Bilbao, founded 700 years ago, is a classic European city in every respect. Uncluttered and easily explored on foot, its wide open boulevards feature interesting public buildings, museums, parks and of course the titanium clad Guggenheim Museum.
A delightful riverside stroll will take you to the Old Quarter where Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassic and Modernist buildings house innovative shops and traditional Basque restaurants and bars. Also known as the Seven Streets the Old Quarter has a special atmosphere and life, all of it´s own. The oldest sight is Santiago Cathedral in the very heart of the Seven Streets. It is Gothic and has a beautiful neo-Classical retable inside. The nearby La Ribera Market, which renovated after the 1983 floods, is one of the largest markets in Europe. In La Cruz Street is the Museum of Vizcaya History and Archaeology and not far from here is the 19th C Plaza Nueva where a traditional street market is held every Sunday and where there are also many excellent bars. Be sure not to miss Victor Montés for traditional pinchos (Basque tapas).
Adjacent to the Old Quarter is the Arenal and the Arriaga Theatre which was modelled after the Paris Opéra. It is the scene of all kinds of cultural events, such as plays, operas, Spanish operettas; known as zarzuela, and concerts.
Although the Guggenheim Museum has been acknowledged as one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century, there are many other modern sights in Bilbao worth seeing including the Zubi Zuri bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava and the award winning metro designed by Norman Foster.
Between the Gran Vía and the Ría is the Doña Casilda Iturrízar Park, the largest green area in Bilbao. The Fine Arts Museum - opened in 1914 in the old Achuri Hospital - is located near the end of the park and is one of the best art galleries in Spain due to its important collections of Dutch, Flemish and Italian paintings. It also features Spanish masters, such as El Greco, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Ribera, Goya and Picasso and its modern arts section has important collections of Basque paintings: Losada, Los Arrúe, Arteta, Regoyos and Zuloaga. In addition, there are sculptures by Quintin de la Torre, Nemesio Mogrovejo and Eduardo Chillida.
Aside from the many cultural attractions in Bilbao be sure to take a ride on the popular Monte Archanda funicular (tram) which is just across the river from the Guggenheim. From the summit you can appreciate a magnificent panoramic view of the city. Or take a scenic river ride on the Pil-Pil boat which departs near the Guggenheim. Later explore the many excellent shops along Gran Vía featuring ranges from provincial to top label as well as the top Spanisg department store, El Corte Inglés.
A short ride on the metro out of Bilbao
to Areeta Station in Portugalete and you can visit the Puente
Colgante, an amazing hanging transporter bridge and the first
of its kind built in 1893 by a student of Eiffel and still in
use today. Visitors may take an elevator (lift) to the top of
the bridge (not for the faint hearted) and enjoy marvellous views
along the river. Afterwards take a walk to the mouth of the estuary
and dine in one of the many restaurants found in this area.