Fun things to do in Bilbao

  • Guggenheim Museum & Puppy
    by JessieLang
  • Colourful glazing.
    Colourful glazing.
    by pfsmalo
  • Part of the University buildings.
    Part of the University buildings.
    by pfsmalo

Most Viewed Things to Do in Bilbao

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    Have a Snack in the Café Iruña

    by DanielF Updated Dec 5, 2007

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    The Café Iruña is a real institution in Bilbao. It was founded by a businessman hailing from Pamplona (Iruña is the Basque version of that city) on the day of Saint Firmin of 1903.

    The interior is decorated with Andalusian azulejos (decorative tiles) and stucco panels and wooden fans in a Neo-mudéjar fashion, a work by Joaquín Rucoba, who was also responsible for the Arab Hall in the City Hall.

    Since its opening, the café has always been visited by the most famous citizens of Bilbao and it is still usually crowded with locals who enjoy the excellent pintxos offered in the menu.

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    Arachnophobes beware

    by DanielF Updated Dec 5, 2007

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    The Mama spider is the museum's second pet (after Puppy), who was there since the opening. It was placed in 2001 on the promenade that faces the river. It is 10 metre tall and makes part of the series of giant oneiric spiders by Louise Bourgeois, which are spread across the planet.

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    Greet Puppy

    by DanielF Updated Dec 5, 2007

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    In front of the Museum's main entrance, a giant flower-bedecked 'Puppy' welcomes the visitors. This work of Jeff Koons, with a sophisticated internal watering system, is a floral composition which employs more than 40 000 plants. They are substituted twice a year (in May and October) using different kinds of plants (pansies, begonias…) that guarantee the colour explosion during the length of the year.

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    Admire bourgeoise architecture in Bilbao

    by DanielF Updated Dec 5, 2007

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    The last part of Gran Vía and the area around the Doña Casilda Park are full of bourgeois residential buildings from the turn of the century: whimsical pieces of architecture in the form of grandiloquent urban palaces inspired, among other sources, by the stately homes of the rural aristocracy of North Spain. When they were built, this was the edge of the city and it felt much less busy than it is today.

    Some of the most outstanding examples are the so-called Houses of Ramón de la Sota (sponsored by that industrialist), which are a work of Manuel María Smith in the Montañés Regionalist style; and the House Lezama-Leguizamon, by Ricardo Bastida and José María Basterra.

    House Lezama Leguizamon

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    Climb the La Salve Bridge

    by DanielF Updated Dec 5, 2007

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    Officially, this bridge is called Bridge of the Princes of Spain, but every body calls it La Salve bridge. The reason behind that name is that it is from this very point that seafarers returning to Bilbao could see the gable of the Begoña Basilica on top of the Artagan Mount for the first time and they then started to sing the Salve Regina as sign of devotion.

    It was opened in the 1970s as the first cable suspended bridge in Spain. The Guggenheim Museum was designed in a way that it seems to make a single body with the bridge, as sone of the exhibition halls are built right below it.

    The views from the bridge are awesome, particularly on the museum. You can take the lift on the Campo Volantín Avenue to the top of the bridge, from where the view is impressive, particularly on the Museum.

    With the occasion of the Guggenheim Museum's 10th anniversary in 2007, the bridge has been refurbished and painted in red, following a project by the artist Daniel Buren. The bridge, which in a way has always been part of the museum building, is considered now as one more of the works including in its collection.

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    Check the Navy Delegation Building

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    Another interesting eclectic building on the Square designed by Manuel María Smith is the Navy Delegation in Biscay. The building, inspired in the Beaux-Arts style, served originally as the headquarters for the Sota and Aznar shipbuilding company, one of the most important in the city.

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    Relax in the Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    Dª Casilda de Iturrizar was the widow of a prosperous businessman from Bilbao, Mr Epalza, in the 19th century. She was a well-known philanthropist and maecenas of the arts. The thankful citizens of Bilbao erected a monument to her memory on the Plaza Federico Moyúa, which was transferred later to the city's main park. This was named subsequently after her, but many people in town simply call it the Park of the Ducks.

    The Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park is the main green area in central Bilbao. It is a garden à l'anglaise projected in the early 20th century, with well kept green lawns, a pond, sculptures of different styles and several paths.

    Pergola and fountain

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    Walking Tour II: In the Heart of Abando

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    When the available land on the right bank of the Nervión was over, the city needed to expand on the opposite bank, in the lands of the rival town of Abando. A large urban plan, based upon de ideas developed by Ildefons Cerdà in the Eixample of Barcelona, was designed by Severino de Achúcarro, author of some of the most noteworthy buildings in the city, and the engineers Pablo de Alzola and Ernesto de Hoffmeyer.

    As in Barcelona, the Bilbao Ensanche is characterized by long straight streets disposed in a grid patternformed by large truncated-square blocks. In the centre, they placed a large eliptical square (Plaza Federico Moyúa), crossed by the main and largest avenue in the city: the Gran Vía López de Haro. Other three smaller avenues (Ercilla, Elcano and Recalde) cross at the square and traverse the district diagonally.

    Since the start, the prosperous bourgeoisie escaped the congested Casco Viejo and moved to the Ensanche, where soon urban palaces and imposing bank buildings appeared.

    The Ensanche is an area of great architectural value, where all the tendencies of the 20th are represented with pieces of extreme interest: neo-basquist regionalism, eclecticism, rationalism, historicism, art deco, expressionism and many others are the styles that you can see walking through the long streets of Abando.

    Saint Vincent Square Buenos Aires Street

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    Cross the City Hall Bridge

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    Across the river, on Venezuela Square, you can find some of the finest buildings from the 20th century Bilbao.

    The former headquarters of the shipping company Aznar host today municipal offices. This work of Galíndez and Chapa combines a classical façade on the square with the reminiscence of a ship's bow on the side facing the river.

    In front of it, the white building which used to host the headquarters of Aviación y Comercio are another of the works of Pedro Ispizua.

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    Take the Begoña Elevator

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    From Esperanza Street, behind the Arenal, the historic elevator of Begoña will save you to climb the 43 metres of height to the district of Begoña.

    This concrete structure is an expressionist work of Rafael Fontán from 1943 and, although it has seen better times, it is still the funniest way to climb to the Artaban Hill to enjoy the panorama or to visit the sanctuary of Begoña.

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    Go to the Circular Square

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    At the end of Navarra Street, you will reach the Circular Square, with a statue of don Diego López de Haro at its centre, a work by Marià Benlliure, the best Spanish sculptor of the 19th century. This sculpture was originally placed in the New Square.

    The Circular Square is surrounded by several bank buildings, among which the headquarters of the BBVA bank is the most impressive. This skyscraper erected in 1969 by Enrique Casanueva, Jaime Torres and José Manuel Chapa is still, with 85 metres, the highest building in Bilbao (and second highest in the Basque Country). A new building is, however, being erected in the Abandoibarra area which, when completed, will almost double its height. The Banco de Vizcaya was the owner of the building until it merged with Banco de Bilbao, creating the BBV in 1988. In the year 2000 the BBV merged with Argentaria, creating BBVA, which is the second largest bank in Spain in terms of assets. The building can be seen from everywhere in the city and changes in colour as the night falls over the city.

    The Plaza Circular is the starting point for several of the main arteries of Bilbao: the Gran Vía, de prestige avenue in the Ensanche, the Hurtado de Amézaga Street, which leads to Plaza Zabálburu, and the Buenos Aires Streets, which leads to the City Hall Bridge.

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    Admire the Panorama of La Naja Quay

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    La Naja Quay is a number of buildings on the left bank of the Nervion with an arcaded promenade and flanked by two towers. They constitute one of the most peculiar images of the industrial Bilbao. Like the rest of the area, most of the buildings have been recently renovated or are going to be refurbished soon.

    The tall building in the front was the first highrise in Bilbao and people still call it the Skyscraper of Bailén Street, even if,with only 43 metres, its height seems quite ridiculous, but it was the tallest building in town until the BBVA tower was erected and also one of the tallest in Spain at the time. It is a 1946 of Manuel Ignacio Galíndez, one of the best Bilbaino architects in the 20th century.

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    Visit the Albia Gardens

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    Not far from the Gran Via, the immaculately kept Albia Gardens are one of the most pleasant corners of Abando. It is just a gardened square surrounded by some of the finest buildings in this part of the city.

    They are decorated with two sculptures of two important characters who lived on this square: the writer Antonio Trueba, and the politician Sabino Arana, founder of the Basque Nationalist Party. The headquarters of this party are still on this square, in Sabin Etxea, a modern building on the site of Arana's former birth house.

    Some of the favourite cafés with Bilbainos are also located on this square: the traditional Café Iruña and the Kafe Antzokia, on the site of a former theatre, with interesting cultural performances.

    Antonio Trueba Monument Sabino Arana Monument and Sabin Etxea

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    Watch Abstract Sculpture

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    In front of the City Hall, you will find the only work of Jorge Oteiza in Bilbao: it is a reproduction at large scale of the work Ovoid Variant of the Decomposition of the Sphere, a good representative of his work.

    Jorge Oteiza is one of the main modern Basque artists and pioneer of abstract sculpture in Spain, having been responsible for the sculptures of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu. He is also author of the essay Quosque tandem!, where he tries to interpret the aesthetics of the Basque soul.

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    Attend a Recital in the Euskalduna Palace

    by DanielF Updated Dec 4, 2007

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    The Festival and Congress Hall of Bilbao was built on the grounds of a former shipyard called Euskalduna, name which is still used. It is a work of Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios and was opened in 1999.

    According to the ship building tradition of Bilbao and of that site in particular, the building was designed to resemble (vaguely, in my view) a ship. It is covered by panels of Corten Steel, which try to increase the appearance of oxidised iron of ships under construction.

    Unlike the Guggenheim Museum, where the container seems to me much more worth than the content, the Euskalduna Palace is a true jewel in its interior, particularly the great auditorium with excellent acoustics.

    The Euskalduna is home to the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra.

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