Last week I spent 4 days in Bilbao with friends from Spanish conversation group. We chose this city because it is only 2 hours flight from Amsterdam. And unlike most tourists who prefer to visit Madrid, Barcelona or Sevilla, we wanted to explore another Spanish city.
Bilbao is a capital of Basque region in north of Spain. Basque is the official language together with Spanish. I will write another post about Basque region and its people.
Bilbao has approximately 350.000 inhabitants. Its climate is mild due to its location which is surrounded by hills. River Nervión runs through it, dividing this vibrant but yet cozy city into the modern and old parts.
Built in 1300 Bilbao consisted only of the Cathedral de Santiago Bilbao and three streets. This area is now known as Casco Viejo or Siete Calles (seven streets). I slept in this medieval quarter.
After numerous wars, floods and industrial revolution, local government expanded the city with Gran Via (the main boulevard). As soon as Spanish civil war started in 1936, Bilbao became the capital of Basque government. Basque people were against Franco. He in turn punished them by giving Nazi and Mussolini’s army permission to destroy the city during the war.
Bilbao got an enormous boost in its image and beauty by the arrival of the Guggenheim Museum. This museum was opened in 1998. Since then Bilbao has explored and provided space for modern architecture.
Zubizuri bridge, an arch form bridge built by architect Santiago Calatrava. It was once despised by the locals, now it is one of the city landmarks.
My friends and I walked a lot. We strolled along the river Nervión and notices the gradually change of the atmosphere, from tiny old apartments to office buildings and design apartments.
I highly recommend to explore the city by foot. The walking paths are wide, there are numerous benches where you can rest. My friends thought of hiring a bike but we did not do it. I prefer to walk instead cause Bilbao is hilly.
Plaza Nueva, the biggest plaza in Bilbao. This building is called Euskaltzaindia, The Royal Academy of the Basque Language.
Should you need to take the public transport, busses, metro and tram are cheap and clean. One way ticket costs € 1,50. The metro has only two lines. From the Bilbao airport the shuttle bus Bizkaibus leaves once in 30 minutes to the city center and vice versa. The 15 minutes ride costs € 1,40. Prices are from May 2014.
Me encanta Bilbao, I love Bilbao. The city, the people, the food and the weather are lovely. It is one of the safest cities in Spain. The prices are lower compared to those of Barcelona, Madrid and Sevilla. I believe I will be back someday.
Ayuntamiento de Bilbao
Spanish map is courtesy of Studyabroad.