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Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country and also the most important industrial and commercial center.|
The city is located at the mouth of the Ria de Bilbao in the Bay of Biscay. Its name probably comes from the Basque "bi albo", which means "two sides" and refers to the fact that Bilbao was built on both sides of the mouth.
The modern landmark of Bilbao is without doubt the Guggenheim Museum, which has been completed in 1997. We shall dedicate a special page to it.
In the very heart of thown there is the Mercado de la Ribera , popularly often just called "La Plaza" (the square). It is the largest indoor market hall of Europe and was built in 1929. The shops are open from Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to approx. 2 p.m.
The Old Town ("Casco Viejo", in basque Alde Zaharra) is the center of life in Bilbao with its numerous shops, bars and restaurants.
The lively Plaza Nueva ("new square", in basque Plaza Berria) dates from the 19th century. Under its arcades, there are many shops and restaurants. Every Sunday a flea market takes place here, and in summer there are often evening concerts and folklore performances.
Interesting is also the Plaza Eliptica ("elliptic square", in basque Plaza Moyua), with its Palacio de Chávarri (built in 1894).
Another beautiful palace from 19th century is the Palacio de la Diputación Foral de Vizcaya in the street Gran Via Bilbaina.
Also these following buildings are worth seeing: The town-hall of Bilbao , the stock market Bolsa de Bilbao, the new-baroque theater Teatro Arriaga , the modernisitic theater Teatro Campos Elíseos , and the University Universidad Deusto .
The most important religious buildings in Bilbao are: the Gothic cathedral Catedral de Santiago , from 14th century, the church Iglesia San Anton , also Gothic, with a Renaissance portal and a Baroque tower, the Basilica Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Begoña (in basque Begoñako Andra Maritxu) from 16th century, and the Baroque church Iglesia de San Nicolás from 18th century.
And also apart from the Guggenheim-Museum there are more examples of outstanding modern architecture in Bilbao:
The twin towers Torres Isozaki , a work of the japanese architect Arata Isozaki, which are over 80 meters high and are located on Paseo Uribitarte.
The bridge Zubizuri ("white bridge"), a work of the architect Santiago Calatrava which reminds of a bloated sail in the wind.
The subway Metro Bilbao with its no-frills, funcional design. The renowned architect Norman Foster designed some stations as well as two all-new subway lines, and he used almost exclusively the materials steel, concrete and glass.
Close to Bilbao, in Portugalete, there is the Puente Colgante de Vizcaya , the oldest funicular of the world which is still functional. This spectacular steel construction of the architect Alberto de Palacio y Elissague, a pupil of Gustav Eiffel, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Guggenheim-Museum - probably the best known museum of Bilbao, and the largest crowd puller.
The Museo de Bellas Artes ("Museum of Fine Arts") is among the most important of all Spain, among others there are works of El Greco, Bacon, Goya, Zurbaran, Murillo, Zuloaga, Sorolla, Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Dyck, Dali, Chillida and Tapies.
The Maritime Museum Museo Marítimo Ría de Bilbao shows us the importance of the Basque shipyards. On exhibition are both ships and many models.
The Basque Museum (Museo Vasco, in basque Euskal Museoa) deals specifically with the history of the Basque Country. Every Thursday the entrance is free.
In the Museo de Reproducciones you find strikingly realistic copies of known masterpieces in their original format.
Some more hints
Pintxos (skewers): Pintxos are small snacks, comparable to the "tapas" which are known from other parts of Spain. Usually they are artfully presented at the bar, and customers serve themselves. Inside there are small skewers (hence the name), often of different lengths, which are then counted by the waiter when you ask for the bill.
Also recommended is a ride on the Funicular de Artxanda on a hill where you may relax and enjoy the magnificent view.