June 15, 2019
It was our first time to visit Bilbao which is in the north of Spain in the autonomous community of the Basque Country.
We arrived just before 10 AM and the harbor and the view of the countryside were beautiful.
Our plan for the day was to visit the world famous Guggenheim Museum and Bilbao.
Our guide was Igor. He told us that the Bilbao area has 1 million people and 2 million visitors! They speak Basque and are very proud of their heritage. Basque is the oldest spoken language in Europe and is totally unlike any other language.
We had a bright sunny day which was lucky because they get 220 days of rain a year here.
It was a short ride to the museum and Igor told us the history of the area. In August of 1983, Bilbao suffered extreme flooding due to heavy rains. The water rose more than 15 feet and destroyed buildings and bridges in the city. Before this, the city was highly industrialized and many of those industries were devastated. In the 1990’s the city began a transition to a service economy. The Guggenheim Museum was a huge part of this transition. The area used to be lucrative with the shipyards using the iron extracted from the quarries – which was once the city’s main source of income – but were now decrepit. Igor said that it was a highly controversial project at the time, the cost to the city was 84 million Euros. It has turned out to be such a prime tourist attraction that it is the landmark of the city.
The museum was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry and is clad in shimmering titanium. There are nearly 257,000 square feet of exhibition space and it feels cavernous inside.
The building and architecture are impressive on their own. You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum exhibits. They were mostly very modern art, some I liked and some I think I might have done myself as a child!!
Here are some views of the outside of the museum and inside the lobby.
There is a permanent Jenny Holzer exhibit and also a temporary exhibit. The permanent one is a cascade of words in English, Spanish and Basque. Her work is all in words and can be quite provocative. We couldn’t take pictures of the ones inside the galleries but the permanent one is in the lobby of the museum.
There are sculptures outside the museum and it is right along the river. It is meant to look like a ship on the water.
Here are some of the outside sculptures as well as the “guard puppy” which is completely made of flowers. There is also a steam feature near the river.
The courtyard area outside of the museum is full of activities. There is a dancing fountain and many activities that delighted kids and adults alike. Bubbles, music and more.
We enjoyed the visit and also liked just watching the river activities!
After the museum visit, we had a tour of the city and ended at the Old Town (or Las Siete Calles – the 7 streets) where we had a walking tour and free time to explore the medieval neighborhood with its hundreds of shops, churches, restaurants and taverns.
Here are some of the sights from our tour around town and then the Old Town.
The picture above is the Tentro Arriaga – the theater that is modeled after the Paris Opera House. It was inaugurated in 1890.
The church below is the Catedral de Santiago, known in English as the St. James Cathedral. It was built in the 14th century and is the oldest in the city.
The path of the Camino de Santiago passes here.
Lots of archways, painted ceilings and beautiful architecture adorn the old city. Many bars and restaurants are under the archways.
Yes, there was a Five Guys. We didn’t go. But we did find gelato. It’s a good lunch, no?
Our last stop was at the top of the Artxanda Mountain which features a beautiful park and wonderful views of Bilbao.
Here are some pictures of the beautiful homes we passed on our way back to the ship.
We got back to the ship past the time we were supposed to be on board, but it was an Oceania tour, so they did wait for us. And we had just a short time until the scheduled Around the World event – tapas and magic.
As usual, chef Mario and his team did a wonderful job. Sangria and lots of wonderful food.
Yum… Last day in Spain and we will miss it for sure. On to Bordeaux tomorrow.