"Come and explore Bilbao with Suvanki" Top 5 Page for this destination Bilbao by suvanki

Bilbao Travel Guide: 850 reviews and 2,215 photos

Bilbao- Exploring the city

Bilbao had been on my list of places to see for quite a while.
Summer 2009, I found a chance to take advantage of cheap flights to follow part of Bruce Springsteens Spain leg of his European tour -I could fit in his concerts in Bilbao and Seville (which was high on my must see places list), I could also re-visit Santiago de Compostella for the last date of his European tour - then once I'd planned this I found there was a VT meet in Madrid. A great 12 day action packed trip!

Bilbao was even more interesting than I expected, with some hidden gems.
I arrived by bus from Santander (after flying from Liverpool to Madrid, then Madrid to Santander - not the most direct of routes but the times and prices suited me) late evening.
Next morning I was up early, ready to explore. I was here for 2 nights, so wanted to see as much as possible before I headed off to Seville.

My tips are in the order that I walked around the city, so come with me and discover Bilbao ...........

Bilbo and Euskadi

Bilbao is located in the Basque region, on the Atlantic coast,

In the Basque language, the Basque Country is known as Euskadi or Euskal Herria (Land of the Basque Speakers)
Pais Vasco in Spanish and Le Pays Basque in French.
Bilbao is known as Bilbo in the Basque Language, or Boxto, which means the hole- (due to it being wedged in by the hills of Vizcaya (Biscay) Province, and divided by the River of Bilbao

The Basque region is found in the North East of Spain. Bordered to the North by the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay, to the east - France, La Rioja (the Ebro River) to the south and the Cantabrian and Burgos provinces to the West
It consists of the provinces of Gipuzkoa, Araba and Bizkaia (Guipuzcoa, Alava and Vizcaya in Catalan).

Although Bilbao is the largest city of this region, Viotoria- Gasteiz is the capital. Bilbao is the capital of the Biscay province.

The name of the city may come from "bel vado"which is the ancient Spanish for "good river crossing" or it may have originated from the Basque bi albo, which translates as two river banks".

Bilbao is probably the most re-invented city in Spain. Known formerly for being a prosperous Industrial city, where Ship building yards, Chemical plants and steelworks provided an income for the residents, it also attracted unwanted attention through history for this. It particularly suffered during the Spanish Civil War in retribution for siding with the Republican Government. Bilbao defended itself by an 'Iron Belt' around the city, comprising of heavy artillery, and a network of tunnels and bunkers. This was the brain child of an engineer-Goicoechea. . Surprisingly, it was his act of betrayal that led to the fall of Bilbao into the hands of Francos advancing troops on June 19th 1937.

Franco used his occupation of the Industrial region to aid Spains economy, with thousands of workers being drafted in from other areas of Spain to work in the factories and steelworks.
Bilbao still has an industrial backbone, but most of the heavy industry has been moved away.

Bilbao suffered an industrial crisis in the 1980's - Enlightened decisions were made to change Bilbao into a major Services and tourism centre

In 1989, the Strategic Plan for the Revitalization of Bilbao was initiated at the request of the Autonomous Basque Government, the Territorial Council of Biscay and the Bilbao Town Council. Funding was poured into a major Renovation and Urban regeneration programme.
Central to this was the construction of a transport network, including the Metro designed by Sir Norman Foster and tram lines (Euskotran). The airport was expanded in 2000, designed by the award winning Santiago Calatrava , it provides an eye catching sight for the increasing number of visitors being transported by European budget airlines.
The port area was cleared away from the river to the Bay of Biscay.
The old town , which was damaged by flooding in 1983, was cleaned up.
Probably the main attraction that put Bilbao on the map was the construction of the Guggenheim Musem by Frank Gehry, it is now one of Spains most visited attractions. More construction of concert venues, cultural centres, museums etc, plus the growth of the hotel and restaurant industries to accommodate the influx of tourists and business people to this interesting city

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Stylish city, Arty, Skillfully regenerated!
  • Cons:Some 'no-go' areas
  • In a nutshell:Well worth a visit - There's much more than the Guggenheim
  • Last visit to Bilbao: Jul 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (36)

Comments (8)

  • SWFC_Fan's Profile Photo
    Dec 27, 2012 at 3:19 AM

    Thanks for the comprehensive tour of Bilbao, Sue!
    It seems that there are plenty of things to see and do in between grazing at the city's many pintxos bars!
    It looks like the weather might be kind to us (or as kind as it can be in Bilbao in December!), so we'll walk around seeing as much as we can over the next 5 days!
    It's a shame that Athletic Bilbao don't have a game while we're there - I'd have loved to have gone to San Mames to cheer them on (despite their red and white stripes! ;-))

    • suvanki's Profile Photo
      Dec 27, 2012 at 4:49 AM

      You're Welcome! Thanks for the ratings ;-)
      Looking forward to reading all about it.
      Have a great time, despite not seeing a match!

  • SWFC_Fan's Profile Photo
    Jul 28, 2012 at 5:48 AM

    Hi Sue! Hope you're keeping well and enjoying the long-awaited summer! We are heading to Bilbao for a few days at New Year, so I'll come back for a more thorough read of your page closer to the time! :-)

    • suvanki's Profile Photo
      Dec 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Still traumatised by the Boxing Day Massacre at Hillsborough! Had to book night shift to go to the match, Dads car broke down on the way so arrived in time to see first goal against us ;-(
      No travel plans for the first time in years! My contract at work is due to finish December 2013, still waiting to hear if We've got an extension - so pulling the belt in tight!

    • SWFC_Fan's Profile Photo
      Dec 4, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      I was only 5 weeks old for the Boxing Day Massacre! It's been downhill ever since then! I once saw us throw away a 3 goal lead against Man United on Boxing Day - that was a cracking game!
      Good luck with the contract - hope you get the news you're looking for!

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jun 29, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    Sue, thanks for your great story and splendid pictures....

  • bijo69's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2009 at 2:58 PM

    Fantastic page Sue!!! I definitely regret now that I bypassed Bilbao when I was in the North of Spain...

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Sep 14, 2009 at 11:18 AM

    Excellent page!

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Aug 24, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    Looks like a lovely town to visit. Cheap airfare too - wow!

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo
    Aug 18, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    very useful tips you put up so far. hope you had a great concert there.

  • Balam's Profile Photo
    Aug 16, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    Great new page, i;m looking forward to some more.


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