Bilbao Travel Guide


Bilbao, of the northern Biscay Region of Spain, is located on the river Nervión.  It is a cultured and modern, cosmopolitan, University City that offers the visitor much in the way of music, fiestas, sightseeing and adventure.

Bilbao is the capital of the Biscay Province, but it was not always important.  It began as a small fishing village at the mouth of the Nervión river estuary.   There were, apart from the fisherman and farmers a few nobles but nothing was particularly notable about this little village until the beginning of the 14th century when the Lord of Biscay, Diego López de Haro, known as ‘The Intruder’, founded what we now know as Bilbao through a municipal charter, giving it the rights and privileges which were to lay the foundation for its industrial development.  In 1602 it became the capital of the Biscay region and the city began a period of wealth exporting the iron ore mined in the surrounding hills, to England, the Netherlands and the Mediterranean.

Over the centuries Bilbao has had its ups and downs and suffered many incursions and disputes.  In the 17th century came the disputes over the state monopoly of salt. In the 18th century there was an uprising caused by the imposition of customs houses.  Then came the French occupation under Napoleon.  And because of its Industrial importance there was an attempt to take the city by the Carlists and finally, the Spanish Civil War which started in Bilbao.

Today Bilbao is an open and cultured city where proof of its influential and glorious past can be seen in such city attractions as the Teatro Arriaga, the Alhóndiga and the mansions and palaces of Neguri.

Not much is left to remind us of the colourless industrial city of Bilbao as the world crisis in the 80’s caused Bilbao to re-evaluate its situation.  Bilbao turned away from industry and so began it’s time as a city of culture and learning and it has become a city that offers much to the modern day tourist.

In the city today the old exists side by side with the new.  There is the famed Guggenheim museum of contemporary art with its avant-garde architecture, a modern metro system and many new bridges built over the now cleaned-up estuary.

The people of Bilbao known as the Bilbaínos are a delightfully happy people who love their football and most especially the gastronomic delights of the area.  They are lovers of festivals and there is much cultural activity throughout the year in Bilbao.  Bilbao is also a city of religious festivals and of course the Carnival of Bilbao held every year just before Lent. The Bilbaínos are renowned for their hospitality and are sure to make every visitor to the city, welcome.