Spain Guide

Bilbao Spain

Bilbao is located in the Spanish region of Bizkaia (Biscay) in the Basque country. It's Spain biggest port and sixth largest city. For many, Bilbao is synonymous with its spectacular Guggenheim Museum which opened in 1997 signalling the dawn of a new era for this heavily industrialised city which previously held little interest for the international traveler.

These days thousands of visitors flock to the city with the sole purpose of seeing the Guggenheim which, in the view of many, has as much artistic merit as the many masterpieces housed within it.

But for city lovers, Bilbao offers much more than this awesome piece of architecture which is without doubt one of Europe's finest and most extraordinary landmarks.

Imaginative urban renewal projects have enabled Bilbao to shake off its 1980s depression when its ugly shipyards, steelworks and docks floundered in a brave new world where heavy industry no longer held sway.

Bold city planners and leading architects have brought about a cultural and economic rebirth to create a new Bilbao a vibrant, dynamic centre of culture and commerce where ancient and modern architectural styles make somewhat strange but never dull bedfellows.

The new state of the art metro system, the futuristic new airport terminal and a host of projects designed to regenerate run down areas of the city have combined to give Bilbao a new image as one of Spain's leading players of the new Millennium.As a thriving business and financial centre, Bilbao has excellent transport links with the rest of Spain and all the major European capitals. The airport, eight kilometres north of the city, has regular flights to and from Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Málaga, the Canary Islands and the rest of Europe. Flying time from London is just over two hours.

PO run a twice weekly ferry service connecting Bilbao with Portsmouth. It may not be the fastest way to travel (36 hours!) but if you make it part of your holiday this is a most enjoyable trip with excellent on board facilities and entertainment. PO's pioneering whale watch project in the Bay of Biscay makes it all the more interesting.

You don't come to Bilbao of course for a traditional Spanish sun and sea holiday. The climate here is mild and temperate so expect overcast skies and rain on a regular basis. Daytime high temperatures in the summer are usually around the 22C mark.

If you fancy a day at the beach, the ritzy resort of San Sebastian with its fine beaches frequented by wealthy Spaniards is only 100 kilometres to the east of Bilbao.

The city has a wealth of museums (still worth visiting even though they now lie in the shadow of the Guggenheim) and many excellent restaurants serving traditional Basque cuisine which is generally regarded as being some of the finest in Spain.

The main languages spoken here are Castellano and the ancient Basque language, Euskera, the origins of which are unknown. There are some similarities to other European and African languages but this is a unique and strange tongue which bears no relation to Spanish. Official tourist site for Bilbao.