Bilbao and be there in about 1 hour.
Bilbao had primarily been known as a commercial and industrial hub, and it didn’t normally make it onto visitors’ lists of places to see when visiting Spain. All of that changed in 1997 with the opening of the Guggenheim Museum. Suddenly Bilbao was on everyone’s “must see” list, and visitors flocked to Bilbao to see the stunning building designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, and explore the collections of modern and contemporary art exhibited within its curved titanium walls. Some would argue (and we would agree) that the building itself outshines the collections housed within it, as it has been heralded as one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture.
The Basque region has always been known for its outstanding food. There are many top-quality restaurants throughout the region, and Bilbao has its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from, even a 3-star restaurant (Azurmendi) run by the highly acclaimed avant-garde chef Eneko Atxa. So be sure to include having a fabulous meal on your list of things to do!
After seeing the Guggenheim Museum, here is a list of some of the other things to see during your stay in Bilbao:
- Museo de Bellas Artes – the Museum of Fine Arts contains a collection of Spanish, Flemish, Italian and French paintings, including works by El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Ribera, Zurbarán and Gauguin. For more information, click here.
- Guggenheim Bilbao Museum – the museum was designed by Frank Gehry and it’s unique in every aspect, including its shape and the materials used. For more information, click here
- Casco Viejo – the Old Quarter includes many shops and sites, including the Teatro Arriago and Mercado de la Ribera
- Teatro Arriago – built in 1890 and styled after the Paris Opéra. For more information, click here.
- Mercado de la Ribera – built in 1929, the market borders the river and is the largest indoor market in Europe.
- Basílica de Begoña – 16th C. church built on the spot where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared at the beginning of the 16th C.
- Museo Arqueológico, Etnográfico e Histórico Vasco – housed in a 16th C. convent, this museum contains collections about Basque history. For more information, click here.
Photo credit: © Christopher Pappas • All rights reserved.
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