Located in the central northern regions of Spain, Bilbao is one of the most prominent cities in this area and is the largest city in the province of Biscay. With a current population of over 345,000 and a greater metropolitan population of approx. 1 million, Bilbao is the 10th largest city in the whole of Spain. With an extensive history spanning back to the 14th century, Bilbao has always played an important role in the history of Spain and the Basque Country and today it is a major economic hub for the region.
As a tourist destination, Bilbao has a great deal to offer – this immense city offers an eclectic mix of modern museums and attractions, combined with an array of beautiful historic architecture and the charm of its old town. The following constitutes some of Bilbao's top sites:
1. Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum is one of the city’s most important institutes and we highly recommend a trip to this modern and fascinating complex. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum building itself is a work of art and famed as a spectacular piece of modern architecture. Within the confines of the museum, you can amble through over 24,000 square meters of space and admire a staggering amount of modern and contemporary art spanning back to the 1950’s. Exhibitions include works by notable artists such as Kooning, Boltanski, Clemente, and Dine.
2. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
If you prefer classical art as opposed to contemporary creations, the Museo de Bellas Artes will suit your tastes perfectly. Housed within a historic building in the center of Bilbao, the museum contains a myriad of masterful artwork from some legendary artists. You can find artwork spanning as far back as the 14th century, right through to the 19th century, but nothing after these periods. Artists on display include Matsys, Van Dyck, Francisco de Goya, and Zurbaran. Aside from the paintings, there is also an interesting collection of sculptures.
3. Casco Viejo (Old Town)
Whilst the modern Museums of Bilbao are undoubtedly a top draw, you may wish to experience some of the city’s history and culture. There is no better place to do this than Casco Viejo – the old town of Bilbao is a fascinating place to walk through and contains some stunning historical architecture. Linked by 5 ornate bridges, the old town contains buildings such as the Iglesia de San Nicolas and the Teatro Arriago. Furthermore, streets such as the Paseo del Arenal provide beautiful thoroughfares through this charming part of the city.
4. Archaeology Museum
Although this museum is one of the more recent additions to Bilbao’s collection it is one of the most popular. Located in the beautiful old town, the Archaeology Museum contains a detailed history of the Basque Country and its evolution from the prehistoric era through to modern times. You can find a fascinating array of relics and artifacts excavated from the surrounding region, together with a myriad of informative and well-presented displays.
5. Museo Maritimo Ria de Bilbao
If you are not jaded by the abundance of museums Bilbao has to offer, it is advisable to take a trip to the Maritime Museum. You can find this splendid museum on the Bilbao Estuary on one of the main docks. This museum contains both an indoor and outdoor exhibition area and is filled with some amazing artifacts and ships preserved from the Basque region. The outdoor exhibition is contained within the docks and features several beautifully restored ships. The indoor area, on the other hand, contains a history of the Bilbao Estuary and some insightful articles about its environment and operations.
6. Catedral de Santiago
This immense Gothic cathedral was initially constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries and stands as one of the most important churches in Bilbao. During its history, the cathedral has undergone various changes and therefore has a myriad of architectural styles. The main façade, portal, and spire are all beautifully decorated in a Gothic style and created in white stone. Moreover, the interior contains some sublime stained glass windows and a wave of luscious religious decoration and ornaments. Furthermore, the wooden choir stalls feature some amazing carvings and the subterranean crypt contains remnants of the original 12th-century structure.
As you can see, Bilbao is packed full of interesting sites, museums, and architecture. Museum buffs could easily spend several days wandering through the various exhibitions and those who love architecture could get lost in the old town. Aside from the top 6 list, we have compiled, Bilbao also has several gorgeous public parks and a multitude of fine restaurants, bars, and cafes for those who enjoy nature and culinary delights. We hope this list will help you enjoy your time in Bilbao so why not pay this beautiful Basque city a visit?
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