Bilbao is a lively city with a lot to show you. Why not make the most of your attendance at the IWA-Digital Water Summit by discovering its charms? You can take a walk and appreciate its architectural works, which represent the history of Bilbao, but you can also discover what gives life to the city.
In this section you will find recommendations about several places to visit and things to do during your stay in Bilbao.
This building, designed by Frank Gehry, symbolises a ship anchored on the banks of the Nervión and is located on the land where the former ‘Compañía de Maderas’ (wood company) used to be settled. So, considered the best building of the second half of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum is the symbol of the city and its transformation process, since its presence radically modified the area and the image of the city.
The museum was opened in 1997 and it receives over 1 million visitors a year who want to contemplate the contemporary pieces of art distributed in its 20 galleries.
It is also worthwhile to take a walk around the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum since it is surrounded by many green areas and plazas, which have become an attractive meeting point for sociocultural activities and sports.
The Old Quarter, or The Seven Streets (Somera, Artecalle, Tendería, Belosticalle, Carnicería Vieja, Barrencalle and Barrencalle Barrena) is the oldest neighbourhood and the original core of Bilbao. It is declared a historic-artistic area since it is home to the Plaza Nueva and some of the most emblematic buildings in the city, such as the Arriaga Theater, the Bidebarrieta Library, the Stock Market, the Atxuri Station, and the Cathedral of Santiago. This is a commercial area made up of the presence of five hundred establishments, including the Mercado de la Ribera, the largest covered supply market in Europe. Since 1979, this area has been pedestrian.
As a result of the constant economic and social development of the city, the Villa de Bilbao has also been urbanised, overcoming the limits of the original core and creating the Ensanche. Today, this area acts as the financial and commercial centre of the city, and it contains a great diversity of architectural styles (modernist facades, functional buildings, baroque, neo-gothic, rationalist, mountain or Basque-style prints). This eclecticism is the result of the changes that Bilbao has experienced, which proves that it has always been a modern city of progress.
Within the Ensanche, you can discover the Abando Starion, famous for its huge stained glass window which describes the history and traditions of the city; the Concordia Station, an architectural gem which used to shine inside of that grey industrial Bilbao prior to the transformation; and other majestic buildings and palaces that adorn the Gran Vía de Bilbao.
During the transformation process initiated in the city at the end of the 20th century, architecture has been gaining relevance thanks to its role as the creator of the new Bilbao image: an innovative and contemporary city. Some of the recuperated or new buildings that shape the new features of Bilbao are:
Azkuna Zentroa – Alhóndiga Bilbao This modernist style building used to serve as a wine storehouse, which has been recuperated in order to become a huge space for culture and leisure. Inside, it is the Cultures Atrium, an impressive columns courtyard, whose roof is the transparent base of the swimming pool located in the Terrace of the Sun.
Isozaki Towers This space is located in the former Free Warehouse, a place dedicated to the transit of international goods trade. Isozaki is the name of the Japanese architect who wanted to make this 21st Century City Gate to connect the Ensanche and the Estuary, which consists of a grand stairway, inspired in the Plaza de España in Rome, and two 83-meter twin towers.
Frontón Bizkaia It is the largest pelota court in Euskadi, whose interior accommodates three facilities: Fronton de Mano, Trinkete and Kirol Etxea, the three sports federations. On weekends you can attend pelota games, a traditional Basque sport. In addition, in the area where it is located, Miribilla, you can find other modern infrastructures such as the “Bilbao Arena” Sports Palace.
Basque gastronomy has achieved a good reputation internationally, and pintxos are its best representation. Therefore, when you are in Bilbao, do not miss the opportunity to go out for pintxos, which means snacking from bar to bar, the best places where locals meet their friends.
Some areas to go for pintxos are: Casco Viejo, with more than 200 establishments; Poza Street, a street full of bars that heads to the San Mamés football stadium; Diputación, the centre of the pintxo route; and Mercado de la Ribera, one of the most special areas of Bilbao due to its combination of market and gastropubs.
Besides enjoying the pintxos, you cannot leave Bilbao without tasting its famous wine, txakoli. This white wine, which was originally produced in the hamlets, has become a valuable international wine thanks to the professionalization of its production.
Thanks to the transformation process, Bilbao has been recovering green areas, both in urban and forest parks. The forest parks are connected by the Green Ring of Bilbao, where you can walk the Great Route of Bilbao (GR), which goes through the Artxanda, Monte Avril, Arnotegi, Pagasarri and Arraiz parks. From there, you can have the best pictures of the Bilbao skyline.
Bilbao is located in a privileged area near to the beach, natural areas, and other historical places. If you want to get the most out of your visit to Bilbao, go and discover places like the coast, the mediaeval villages, and their natural spaces.
Even though this sounds like a summer season plan, do not miss the seductive landscapes of the beaches near Bilbao. Surfers around the world love them! Get there by taking just the metro.
Near to Bilbao, you can find great heritage beauties which have been testimonies of Bilbao’s history. In these villages, you can visit religious places from different epochs, take a walk down the narrow cobblestone streets, and see farmhouses and luxurious palaces.
An example of the mining history of Bilbao is the Arboleda, a town where iron ore used to be extracted and which is currently being transformed into a recreational area. In recent years, progress has been made on the environmental, landscape, historical, and cultural recovery. To access its environment, it is recommended to use the funicular towards La Reineta neighborhood. On the journey, the funicular, which dates back to 1926, gives you the chance to enjoy beautiful views over the Abra de Bilbao.