9 Reasons Why Bilbao, Spain Tourism Is Worth 149M Euros – Bay of Biscay 2

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The Port of Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain

With more than 700 years of history, the Port of Bilbao which is located on the Bilbao Abra Bay (an inlet of the Bay of Biscay) is one of the most important transport centers in the European Atlantic circle. It has commercial services for all types of trading and the gateway to Europe commercial markets. In the 1900s, it was the largest in Spain. As the years come and go, larger ships could not anymore navigate the estuary. The port lost its importance. Its facilities began to develop outside the estuary (15 km. west of Bilbao) and are now known as Exterior Port and Superpuerto. Port of Bilbao is the 4th busiest in Spain. Aside of cargo, bulk and crude carriers, it is also an important entry point of cruise ships.

About Bilbao:

Bilbao which is in the Basque region of northern Spain has been around since the 1300s. The Basque (or Euskotarek) is a tribe living in both Spain and France that borders the Bay of Biscay and along the foot of the Pyrenees mountain ranges. Located on the banks of the Nervion River, Bilbao is the capital of Basque community. In the 16th-19th centuries, the industrial revolution made Bilbao the center of manufacturing activity in Spain. But when the Spanish Civil War reached the city in the 1930s, it suffered a decline. However, as the city was rebuilt after World War II, its iron ore industry was also resurrected. Ironically, a terrorist group, Euskada Ta Astratasuna (ETA) also made a debut at this time in Bilbao’s history. Although it had an economic boom until the 1980s, the region’s terrorist problem led to its devastating economic downturn. Bilbao really began to recover financially in the 1990s. It was the era when this Basque city really made quite an effort to transform into a service-oriented megapolis. It picked up its paintbrush from a gravely port city into a palette of esthetic coolness, brushed with Basque pride. Such hard work paid off when the Academy of Urbanism named Bilbao as “European City of the Year” in 2018.

Map showing Bilbao, Spain

As a tourist destination, Bilbao made a noise to the international scene in 1997. That was the time when the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was opened. It was also in that era when we arrived at its harbor via Knock Dun. The Guggenheim is a museum of modern art designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. I tell you what, this is the most photographed and prettiest building then of the 20th century. Just like the Catalonian region of Spain, Bilbao as a Basque community has its own identity, language and culture. However it also co-exist with its motherland’s Spanish culture and language. Most of the residents speak Euskara (Basque) and Castellano. Is Bilbao worth visiting? A resounding yes. Besides Guggenheim, tourists flock here because of the culture and food. Here are 9 reasons why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros.

The face that launched a thousand ads: Guess, Bulgari, H&M, Zara, Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani…is from Bilbao, Spain. The Spanish actor and international model Jon Kortajarena.

Guggenheim Museum, The “Miracle of Bilbao”

A true architectural sensation and a reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M eurosGuggenheim Museum. Designed by the internationally commended Canadian Frank Gehry, this is a museum of contemporary art in Bilbao. It is located along the Nervion River. Too esthetic to miss, it can easily be recognized since it has a very splendid facade. It is almost a piece of art. Since its inauguration in 1997, it played an important part in the formation of Bilbao‘s economic boom. Many tourists poured into the city, fueling its economy. It shifted away from its declining industry such as iron, steel and ship building into a service-focused city. Well, if you are not a fan of art, then just a selfie outside the building is already worth it. As you approach to Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, you just can’t help but be amazed at this piece of architectural wonder. It has been nicknamed “the world’s largest toy.”

Inside Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

Mercado de la Ribera in Art-Deco Style

At the southern end of Bilbao‘s old town area is Europe’s biggest (10,000 sq. m.) indoor market – Mercado de la Ribera. It is a place where you can experience food shopping in an art-deco style.Recognized in 1990 as the most complete municipal food market in the world by the Guinness Book of Records. Mercado de la Ribera is a reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. Filled with the sound of jazz music inside, this market has all the ingredients of a refined gourmet. Built in 1929 of eclectic style, the interior is enveloped in light, stained glass and latticed windows. A truly functional market where you will find local fresh produce from the Vizcaya region complete with bars and restaurants.

Food shopping par excellence at Mercado de la Ribera.

Of Pintxos, Idiazabal Cheese and Bacalao al Pil-pil Experience

Pintxos with Idiazabal chesse.

The best way to discover Bilbao is to test its culinary culture. Food is a form of art in this side of the world and a reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. While you wander through its streets surrounded by the old and new, there is also a wide array of bars and restaurants in between. And it is in these gastronomic corners that will serve you the best of Basque cuisine. Just like in Santander, it is also normal in Bilbao to see bars serving you with their “tsikiteo” (local wine) with “pintxos.” (or pinchos as they say in Santander) They are local obsessions here. Cheese is also a Basque specialty. The Idiazabal type which is endemic in Bilbao is a flavorful sheep’s cheese. Another one of the region’s most famous gastronomic treat is the “bacalao al pil-pil.” It is a salted cod fish fried in olive oil and garlic until the skin becomes crispy. Don’t leave Bilbao without sampling these treats.

Bacalao al Pil-pil

Crossing Nervion River Via Unique Vizcaya and Zubizuri Bridges

The suspended Vizcaya Bridge.

Have you tried crossing a river on a suspended bridge before? Maybe not yet, but in Bilbao you can have the experience. Completed in 1893, it was the 1st bridge in the world that carries pedestrians and vehicles on a high suspended gondola. Vizcaya Bridge (Biskaiko Subiya) is a transporter or movable type that carries a span across the Nervion River. The oldest of its kind in the world which is still in use today, it truly is a mix of beauty and functionality. Vizcaya Bridge is a reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. Vizcaya Bridge was designed to take people and cars to the other side of the river without disrupting marine traffic at the Port of Bilbao. The Zubizuri Bridge on the other hand is a stunning arched pedestrian and bicycle foot bridge that also spans the Nervion River. Inaugurated at the same time when the Guggenheim was opened in 1997, this ethereal beauty of iron and steel is also a symbol of the “resurrected” Bilbao.

Zubizuri Bridge.

Immerse in Basque Culture

At the foot of the Pyrenees mountains lies an autonomous community, the Basque country of northern Spain and southern France. The Basque people have a unique culture, language and traditions distinct from that of their Spanish and French motherlands. They are the oldest ethnic groups in Europe and Basque (Euskera) is one of the oldest language that is still spoken in the 21st century. These proud people have also their unique festivals like the “Running of the Bulls” held every July in Pamplona, Spain. Pelota (once a popular indoor sport in the Philippines which was probably introduced by the Spaniards) originated in Bilbao and a Basque national sport. Imagine a mysterious, old culture that has survived modern technology of the present- this is Basque. A reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. You will have the chance to immerse yourself to the amazing lifestyle of the Basque nation.

The Stunning 43 Pillars of Azkuna Zentroa

Another pretty area for your selfies or groupies. The 43 pillars of Azkuna Zentroa, a cultural and leisure center is a reason why Bilbao, Spain is worth 149M euros. If you are fascinated by design this is a must-see place to visit. And don’t forget to look up when you are at the lobby. From there you can see the bottom of a rooftop swimming pool through a translucent glass. The 43 pillars that hold Azkuna symbolize the universality of culture that man has experienced throughout history.

The translucent rooftop swimming pool at Azkuna Zentroa.

Cosco Vieja, Bilbao’s Charming Old Town

Bilbao’s medieval area and once a fortified past of this city – Cosco Vieja. An area of incredible interest, this is the reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. Casco Viejo exudes Bilbao‘s true spirit that started 700 years ago. It was declared as a Historical and Artistic Heritage Site in 1972. Plaza Barria (or Plaza Nueva) in Cosco Vieja is a square surrounded by beautiful arcade-designed buildings. The main building was once the seat of the Biscay government. It is made up of 7 streets, Las Siete Calles and narrow alleys called “cantons” that connect to each street.

Pray at the Cathedral of St. James and Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari

Cathedral of St. James, The Apostle

Dedicated to St. James, The Apostle and patron saint of Bilbao since 1643, Cathedral of St. James is a Gothic-style wonder. It has 26 altars and is a place of pilgrimage. Santiago Cathedral, a reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. This church was also a silent witness to the history of Bilbao and site of important events. It was in this cathedral that St. Vincent Ferrer visited and preached in 1408. An architectural treasure which you can find at the heart of Cosco Viejo, this place of worship has an excellent facade. It also has a splendid interior to match. Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari on the other hand is situated at the northern part of Cosco Viejo. Consecrated in 1756 and dedicated to San Nicolas de Bari, the patron saint of sailors, we attended Mass here in 1997. Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari also played a special role in the history of Bilbao. This was the site chosen by the Juntas Generales of Biscay in the signing of the Cadiz Liberal Constitution in 1812. Don’t leave Bilbao without visiting the Gothic Church of Santiago Cathedral and the Baroque-style cathedral of Iglesia de San Nicolas.

Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari.

Explore Gaztelugatxe

Perched on the Biscay coast is the little island of Gaztelugatxe. You know it would just have been another dot of an island on the map if it is not of its stunning stone bridge that will take you up to the 241 stairs of the Church of the Knights Templar. (Christianity’s holy warriors in the Middle Ages) A reason why Bilbao, Spain tourism is worth 149M euros. Standing on a little rock, this hermitage was also featured in Game of Thrones Season 7 as Dragonstone. A popular tourist attraction in Bilbao, legend says that after climbing the stairs to the monastery, you should ring the bell of the Church’s door for 3x then make a wish and it will be granted. It’s also believed that Gaztelugatxe has been visited by Saint John the Baptist. The Church at the top of the island was dedicated to his name. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a definite must-see when you are visiting Bilbao.

After seeing 10 coastal cities and harbors (including Tenerife and Gran Canaria) I think I am not that obsessed with Spain after all. But then it was here in Bilbao that I was attracted to the unique aura of the city. Now I understand why everyone is so “loca” (or erotu in Basque) about Spain. Bilbao is a great jewel of the Basque country. I’ve to say “adios” now or in Basque language,“agur, beriro kustea espero dut”. “Hasta la vista” again Bilbao, maybe someday. This was the last Spanish harbor that we’ve been to. We’ll still be sailing along the rough Bay of Biscay to the French border. Nous voila France.

Reference: Wikipedia