The Full Wiki

Bilbao: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Bilbao

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

—  Municipality  —
Panorama from Etxebarria park.


Coat of arms
Motto: La Muy Noble y Muy Leal e Invicta Villa de Bilbao
(The most noble and most loyal and undefeated )
Location of Bilbao in Spain and Biscay
Bilbao is located in Spain
Location in Spain
Coordinates: 43°15′25″N 2°55′25″W / 43.25694°N 2.92361°W / 43.25694; -2.92361Coordinates: 43°15′25″N 2°55′25″W / 43.25694°N 2.92361°W / 43.25694; -2.92361
Country  Spain
Autonomous community País Vasco
Province Biscay
Comarca Greater Bilbao
Founded 15 June 1300
 - Alcalde Iñaki Azkuna (1999) (PNV)
 - Total 40.65 km2 (15.7 sq mi)
Elevation 19 m (62 ft)
Highest elevation 689 m (2,260 ft)
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2008)
 - Total 353,340
 Density 8,692.3/km2 (22,512.8/sq mi)
 - Demonym Bilbaíno, bilbaína
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 48001 - 48015
Dialing code 94
Official language(s) Basque, Spanish
Website Official website

Bilbao (Basque: Bilbo) is the largest city in the Basque Country and the capital of the province of Biscay (Basque: Bizkaia), Spain. The city has 353,168 inhabitants (2007) and is the most financially and industrially active part of Greater Bilbao, the zone in which almost half of the Basque Country’s population lives. Greater Bilbao’s 953,152 inhabitants are spread along the length of the Nervión River, whose banks are home also to numerous businesses and factories, which during the industrial revolution brought heightened prosperity to the region.

A major seaport and industrial centre, the city is located on the Estuary of Bilbao, the city's suburbs extending to the Bay of Biscay. The population of the city of Bilbao proper was 353,168 in 2007. The population of the urban area of Greater Bilbao ( the conurbation) was 953,152 as of 2007 estimates. Population of the metropolitan area (urban area plus satellite towns) was 950,155 as of 2007 estimates, ranking as the fifth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.[1] As of 2008, the mayor of Bilbao is Iñaki Azkuna.



In the north, Bilbao’s city edge is considered to be around the towns of Erandio, Sondika and Derio, in the east it is encompassed by Zamudio and Etxebarri. The southern border passes outside Basauri and Arrigorriaga and, in the west, Barakaldo and Alonsotegi are the furthest extremes. The urban area is enclosed by two small mountain ranges called Pagasarri (to the south) and Artxanda (to the north); this gives the city its nickname, "el botxo", "the hole".



The city of Bilbao is divided into eight different districts, including the following neighbourhoods:


Climate chart (explanation)
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm

Bilbao has an oceanic climate, generally mild, with not too extreme temperatures. January average temperature is 9 °C (48 °F) and July average is 21 °C (70 °F). Precipitation is around 1,200 mm (47 in) per year, almost entirely rain, although in winter it snows three days on average.[2]

Jan 1985, strong blizzards covered Bilbao in snow for 2 weeks.

Extreme heat is also common a few days each summer, mainly when strong winds from the south blow through the mountains and temperatures rise because of the foehn wind.

Extreme record observations in Bilbao are 42.2 °C (108.0 °F) maximum (on 13 August 2003) and −8.6 °C (16.5 °F) minimum (on 3 February 1963). The maximum precipitation in a day was 225.6 mm (9 in) in 26 August 1983 when severe flooding was originated by the Nervión River.[3]

Climate data for Bilbao (1971-2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13
Average low °C (°F) 5
Precipitation mm (inches) 126
% Humidity 73 70 70 72 71 72 73 75 74 74 74 74 73
Avg. snowy days 0.9 1.0 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.7 3.2
Source: Bilbao climate chart (from the Astronomical association)[4] July 2007


Saint Anton church and bridge, the symbol of the city, as viewed in the coat of arms.
Bilbao's Cathedral of Santiago.

Bilbao was founded as a village by Don Diego Lopez de Haro V, Lord of Biscay, on 15 June 1300 on the opposite river bank of an existing fishing settlement (now known as Bilbao la Vieja or Bilbo Zaharra, "Old Bilbao").

Prior to formal establishment as a township, a village and port called "Bilbao" (the name designated in the founding village charter of 1300) is believed to have been located near an ancient wall (circa XII century) recently discovered by the "San Anton" Bridge. Other evidence suggests that first settlements in Bilbao came earlier near the "Malmasin" promontory.

The name of the city has unclear origins, some think it may come from "bel vado", ancient Spanish for "good river crossing" while others proclaim it stems from Basque "bi albo" meaning "two river banks".

Nearby places like Sestao and Ugao-Miraballes have the same ending that could be Basque aho, "mouth".


Don Diego gave the city rights and privileges along with land for growth. At first there were only three streets: Somera ("Upper"), Artekale ("middle street") and Tendería ("Shopkeeper's"), following the pattern of three parallel streets found in other Basque towns, and the Santiago church, surrounded by a city wall. Bilbao was in the northern branch of the Way of Saint James, thus the name of Santiago (Saint James') church.

The city grew slowly but steadily, its area is now known as the "Seven streets", after the new parallel developments. The privileges conceded by the successive Lords of Biscay were resented, sometimes violently, by other chartered villas like Portugalete and by the unchartered villages. In the 15th century wars between noble families disrupted the city, which had reached a population of almost 3000.

Bilbao in 1575.

Three floods and a fire shook the city, and Santiago Church was almost totally destroyed. But once again the city recovered and it grew beyond the wall.

In 1511 the Consulate of Bilbao was granted to the city by the Spanish Crown, this allowed Bilbao to be the main export port for Merino wool from Castile to northern European cities such as Antwerp.

Bilbao became the most important commercial and financial hub of the Spanish north coast during the Spanish Empire era. The swords exported through Bilbao were known in England as "bilboes".


In 1602 Bilbao was made capital city of Biscay, replacing the former capital Bermeo. The following centuries saw a constant increase of the city's wealth, especially after the discovery of extensive iron resources in the surrounding hills. At the end of the 17th century, Bilbao overcame the economical crises that affected Spain thanks to the iron ore and the commerce with England and the Netherlands. During the 18th century the city continued to grow and almost exhausted its small space.

1876 Extension plan, by Alzola, Achúcarro and Hoffmeyer architects.

The 19th century's industrial revolution was crucial for Bilbao, with the developing of strong mining, steel and shipbuilding industries. At the beginning of the 20th century Bilbao was the wealthiest city of Spain, where the main banks (BBVA) and insurance companies were established.

Bilbao was besieged four times by the Carlists during the Carlist Wars, but due to the defenders (the regular Spanish army and local Liberal volunteers), it was never conquered, as is recorded in the city's title ("undefeated").

In 1886 the University of Deusto was established by the Company of Jesus and a major plan for the city was announced after the village of Abando was annexed. The Alzola, Achúcarro and Hoffmeyer "Ensanche" (extension) project of 1876 almost doubled the city's area and was developed during the following decades, as it happened in other cities like Barcelona at that time.

20th century

In 1901 half of the original "Ensanche" project was built.

In 1925, the village of Deusto was annexed and several other parts of the city were developed including Basurto and Begoña.

Bilbao sided with the Republican Government in the Spanish Civil War and was the capital of the first Basque Autonomous Government led by José Antonio Aguirre. A defensive ring, called "Cinturón de Hierro" (Iron Belt) was built around the city, with heavy artillery and many bunkers linked by kilometers of tunnels. Despite these efforts, on 19 June 1937 Bilbao succumbed to Franco's troops' siege (aided by the betrayal of the engineer Goicoechea, designer of the defensive ring); the bridges were destroyed to stop the enemy, but the city survived relatively intact.

During Franco's dictatorship the city's heavy industries fuelled Spain's economy and thousands of immigrants from central and southern Spain moved to Bilbao, the city and surrounding towns expanded greatly and sometimes chaotically. In an effort to accommodate the influx of immigrants in the city's limited space, the towns in the adjacent Txoriherri valley (Erandio, Derio, Zamudio, Sondika, Lezama) were annexed. This annexation was reversed in 1981 after the transition to democracy.

In 1983 heavy floods struck the city, killing many people in the province and causing great damage to the old part of the city; the old Arriaga Theater was devastated. Since then the "Casco Viejo" (the old district) has been renewed, along with the general trend of renewal seen all around the city.

Regeneration and renewal

Euskalduna Palace, one of the major developments in the former industrial district of Abandoibarra.

The city has recently undergone major urban renewal, in order to move away from the region’s industrial history and instead focus on tourism and services. The developments are centered around the new metro system by Sir Norman Foster (see Metro Bilbao) and, most of all, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum by Frank Gehry. A new tram line (EuskoTran) was introduced in 2002. The Port of Bilbao, formerly on the river, has been moved and expanded downstream on the Bay of Biscay, opening a great deal of central real estate on the river that has been the site of most of the new building. Other new landmarks include the Santiago Calatrava- designed Zubizuri Bridge and the Euskalduna Palace, a cultural centre, further downstream. The two points are linked by a new riverside passageway opposite University of Deusto, which provides an open green space for the city’s inhabitants to relax.

A major landmark tower, designed by César Pelli, to house the Iberdrola electric company will also be built and there are ambitious plans to regenerate the peninsula on the river known as Zorrozaurre.[5][6][7]

The new Calatrava bridge, Zubizuri.

Main sights

As well as the famous Guggenheim Museum, the city acts as home for the Fine Arts Museum recognised as one of Spain’s finest art museums and recently refurbished and the Maritime Museum on the Nervión’s banks, which recently hosted the RMS Titanic exhibition which has been touring Europe. Museums are only a part of the city's attractions.

Since the inauguration of the Guggenheim museum in 1997, eight new hotels have been opened in the city, reflecting the increasing interest for the city.

Old Town or "Casco Viejo"

The medieval neighbourhood is the most colourful part of Bilbao, a maze of narrow streets full of taverns, shops and monuments.

Museums and cultural centres

The Guggenheim Museum.


Fine Arts Museum.

Civil buildings



BBVA building.
The city's Central Business District:Albia building, BBVA building and Isozaki Atea towers.

Greater Bilbao is the Basque Country's main economic area and one of Spain's most important. The metropolitan area concentrates several key industrial sectors: steel, energy production, machine tool, aeronautics industry, electronics and IT. The municipality of Bilbao has been an industrial one for decades, but the heavier industries have been moved from the city center to the periphery and the city has centered its activities in the services sector which accounts for the 75’5% of the city's added value. The GNP per capita is 19,648 (FY 2000), slightly above the average of the Basque Country and well above the average of Spain. The city is the corporate seat of the BBVA bank and Iberdrola electric company.

The International Trade Fair, now Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC) hosts many international level exhibitions, especially the Biannual Machine Tool Fair (BIEMH), that help dynamizing the economic life. On top of BEC, Bilbao has the Euskalduna Palace as a congress center.

The port of Bilbao is the most important one in the north of Spain and one of the most important in the Bay of Biscay. In 2005, the port moved 36.8 million tonnes, being the fourth port of Spain after Algeciras, Barcelona and Valencia.


Historical populations

1842 10,243
1860 17,969
1877 35,227
1887 51,314
1897 74,076
1900 81,956
1910 92,116
1920 115,014
1930 156,920
1940 192,351
1950 216,417
1960 294,174
1970 405,908
1981 433,115
1991 369,839
2001 349,972
2003 353,173
2006 354,145
2007 353,168
2008 353,340

In 1970, Bilbao was the sixth most populated city in Spain and the third-highest ranked metropolitan area. In 1981, its population peaked at 433,115. From there on the population of the city proper started to decline.

Demographics of Bilbao (1900–2005)

This was due to the fact that the towns surrounding Bilbao that were merged into the city during the 1940s and 1960s (Erandio, Loiu, Derio, Sondika and Zamudio) regained independence and because of a population movement into the suburban towns in The right bank, like Getxo and Leioa, whose populations increased sharply. In 2008, Bilbao’s official figures counted 353,340 inhabitants.[8]

Decreasing population

Whilst the overall region’s population continues to climb, the city centre has noticed a drop in residents. This is a result of the steady and seemingly unbreakable trend of the city’s people flocking to the coastlines which has been underway since the 1990s, caused mainly by high real-estate prices in Bilbao. Bilbao is the fourth most expensive city in Spain, after Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian.

% of immigrants in Bilbao's districts.

Industrialised areas have been left in favour of the coast. In fact, of the 18 towns around Bilbao with more than 10,000 inhabitants, only eight - Amorebieta-Etxano, Arrigorriaga, Durango, Gernika, Getxo, Leioa, Mungia and Sopelana – have increased their number of inhabitants. Sestao has been worst hit, losing nearly 11% of its population in eight years.


Since 2001, the number of immigrants in the city has risen steadily each year as a result of increasing migration into Spain. In 2000, 7% of Bilbao's population consisted of immigrants, in contrast with the national average of 11,3%[8].


Main building of the University of Deusto

The Basque Government is in charge of education in the Basque Country.

In Greater Bilbao there are two Universities:

  • University of Deusto: founded in 1886 by the Society of Jesus. The University has another campus in San Sebastián. The Bilbao campus offers the following studies: Law, Philosophy, Education, Business - La Comercial, Theology, Politics and Sociology, Engineering - ESIDE.
  • University of the Basque Country: created in 1968 as University of Bilbao and renamed to its current name in 1980. It is a public university with the following studies in Greater Bilbao: Business School of Sarriko (Bilbao), Education (Bilbao), Technical High School of Engineering(Bilbao), Technical Engineering School of La Casilla (Bilbao), Medium grade Business School (Bilbao), Nautical School (Portugalete), Technical Engineering School of Mining (Barakaldo), Elderly University (Bilbao), Medicine and Odontology (Leioa-Erandio), Sociology and Communication (Leioa-Erandio), Fine Arts (Leioa-Erandio), Laboral Relationships (Leioa), Nursing (Leioa), Sciences School (Leioa).

Infrastructure and transportation


A-8 motorway in Bilbao.

The city has 13 bridges connecting both sides of the river, it is connected to the European road network by the AP-8 toll motorway and to the north of Spain by the A-8 motorway and to the rest of Spain by the AP-68 toll motorway.


Typical Bilbao Metro station.

The underground network (Metro Bilbao), inaugurated in 1995, is used by more than 85 million passengers every year. It has 2 lines that connect both banks of the Bilbao Metropolitan Area. There is a project under way to build a third line.


The city has 43 Bilbobus bus lines, 28 for normal buses, seven "micro-buses" for zones of the city that a normal bus can't access, and eight night lines. The inner-city bus network has recently won a prize for its efficiency and quality of service. In addition, there are more than 100 BizkaiBus bus lines, connecting Bilbao with almost every point in Biscay and part of Alava. The city's main bus station is called Termibus and is located near the San Mamés stadium.


There are 7 commuter rail lines operated by three different companies:

Renfe (Spanish railway network) operates 3 Cercanías lines in metropolitan Bilbao:

FEVE (Spanish Narrow Gauge Railways) operates one line:

EuskoTren (Basque railway network), operates three lines:

In 2002, the new tramway, EuskoTran, was inaugurated. It has one line connecting Atxuri with Basurto. Plans are afoot to greatly expand the network over the coming decade.


A new airport terminal designed by Santiago Calatrava was opened in 2000, expanding the capacity of the former facility, and allowing growth in tourism fuelled by low-cost flights by airlines such as EasyJet and Vueling. The airport handled 4,277,610 passengers in 2007.

By sea

A P&O ferry service links Santurtzi, near Bilbao, to Portsmouth (UK). The Pride of Bilbao ferry departs from the port of Bilbao, 15 km (9 mi) north west of the city centre. A service operated by Acciona Trasmediterranea served the same route from May 16, 2006 until April 2007.

Transportation links


City Hall.

Bilbao has several theatres and concert halls (Teatro Arriaga, Palacio Euskalduna), cinemas, and opera season. The Bilbao Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1922, its current conductor Günter Neuhold being appointed in 2008.

Museums include the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbao of contemporary art and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, with a great collection of Spanish painting.

Like in other Spanish cities, night life is long and vibrant, with clubs that offer live music (Kafe Antzokia, Bilborock).

Bilbao was briefly featured at the start of the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

The Bilbao Live Festival, initiated in 2006, is another measure of new interest[9]


Marijaia, the symbol of the Aste Nagusia saluting from the Arriaga Theatre.

Semana Grande (Spanish for Big Week, Aste Nagusia in Basque) is Bilbao's main festival attracting over 100,000 people and takes place each year, lasting 9 days. It has been celebrated since 1978 and begins on the Saturday of the 3rd week of August each year. People from around Spain, and increasingly from abroad attend the celebrations.

The celebrations include the strongman games, free music performances, street entertainment, bullfighting and nightly firework displays. The best views of the display are from the city's bridges. Each year, there is something different occurring, thus a festival programme (these are available all over the city) is strongly recommended.


San Mamés stadium, home of Athletic Bilbao.

Like in most of both Spain and the Basque country, football (soccer) is the most popular competitive sport, followed by basketball.

The main football club is Athletic Club, commonly known as Athletic Bilbao in English. It plays at the San Mamés stadium, which is Spain's oldest built stadium and seats 39,750 spectators.[10] Athletic Bilbao was one of the founder members of the Spanish football league, La Liga, and has played in the Primera División (First Division)[11] ever since - winning it on eight occasions. Its red and white striped flag is to be seen throughout the city.

In addition, Bilbao offers the possibility of many outdoor activities owing to its location in a hilly countryside, hiking is very popular as well as rock climbing in the nearby mountains. Watersports, specially surfing is practiced in the beaches of Sopelana and Mundaka, easily accessed from the city centre by car, metro or train.

Club Sport League Venue Logo
Athletic Club de Bilbao Football Spanish 1st division San Mamés logo
Bizkaia Bilbao Basket Basketball Spanish ACB league Bizkaia Arena logo

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Bilbao is twinned with:

Famous people




Science and Technology





Night panorama of central Bilbao from Etxebarria Park.



External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Panoramic view of Bilbao
Panoramic view of Bilbao

Bilbao [1] is the capital of Vizcaya in the Basque Country. The city is situated on the banks of the Nervión, a tidal river. The climate in Bilbao is milder than in most other parts of the peninsula, rarely falling below freezing in winter, or rising above 35ºC in summer. There is also more rain, which is a mixed blessing. The green hills of Bilbao are a welcome relief after an extended stay in the dry plains in the south, but planning a day at the beach is more risky. The population of Bilbao proper is just over 372,000, but within the metropolitan area there are over 1,000,000 inhabitants.

Get in

By bus

All buses to other provinces leave from the TermiBus terminal. There are regular connections to Santander (90 minutes) San Sebastian (60 minutes) and Madrid (arriving at Avenida de Las Americas bus station, 4-5 hours) among others.

The bus companies connect Bilbao with many cities in Spain more cheaply and frequently than the rail companies.

The company linking Bilbao to Santander is ALSA[2] (tel: +34 902422242), and in theory you can get info about buses from Santander to Bilbao at [3]. Be prepared for long waiting lines of half an hour as there are only two ticket offices. It's usually better to buy the ticket the day before or print your ticket on the company's website. Instead of printing, you can also use the text message they send to your mobile as proof of purchase.

For Vitoria-Gasteiz, take La Unión Alavesa buses.

By plane

Bilbao Airport is served by Lufthansa, Spanair, Alitalia, Air France, Air Berlin, TuiFly, AerLingus, Iberia, Air Europa, ClickAir, Vueling and several other airlines. Easy Jet flies from London Stansted to Bilbao airport. You can also fly with Ryanair to Santander.

To get to downtown from the airport, take Bizkaibus from the arrivals sidewalk: there is no arrivals hall. The bus leaves every half hour at :15 and :45 past the hour from the airport to Bilbao bus terminal. The reverse journey is at :25 and :55 past the hour from the bus terminal to the airport, stopping at Plaza Moyua on the way. A single ticket costs less than €2.

Taxis to downtown Bilbao from the airport cost about €25-30.

By train

RENFE-- runs intercity trains to Madrid, Barcelona, Vigo (Galicia). All Renfe trains leave from Abando Station.

FEVE -- runs regional trains to Santander (3 daily), and Leon (1 Daily). They are very slow, and make a stop in almost every single town they pass through. From Santander you can continue to Oviedo (Asturias), and La Coruña (Galicia). This journey has three legs, but it is only possible to do 2 legs in any one day. FEVE trains leave from Santander Station (next to Abando Station)

EuskoTren -- runs a local service to San Sebastian, with connection there for Irun (on the Spanish-French border). It takes two hours to reach San Sebastian. Trains leave from Atxuri Station.

By boat

A direct car ferry is available between Bilbao and Portsmouth, England. It is best to book early, since the ferry is often booked out in summer. By taking the P&O ferry to Bilbao and immediately returning, a mini-cruise can be had which allows approximately two and a half hours in Bilbao.

Get around

By car

Bilbao is difficult to drive in. Hilly one-way streets, and frequent construction projects, make it a nightmare for drivers in parts of the city. Having an automobile map helps a lot; without it allow at least 30min extra to find the right exit from the city.

MetroBilbao network map
MetroBilbao network map

If you are going to take more than one or two journeys on public transit, a CreditTrans card would be a good investment. It can save you up to 50% over buying single tickets. It is valid on all the municipal transit systems in Bilbao, and most (soon to be all) of the provincial transit systems in Vizcaya. It is a pay per ride card available at all Metro and Tram stations in denominations of €5, €10, and €15. It is also available at many newspaper stands. Individual tickets cost from €1.15 upward.

  • MetroBilbao [4] Convenient, Norman Foster designed Metro. Single line within Bilbao, splitting into two lines after San Inazio station. Line one runs from Etxebarri to Plentzia; line two from Etxebarri to Santurtzi. Trains run every couple of minutes at peak hours. Tickets cost from €1.40-1.60, depending on how many zones your journey covers, or a daily card is available for €4.
  • Bilbobus City bus service.
  • EuskoTran [5] A green tram from Atxuri Station to Basurto. The single line runs along the river passing the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. Single tickets cost €1.15, and are sold from machines at tram stops. Don't forget to validate the ticket before boarding.
  • EuskoTren [6] Local train service leaving from Atxuri Station for Bermeo, Guernica/Gernika and San Sebastian (Donostia). Some good views but the train is slower than buses.
  • BizkaiBus For buses which operate outside Bilbao city limits. BizkaiBus runs a service between the bus terminal and the airport, with a stop in Plaza Moyua (ask in Hotel Carlton).
  • Artxanda Funicular Spectacular views of Bilbao.

By foot

It takes about 30 minutes to walk along the river between the Guggenheim Museum and the Casco Viejo.

By taxi

Taxi Bilbao: Tel: +34 944 448 888. This single number is used by all taxi operators in Bilbao. Your cab should appear within five minutes.

The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum, Abandoibarra etorbidea, 2, [7]. Tue-Sun, 10:00 to 20:00; Jul and Aug: Mon-Sun, 10:00 to 20:00. Closed Jan 1 and Dec 25. Frank Gehry's spectacular twisting titanium-clad modern art museum is perhaps the most celebrated building of the 1990s. The graceful, sensuous curves, evocative of the ships that used to be ubiquitous along the docks of Bilbao, are covered in titanium squares, which resemble the scales of a fish and shimmer in the sunlight. In keeping with the maritime theme, appropriate for the setting, the skylights of the largest gallery (formerly known as the Fish gallery) are designed to look like the fins of fish. Many parts of the building are pure decorative, and don't serve any purpose inside. The permanent collection is not particularly impressive, but the museum always hosts at least one interesting temporary exhibit, frequently comprised of masterpieces from the other Guggenheim collections. Adults €12.50; students under 26: €7.50; children under 12: free.  edit
  • Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art), Plaza del Museo, 2. Tue-Sat, 10AM-8PM; Sun and public holidays 10AM-2PM; Mon: closed. 1 Jan and 25 December: closed. The Museum of Fine Art's remarkable collection currently boasts more than six thousand works dating from the 12th century to the present day, and includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and decorative objects. General: €4.50; groups, students, senior citizens and unemployed: €3. Free of charge on Wed, and for children under 12. Artean Package, €11 (tickets for both the Guggenheim Museum and the Fine Arts Museum). Prices change for special exhibitions..  edit
  • Basque Museum (Euskal Museoa), Plaza Unamuno, 4. Tue-Sat: 11AM-5PM, Sun 11AM-2PM. Mondays and public holidays: closed. Established in 1921 to focus on the prehistory, archaeology, ethnography and history of Euskadi (Basque homeland). Not a particularly well laid out museum. It will be of passing interest to people who study Basque culture. Adults: €3; students and groups €1.50. Children under 10 and seniors: free. Thu: free.  edit
  • La Ría Maritime Museum, Muelle Ramón de la Sota, 1. Located in what used to be the Euskalduna shipyard, next to the current Euskalduna Performing Arts Center. The Museum covers an area of 27,000 square metres, 7,000 for indoor exhibitions and 20,000 for outdoor exhibitions, the three docks, the walkway surrounding them and the estuary.
    Adults: €4; Students under 26: €2.50; Senior citizens, pensioners, and people over 65: €2.50. Disabled and unemployed people: €2.50. Children under 6: free of charge.
    Winter: Tue-Fri, 10AM-2PM, 4-6PM. Sat-Sun, 10AM-2PM, 4-8PM. Summer: call to check.
  • Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum), Martín Agüero, 1, Plaza de Toros de Vista Alegre, (Near Plaza Zabalburu), tel. 94-444-8698. Next to a bullring, the Museo Taurino highlights the role bullfighting has played in Euskadi.
  • Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro (Museum of Sacred Art), Plaza de la Encarnación, 9-B, Atxuri, tel. 94-432-0125. A former convent founded in 1515 by Dominican nuns.
  • Museo de Reproducciones Artísticas (Museum of Artistic Reproductions), Conde Mirasol (no number), tel. 94-415-7673. Full-scale reproductions of the world's most famous works of art. Call ahead for a guided visit.
  • Cathedral of St. James (Santiago) Gothic Style 14th century Cathedral, named after Bilbao's official patron saint. Three naves and small Gothic cloisters. The building was designated a cathedral in 1949. Its Neogothic tower and main façade were designed by Severino de Achúcarro in the 1800s. The adjoining square (Plaza de Santiago) bosts a fountain designed by Luis Paret during the reign of Carlos III with the inscription Por el bien público (For the good of the people).
  • Iglesia de San Antón Gothic style church from the first half of the 15th century (1422). Dedicated to San Anton in the 16th century, the building is a mixture of styles including a renaissance portico and baroque tower which was built in 1777. The church was constructed on the ruins of a former alcazar, and is shown on Bilbao's shield.
  • Basílica de Begoña, [8]. Overlooking Bilbao, this is perhaps the most symbolic religious building in the city. Built in the 16th Century by Sancho Martinez de Arego, who was also responsible for the Iglesia San Anton. It is a basilica of three naves. During the first Carlista War, in 1835, the façade and the tower were destroyed. The present ones were designed Jose Maria Basterra and constructed between 1902 and 1907.
  • Iglesia de San Nicolás, Esperanza, 1 (Arenal, Casco Viejo), 94 416 1424. The Iglesia de San Nicolás, finished in the 19th century, is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. One of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Vizcaya.
  • Iglesia de San Vicente Martir, Plaza de San Vicente, (Near: Abando), 94-423-1296. Gothic church built in the 16th century.
  • A flower puppy. Just in the front of the Guggenheim Museum, created by Jeff Koons, it's one of the most famous symbols of modern Bilbao.  edit
  • Birthplace of Miguel Unamuno, c/La Ronda 16, next to Plaza Unamuno (Metro station: Casco Viejo). Spanish author born on the 29th of September 1864. His works include the novels Niebla and San Manuel Bueno, Martir, which are both read in AP Spanish Literature classes in the United States. Unamuno died on the 31st of December 1936 in Salamanca.
Teatro Arriaga
Teatro Arriaga
  • Teatro Arriaga, tel. 94-435-5100, [9]. Originally inaugurated on the 31st of May 1890, on the site of several former theaters, the first Teatro Arriaga burnt down on the 22nd of December 1914. The second Teatro Arriaga opened on the 5th of June 1919. Evocative of the Opera House in Paris, the theater has an ornate façade and beautiful interior. The theater, and the square in front of it, were named after Juan Crosótomo de Arriaga, a composer from Bilbao. There is a tourist information office in the theater building: the entrance is on the left side as you face the theater.
  • Estación de Santander (Santander Station, FEVE Station) also known as La Concordia, was built between 1898-1902 on the banks of the Nervión. Designed by the engineer Valentín Gorbeña, with the art nouveau main façade added later with a design by the architect Severino Achúcarro.
  • Puente de San Antón Next to the Iglesia de San Antón sits Bilbao's most emblematic bridge.
Mercado de la Ribera
Mercado de la Ribera
  • Mercado de la Ribera Another emblem next to the Iglesia de San Antón is the Mercado de la Rivera. One of the biggest covered markets in Europe. It was built in 1929 on the site of the original Rivera Street market. Produce fish and meat are sold in the market every morning, except Sundays.
Plaza Nueva
Plaza Nueva
  • Plaza Nueva Bilbao's Plaza Nueva was originally named Plaza de Fernando VII. Construction began on the plaza on December 31, 1829 and finished exactly 20 years later on December 31, 1849. This plaza was the seat of the Diputación de Vizcaya until July 1900 when the Diputación moved to its new home on the Gran Vía. The Academy of the Basque Language (Euskaltzaindia) currently occupies the old Diputación building in the Plaza Nueva. There is a market of used books, stamps, coins, and other small items in the plaza every Sunday morning.
  • Palacio de la Diputación Ornately decorated palace situated on the Grand Vía. Baroque-style monument designed by Luis Aladrén in 1897 to serve as the seat of the Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (Vizcaya) and inaugurated on July 31, 1900. The interior is just as lavish as the exterior, with beautiful stained glass windows.
  • Plaza Moyua and Gran Vía On the strech of the Gran Vía between Plaza Abando and Plaza Moyua is the main shopping and fashion district of Bilbao. On this short stretch you can find tons of clothes shops (For, Zara, Mango, H&M) as well as department store El Corte Ingles. This is a must-walk street.
  • Parque Etxebarria The site of a former steel factory, this park was created in the 1980s as the first step of reorienting Bilbao from the industrial sector to the service sector. Wonderful views of the Casco Viejo and the Teatro Arriaga. There is a prominent chimney in the park, left over from the site's time as a factory. The park hosts a fun fair in August.
  • Ayuntamiento (City Hall) (also known as la Casa Consistorial or Udaletxea) Plaza Ernesto Erkoreka, 94-420-4200. The city hall opened in 1892. Designed by architect Jaquin Rucoba in neo-baroque style. Don't miss the main reception area, called Arab Salon.
The new Calatrava bridge, Zubizuri
The new Calatrava bridge, Zubizuri
  • Zubizuri The graceful white pedestrian bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. It spans the Nervión connecting the riverwalks Campo Volatin and Mazarredo. Be careful, the bridge is slippery when wet!
  • La Leona Lion statue on top of a building in Deusto. Seen from Euskalduna Performance Center.
  • Bilbao Airport Curvaceous white 'bird-like' building by Santiago Calatrava. Strangely missing an arrival hall.
  • Biblioteca Municipal de Bidebarrieta, Bidebarrieta, 4, (Casco Viejo, near Teatro Arriaga), tel. 94-415-6930. Commissioned by El Sitio society at the end of the 19th century, this building was built by architect Severino de Achucarro as a social hall. Now home to the city's historical archives and library.
  • Palacio de Ibaigane, Alameda Mazarredo, 23, tel. 94-424-0877. Home to the Athletic Club de Bilbao, Bilbao's football team. Built in the early 20th century. Note the arched entranceway. The nearest metro stop is Moyúa.
  • Palacio de Olábarri, Campo Volantín, 37, Palacete del Puerto Autónomo de Bilbao, tel. 94-487-1200. An interesting mix of several architectural styles. In the late 19th century it was the residence of Bilbaino entrepreneur José María de Olábarri. Now the seat of Bilbao's port authority.
  • Santa y Real Casa de la Misericordia, Sabino Arana, 2, tel. 94-441-1900. Next to Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. Constructed in the mid-19th century as a charitable house for the poor.
  • In the summer see an open air concert at the Kiosko del Arenal El Arenal Parque (across from Plaza Arriaga). The stage was built in 1923, and renovated in 1985.
  • Beginning the first Saturday after August 15th and lasting for 9 days is Aste Nagusia / Semana Grande, the city's fiesta (holiday). An interesting time to come, but be prepared for lots of noise, music, street theater and events, with firework displays in the evening. Details from the tourist office in Teatro Arriaga.
  • Walk through the seven streets of the Casco Viejo.
  • Climb the Mallona stairs from Plaza Unamuno to Parque Etxebarria for the great views.
  • Walk along the river.
  • Walk through Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, admiring the ponds and gardens, next to the Fine Arts Museum.
  • Take the Artxanda Funicular, again for the views.
  • Go kayaking or rent a boat from Bilboventura (a company that rents out kayaks on the bank of the river nervion).
  • Gran Vía 22, 94 435 6300, [11]. 10AM-8:30PM.
  • c/Víctor 5 (Casco Viejo), 944794340, [12]. 10AM-8:30PM.
  • Falstaff, Colon de Larreategui 29 (Abando), +34 944 233 598 (fax: +34 944 244 748), [13]. 10am-8pm. Orignal and stylish selection of clothes for fashion conscious women of all ages.  edit



The local custom is to call what are known in Spanish as tapas by the Basque name, Pintxos, probably much more elaborated than their Spanish cousins due to the Basque love of gastronomy.

Fri and Sat night are most popular time for eating pintxos--as it is for going to bars.

  • Aritz. Calle Zugastinobia 4 48012 Bilbao. Was once one of the best Pintxos bars in Bilbao, quite out of the way (almost hidden really in a very small, one way street away from the main thoroughfares). Ask for it and you will be given directions. It is worth the walk since they have won the local Pintxo contests for ages. Closed as of Feb. 2008 and as the summer of 2008 reopened with what appears to be new management with less emphasis on its prize-winning pintxos. It's worth going to this street though because there are dozens other pintxos bars.

Plaza Nueva

among others:

  • Bilbao Cafe bar, Plaza Nueva, 6, 94 415 16 71.  edit
  • Charley Bar, Plaza Nueva, 8, 94 415 01 27.  edit
  • Fernando, Plaza Nueva, 12, 94 415 05 64.  edit
  • Víctor, Plaza Nueva, 2, 94 415 1678.  edit

near the Diputación

  • El Globo, c/Diputación, 8, 94 415 42 21.  edit
  • La Viña del Ensanche, c/Diputacion, 10, 94 416 53 58.  edit
  • Agape, c/Hernani, 13, 94 416 05 06.  edit
  • Antzokia, San Vincente 2, [14]. Creative non-touristic cuisine in an untraditional setting of a large theater hall and its stage. Full of local knowledge workers. Great value-for-money menu del dia. Very prompt service. Menu del dia: €11.5 (two dishes+desert); VAT included..  edit
  • Casa Vasca, c/ Lehendakari Aguirre, 13/15 (Deusto), 94 448 39 80. traditional Basque cuisine  edit
  • Guggenheim Museum. has a fine restaurant with a decent value set lunch menu for less than €20 each. The restaurant is run by famous Basque chef Martin Berasategui. Make sure to book in advance, easily done before you visit the museum in the morning.  edit
  • Harrobia, casco viejo; c/del Perro, 2, 944 134 013. modern basque cooking  edit
  • Matxinbenta, c/Ledesma 26, 94 424-8495. Mon-Sat 8:00AM-11:30PM. Basque food, specialities include fresh tuna in piquant tomato sauce and piperada. Reservations required.  edit
  • Zortziko, c/Alameda de Mazarredo 17, (944)23-97-43; (944)23-63-96. Tue-Sat 9AM-11:30PM. Traditional Basque dishes such as pigeon breast or marinated sea bass. Formal environment with late Victorian style furnishing, frequently booked days in advance. Ask about reservations to dine in the wine cellar.  edit
  • Cafe Nervión wonderful views of the river: c/La Naja 7.
  • Lamiak, comfortable coffee house, with chocolate cake to die for: c/De la Pelota (Casco Viejo)
  • Three spectacularly decorated bars (which are owned by the same people) are:
  1. Cafe Iruña, c/ Colon de Larreategui 13. With its Arabesque motifs and antique mouldings it is a sight to behold. If you go at night, you can also get some nice shikabobs - some of the only ones you'll find in Bilbao.
  2. Cafe La Granja in Plaza Circular, across from the BBVA tower.
  3. Cafe Boulevard on the Arenal, across from Teatro Arriaga.
  • Bar Juantxu. c/ Licenciado Poza, 39.
  • Dakar. c/ Heros, 13 tel. 94-424-9756 nightly karaoke and Spanish dance music.
  • Galeon Alda. Mazarredo, 25, 94-423-1462 Maritime motif a mermaid statue at the entrance and decoratoion resembleing the inside of a ship.
  • Gran Casino Nervión c/ Navarra, 1 tel. 94-424-0007 Two bars, on-site restaurant. Formal/semi-formal dress required.
  • La Mutua c/Ercilla, 2 tel. 94-423-1154 Serving breakfast during the day, and reopening at 11:30PM for the night.
  • Otxoa c/Lersundi, 8 tel. 94-424-1848
  • Albergue Bilbao [15]. Ctra Basurto-Kastrexana, 70 tel. 94 427 0057 a youth hostel with 48 rooms (22 double rooms). A bit of a journey away from the center, but connected by bus.
  • There are many inexpensive Pensions in the Casco Viejo
  • NH Palacio de Oriol [16]. Avda. Cristobal Murrieta, 27, 48980 Santurce, Bilbao, Tel. +34 94 4934100, Fax. +34 94 4837890. Located in a brilliant location, overlooking the Abra Bay, the hotel occupies a palace built in 1902. If this is out of your price-range, or full, there are two other NH hotels in Bilbao [17].
  • Carlton, Plaza Moyua 2. Five stars. Tel: +34 94 416 2200
  • Melia Bilbao, Lehendakari Leizaola 29. Five stars. Tel: +34 94 428 0000
  • Miró Hotel, Alameda Mazarredo 77. Four stars. Tel: +34 94 661 1880
  • Barceló Nervión, Campo Volantin 11. Tel: +34 94 445 4700
  • Conde Duque, Campo Volatin 22. Three stars. Tel: +34 94 445 6000
  • You can have a pleasant stay at the Abba Hoteles [18]. This is a chain of 4* hotels, and here you can find a quite rare 3* Abba hotel. It's quite near the Bus Terminal, very near to the metro and quite near to the Guggenheim museum, at calle Rodriguez Arias 66, 48013 Bilbao (Tel: +34 94 441 3100, Fax: +34 94 442 2197). Expensive breakfast.

Stay Safe

With a rate of only 33.4 crimes per 1000 inhabitants, the Basque Country has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe.

Crime rates however can vary significantly between rural and urban areas, even if urban areas are not particularly dangerous. Avoid San Francisco area. Violent crime is extremely rare, but the usual precautions will keep you out of any problems.

If you find any signs of vandalism, don't be alarmed.

It is advisable not to wear any Spanish symbols. Spain national football (soccer) tops, Spanish flags or Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid club paraphernalia are best avoided. Alhough no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, some people might be upset about them.

Take into account that Basque Country inhabitants are divided amongst those who support independence and others who support union with Spain. If speaking to strangers, avoid political topics as it can cause upset or offend.

  • Balmaseda Charming town an hour from Bilbao
  • Guernica - Gernika -- Basque stronghold town, bombed by the Nazis during the Spanish Civil War. Inspired Guernica by Picasso in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid.
  • Sopelana Town near the beach.
  • Portugalete Take the Transporter Bridge from Getxo to this charming town.
  • Plentzia Another town near the beach.
  • Getxo Very nice walk along the coast, from the bridge to Sopelana. More than 10 km long.
  • San Juan de Gaztelugatxe -- Small chapel situated on a breathtaking island between Bilbao and Bermeo.
This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BILBAO, formerly sometimes written Bilboa, the capital of the province of Biscay, in northern Spain; in 43° 15' N. and 2° 45' W.; on the river Nervion on Ansa (in Basque Ibaizabal), and about 8 m. inland from the Bay of Biscay. Pop. (1900) 83,306. Bilbao is one of the principal seaports of Spain, and the greatest of Basque towns. It occupies a small but fertile and beautiful valley, shut in by mountains on every side except towards the sea, and containing the fortified haven of Portugalete, the industrial town of Baracaldo, and the villages of Santurce and Las Arenas, where the Nervion broadens to form the Bay of Bilbao at its mouth. Bilbao comprises two distinct parts, ancient and modern. The new town lies on the left bank, while the old town rises on the right in terraces. Communication across the river is afforded by five bridges, of which the oldest, San Antonio, is of stone, and dates from the 14th century. The houses in the principal streets are built of hewn stone, and are several storeys high, with projecting eaves that give shelter from both sun and rain. Many of the streets in the old town are very narrow, and have an appearance of cleanliness and quiet. For a long time no carts or carriages were permitted to enter the city for fear of polluting and injuring the pavement, and the transport of goods was carried on in hand-carts. But after 1876 entirely new districts were mapped out on the left bank of the Nervion. Fine broad streets, splendid squares and public gardens, hotels, villas, palatial new public buildings and numerous schools came into existence. The part of the town on the right bank is, however, still the great. centre of business, the narrow streets containing the best shops. There, too, are the banks, the town hall, the theatre, the principal clubs, and the principal churches, including that of Santiago, which dates from the 14th century. In and around Bilbao there are more than thirty convents and monasteries, and at Olaveaga, about a mile off, is the Jesuit university, attended by 850 students. Public education is not, however, entirely in the hands of the priesthood and nuns; there are an institute, a normal school to train teachers, a school of arts and handicrafts, a nautical school and numerous public primary schools for both sexes.

Few Spanish cities grew so rapidly in size, importance and wealth as Bilbao in the latter half of the 19th century. Its first bank was founded in 18J7; its first railway (Bilbao-Tudela) opened in 1863. Thenceforward, despite the check it received from the Carlist rebellion of 1870-1876, and the contemporaneous decline of its wool and shipbuilding industries, its prosperity increased steadily. The population, 17,649 in 1870, rose to 50,734 in 1887, 74,076 in 1897, and 83,306 in 1900. This development was due principally to the growth of the mining and metallurgical industries. From a very early period, as the Old English word bilbo, " a sword," attests, Bilbao was celebrated for the excellent quality of its steel blades; in modern times it. was the natural headquarters of the important steel and iron trades of the Basque Provinces. Hence it became the centre of a network of railway lines unsurpassed in Spain. The harbour works board, constituted in 1877, improved the river channel and the bar; made wharves and embankments; lighted the lower reaches of the river by electricity, so as to allow vessels to enter by night; and constructed a breakwater and counter-mole outside the bar of the river Nervion, between Santurce, Portugalete and the opposite headland at the village of Algorta, so as to secure deep anchorage and easy access to the river. The first dry dock was constructed in 1896; in 1905 it was supplemented by another, the largest in Spain. The exports are chiefly iron; the imports coal; large quantities of wine from Navarre and the Ebro valley are also sent abroad, and the importation of timber of all kinds from Scandinavia and Finland, and coastwise from Asturias, is of great importance. In the coasting trade the exports are mostly pig-iron, codfish and some products of local industries and agriculture. The shipping at Bilbao is mainly Spanish, owing to the multitude of small vessels employed in the coasting trade; but from 1880 onwards the majority of foreign ships were British. In 1904, 3319 vessels of 2,267,957 tons were accommodated at Bilbao; more than 2000 were Spanish and nearly 700 British. In the same year new harbour works and lighting arrangements were undertaken on a large scale, and a movement was initiated for the revival of shipbuilding. Besides the mining and metallurgic industries, Bilbao has breweries, tanneries, flour mills, glass works, brandy distilleries, and paper, soap, cotton and mosaic factories.

Bilbao, or Belvao, as it was often called, was founded by Don Pedro Lopez de Haro about 1300, and soon rose into importance. It was occupied by the French in 1795, and from 1808 to 1813; and in 1835 and 1874 it was unavailingly besieged by the Carlists.

<< Bilaspur

Bilbeis >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. The major city in the Basque Country of northern Spain.



Proper noun


  1. Bilbao

Simple English

File:Bilbao Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons Puppy in The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Bilbao is a city in the Basque Country, in the North of Spain. There are 350,000 people living in Bilbao. In Bilbao is the Nervión river, which ends in the Bay of Biscay.

Bilbao was a industrial city, but today it is a tourist city. There are many things to see in Bilbao:

  • Guggenheim Museum (Modern Art)
  • Bellas Artes Museum (Fine Art)
  • University of Deusto
  • Metro Bilbao (Bilbao's Underground)
  • Bilbao's Town Hall
  • Arriaga Theatre
  • Casco Viejo (Old City)
  • St. Jacob's Cathedral
  • Virgin Begoña's Basilic
  • Gran Vía (Great Avenue)
  • Plaza del Sagrado Corazón (Christ's Holy Heart Square)
  • San Mamés stadium

Other pages

  • Vitoria-Gasteiz

Other websites


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address