The Best of Basque

Things to do in Bilbao: Where Tradition Meets Modernity

Bilbao, the beating heart of the Basque Country, stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of historic charm and contemporary innovation.
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Bilbao, the beating heart of the Basque Country, stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of historic charm and contemporary innovation. This guide invites you to discover Bilbao beyond its surface, revealing the soul of a city that thrives on its traditions, avant-garde architecture, and the warmth of its people.

The Pulse of Bilbao: The Old Town (Casco Viejo)

Old Town Bilbao

What is it? The Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s oldest neighborhood, is a labyrinth of narrow streets brimming with history, culture, and gastronomy. This area, also known as ‘Siete Calles’ or Seven Streets, is where the heart of Bilbao beats the strongest, offering an authentic glimpse into the city’s soul.

Why Explore? Each cobblestone in the Old Town tells a story of the past, with buildings and churches that have witnessed the evolution of Bilbao. It’s a place where traditional Basque culture is palpable in its pintxo bars, small shops, and lively plazas. The Plaza Nueva and the Mercado de la Ribera are must-visits, offering a taste of local life and cuisine.

Architectural Marvel: The Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

What is it? A masterpiece of contemporary architecture, the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, is a symbol of Bilbao’s renaissance. Its titanium-clad curves reflect the city’s innovative spirit and its commitment to art and culture.

Why Visit? Beyond its striking exterior, the Guggenheim houses an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum’s exhibitions and installations challenge perceptions and invite visitors to engage in a dialogue with art. The surrounding area, with Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” and Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman”, provides a perfect prelude to the artistic journey inside.

Bridging History: Bilbao’s Bridges

Bridge Bilbao

What is it? Bilbao’s bridges are not merely functional structures; they are historical markers and works of art that link the city’s past to its future. From the Gothic elegance of the San Antón Bridge to the modern allure of the Zubizuri, each bridge has its own story and architectural style.

Why Cross? Exploring Bilbao’s bridges offers insights into the city’s development and its relationship with the Nervión River. These bridges are vantage points for breathtaking views and emblematic scenes of Bilbao, symbolizing the city’s continuous evolution.

Artistic Legacy: Museo de Bellas Artes

Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao

What is it? The Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao is one of Spain’s foremost art museums, housing an extensive collection that spans from the Middle Ages to contemporary works. It’s a treasure trove of art, featuring pieces by Goya, El Greco, and modern Basque artists.

Why Go? The museum provides a comprehensive overview of the artistic heritage that has shaped the cultural landscape of the Basque Country. Its collections are a testament to the region’s rich artistic traditions and its openness to new trends and influences.

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Book This Tour: Bilbao Architecture Tour

Bilbao Architecture Tour

Community Spirit: The Txikiteros Tradition

Txikiteros

What is it? The Txikiteros are groups of friends who gather to enjoy txikitos (small glasses of wine) in the Old Town, embodying the communal spirit of Bilbao. This tradition is a lively expression of Basque sociability and camaraderie.

Why Participate? Joining the locals in this ritual is a way to experience the genuine warmth and hospitality of Bilbao. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet new friends, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the city’s bars and taverns.

A View from Above: Mirador de Artxanda

Mirador de Artxanda

What is it? Once the site of a steel mill, Parque Etxebarria is now a vast green space that offers spectacular views of Bilbao. It’s a symbol of the city’s transformation and commitment to sustainability.

Why Relax Here? The park is an ideal spot for a peaceful retreat from the urban hustle. With its wide open spaces, picnic areas, and children’s playgrounds, it’s a favorite among locals and visitors looking to unwind and enjoy outdoor activities.

Beyond these well-known sights, Bilbao is filled with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From the quirky England in Bilbao street to the enchanting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, each hidden spot offers a unique story and a glimpse into the diverse facets of the Basque Country.

This guide is just the beginning of what Bilbao has to offer. The city’s true essence lies in its ability to marry the old with the new, tradition with innovation, and community with individuality. Whether you’re marveling at the futuristic Guggenheim, wandering the historic Old Town, or enjoying a txikito with locals, Bilbao promises an unforgettable journey through its streets, its history, and its heart.

Author Profile

Irene was born and raised in Bilbao. She has a deep rooted passion for her country and culture. She has a Bachelors degree in education and has traveled to over 85 countries throughout the world.
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