Best Sights of Bilbao

Bilbao is the business capital of the Basque region and its Guggenheim is its new symbol. Here are some of the best sights in the city.

The Guggenheim Museum - American architect Frank Gehry designed this avant-garde building with a skin of titanium. The museum opened in 1997 and became a landmark immediately and the symbol of the city. Outside the museum there is a giant topiary of a puppy, designed by the American artist Jeff Koons, and this is about 30 feet tall. The topiary is made of flowers of different colors. This puppy is very unique, something beautiful and something to remember.

The building is huge and there are 3 stories, with very high ceilings. The ceiling for the first floor is about 50 feet high. This allows the museum to display huge works of art. One area of the first floor is dedicated to huge steel sculptures of Richard Serra. They are formed like huge cylinders, like the insides of sea shells and one walks inside the sculptures. The museum is located by the river and it has magnificent views of the outside, of the river and the mountain. The museum has huge glass walls and windows, which let in a lot of light. On the 2nd and 3rd floors, there are bridges that join the different salons. This gives the viewer very impressive views.

The rest of the museum has very modern art, dating from about 1945. It includes abstract expressionism art and pop art. They is a huge Andy Warhol mural of Marilyn Monroe’s face reproduced many times and it covers about 50 feet of the wall. There are several large Rauschenburg paintings. Other artists are Louise Bourgeois and Chillida.

Museo de Bellas Artes - The museum has a beautiful old building, which houses the collection from the middle ages to the 19th century. There is a modern annex, which contains the modern collection. The museum is one of the most important fine art museums in Spain and it has the biggest collection of famous Basque artists. The paintings and the sculptures are grouped by time, so it is easy to understand them. Of particular interest are the large marble sculptures in the form of nudes from the beginning of the 20th century. This museum combines the collections of the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts (1908) and the Museum of Modern Art (1924). Today the museum has art from the 12th century to the present day. Among the prominent Basque artists displayed are Regoyos, Zuloaga, and Echevarria. There are more than 6000 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, and decorative art.

Museum of Basque Archaeology, Ethnography and History - This regional museum shows the history of the Basque people and is located in a Baroque building in the old part of town. The exhibits show the lifestyles of the Basques from their origins to the present day.

Diocesan Museum of Religious Art -This museum is located in the Encarnacion Church, which is a Dominican convent dating from the 16th century. There is a very large collection of silverware and sacred art in the museum, dating from Romanesque times to the present.

Santiago Cathedral - The church is the city's oldest building and dates from the end of the 14th century. Santiago (St. James) has been the patron saint of Bilbao since 1643. The style is Gothic and has a neogothic tower and an impressive portico. There are three naves with ogive vaulted ceilings. The choir stalls and cloister are impressive. There is an interesting crypt. The church has two facades, one Renaissance and the other neoclassic. Its tower and main façade, in Neogothic style, were designed by Severino de Achucarro and finished in 1887. What is impressive about the cathedral is that it is very clean and the many stained glass windows are beautiful and extremely impressive. There is a square in front of the church that displays an elegant fountain designed by Luis Paret.

Begoña Basilica - The church is built over an old shrine where the Virgin Mary was supposed to have appeared in the 16th century. The church is Gothic in design and dates from 1519. The facade is Renaissance, with a large arch. It contains the statue of the Virgin Mary, La Amatxo (La Virgen de Begoña), to whom the city has a great devotion. The altarpiece is neoclassic in design and one can see the Camarin (chamber) of the Virgin. There is a bell tower from the early 20th century.

Zubizuri Bridge - This is a white bridge over the Nervion River that links the Campo Volantin right bank and the Uribitarte left bank. The architect is the famous Santiago Calatrava, and the bridge is painted white, which is his trademark. This is a suspension bridge that is located near the Guggenheim Museum. Zubizuri is the Basque word for white bridge.

Mercado de la Ribera Market - The market was built in 1929 and covers 10,000 square meters, making it the largest indoor market in Europe. The location is in the old town, beside the Bilbao Estuary. The design is unique because sunlight comes from the top and filters through the floors, built of a translucent material.

City Hall - This building was finished in 1892 and is by the bank of the river. The architect was Joaquin Rucoba. The building is very elegant and highly ornamented. There is an Arab Room that is extraordinary, the work of Jose Soler, who painted the room in imitation marble, wood, and ivory.

Palacio de la Diputación - The Vizcaya Regional Government occupies this building, which was finished in 1900 by the architect Luis Alarden. There are large windows in the facade and there is a big balcony over the main entrance. The interior is decorated in an impressive style. There is a big and very impressive staircase. The building also has important paintings by 19th century artists.

San Nicolas Church - This church was built in 1743 with a Baroque style and the floor plan is octagonal. San Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors. The impressive altarpieces and sculptures were done by the renowned artist Juan de Mena.

San Vicente Martyr Church - This church is a Gothic church from the 16th century. There is a Renaissance facade with a triumphal arch and it has an impressive and large altarpiece.

Deusto University - The Literary University is the oldest building and dates from 1886, the work of the Marquis de Cubas, in the classical style. There are two impressive cloisters and a grand staircase, a Gothic chapel, the Paraninfo Room and library.

Arriaga Theater -This theater was inspired by the Paris Opera House and finished in 1890, the architects being Joaquin Rucoba and Octavio de Toledo. It is named after Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga, a local composer, and his bust is found at the imperial staircase. The facade is a mixture of many styles. The theater is used for opera, ballet, concerts, and theater.

Doña Casilda Park - This park downtown is beside the Museo de Bellas Artes and it was built in 1907. The architect was Ricardo Bastida and the engineer was Juan de Eguiraun. There is a pond with ducks, a dancing waters fountain, and a stage for performances. The Bellas Artes Museum has a cafe that overlooks the park. This park is a favorite promenade for people with children.