Basilica of Begoña dominates the city from its hilltop location. It dates from the 16th Century and its most outstanding feature is the Renaissance-style main entrance. The main altar is an important example of the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture. The Basilica attracts tourists, agnostics and believers alike. No tourist visits are allowed during mass.
One of the largest parks in Bilbao since the 1980's, Parque Extebarria is located right in the city's old town, the Casco Viejo. This large green space is a favorite among the locals and visitors to Bilbao to relax and spend some time outdoors in nice weather. The park is especially popular among joggers and cyclists. Visitors can see the remnants of Bilbao's industrial past at the massive chimney that stands to this day. With beautiful views over the city, the park is a popular spot for evening strolls.
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao's first exhibit included a collection of over 250 examples of cubist, futurist, constructivist and other 20th-century art movements. The museum features a permanent collection of late 20th-century art spotlighting more of the century's best creative talents including young Basque and Spanish artists. Famous works include those by renowned artists like Richard Serra, Willem de Kooning, and Clyfford Still. Frank O. Gehry designed this complex with spectacular curtains of glass, stone curves, titanium and glass walls, walkways hanging from the ceiling, transparent elevators and immense open spaces that offer a mesmerizing foil for the avant-garde art it houses.
Great plays have been performed by some of the country's best actors in this much-loved theater over the years. Joaquin Ruboca designed the building using the Paris Opera House as a model to which he added some Renaissance touches. Outstanding architectural features of the Teatro Arriaga Antzokia include the two polygonal towers, the grand foyer, the mezzanine, the huge windows and the rooftop terrace with views of the river, Arenal and Campo Volantín. The elegantly furnished and sumptuously decorated interiors of this theater have a magnificent imperial staircase designed by Francisco Hurtado de Saracho. The theater opened in 1890 and was later named after a young local musician. Check website for exact schedule.
Gran Vía Don Diego Lopez de Haro, better known as simply Gran Vía, is one of Bilbao's main drags. The street begins at the famed Plaza Circular and runs northeast all the way to the Plaza del Sagrado Corazon. Gran Vía runs by many of the city's most famous attractions like the Plaza Moyua and the Palacio Chavarrí. A visit to the Gran Vía is almost impossible to miss during a trip to Bilbao.
This eclectically designed building, built by Severino Achucarro in 1888, was initially home to the historic and liberal Society called El Sitio. That was until 1937, when it was taken over by General Franco's government and later sold to the Bilbao Council. Its ballroom, today a lecture hall, located on the top floor, regularly hosts concerts and conferences. Opposite this area is a place called The Daily Life Room, which houses all the very latest publications. On the floor below is found the main study and reference room, next to a smaller one used for exhibitions. This library, through whose doors some of the most renowned personalities of European cultural life have passed, is not out of touch with modern times and has a computer room on the ground floor which anyone can use freely to surf the net.
Bilbao has only recently come to the attention of tourists, a characterful Basque city that was for so long hidden behind the guise of an industrial hub. The foundation of the Guggenheim Museum changed all that. The silvered, sinuous facade of the museum shelters an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art, ranging from the mind-boggling to the subtly enticing work of master artists from across the globe. The Guggenheim may be Bilbao's most iconic, but it is only one of its many charms. Stroll along the riverside in Casco Viejo and you'll encounter a beguiling array of pastel-hued facades. This is the Medieval town of Bilbao where stand some of its oldest architectural gems. Of these, the Santiago Cathedral is believed to be the most aged; built in the 15th Century, it still retains much of its original design. Here, also stands the bustling Mercado de la Ribera, a treasure trove of local specialties like fresh seafood, cured meats, cheese, sausages and a variety of produce. Along the way are Michelin-starred restaurants and chic designer boutiques. Nearby, are some fine day trip destinations, including the secluded San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a rocky outcrop off the coast, topped by a 10th-century church with spectacular views of the hills and sea. All this and more mark Bilbo as a well of delight just waiting to be discovered.
The Moyúa, also known as Elíptic, divides the Gran Vía in half. It was re-opened in 1997, though the original dates back to the 1940's. Because of the metro building works, it was dismantled in 1990 to be restored and re-opened years later respecting its original design, which was based on the formalist style of French Gardens. The low boxed hedges and great variety of flowering plants are an outstanding feature. The gardens near the central fountain, alongside their neighboring buildings—the mythic Hotel Carlton and the Civil Government headquarters, the Palacio de Chávarri are also an attractive feature.
Among the notable buildings around the Plaza Moyúa, halfway down Bilbao's Gran Vía, is the Chavarri Palace. This is a beautiful building by Belgian architect, Paul Ankar, constructed in 1889 as a commission for businessman, Víctor Chávarri, who wanted it as a residence. The Chavarri Palace is built in a Flemish neorealist style, and is considered one of the most unusual examples of its kind in the city. The combination of colors and formal features result in a beautiful building that today houses the Gobierno Civil de Vizcaya (Biscay Civil Government). Stunning windows, balconies, gables, staircases and pointed garrets form an interesting structure which deserves to be admired.
This young park, opened in 1988, within a large expanse of land is considered the second biggest in Bilbao, after the Parque de Doña Casilda. It has various sculptures that represent the spirit of the union between different European peoples, an example of which is the Piedra de la Amistad (the Friendship Stone), a gift from the Count of Hampshire. There is a roller skating track and a frontón. Also, near one of the park's entrances, is the Txurdinaga Multi sports Complex.
Declared an Historic-Artistic monument, this building, constructed between 1901-1904, is popularly known as "Casa de Gaudí" on account of its resemblance to the Catalan artist's work. In its striking facade, there are many bay windows on the corner of the building with ledges in carved stone and wrought iron. Its four habitable apartments are today living quarters and offices. There are other buildings in Bilbao with similar architectural features, such as the Campos Eliseos theatre and the Ricardo Bastida wash-houses.