The Basque city and cruise port of Bilbao in northern Spain has become one of the hottest destinations in Europe following the opening of the imaginatively-designed Guggenheim modern art gallery, which is an architectural work of Avant Garde art in its own right.
Until then, Bilbao was very much a working city but it has always boasted a lively old town dating from the 14th century. Through the winding alleyways of the Casco Viejo you can stop to sample tapas at the many exceptional local bars and restaurants.
Other sights include the arcaded Plaza Nueva and the Gothic Cathedral de Santiago. One of Spain’s most important art collections is housed across the city at the Museo de Bellas Artes. This features works dating from the 12th century through to contemporary art by Cezanne, Gauguin and Francis Bacon.
The berth is at Getxo which is about 12 miles from Bilbao centre and requires a shuttle transfer of 20-30 mins depending on traffic.
Bilbao has a good mix of the old and the new. A DIY to the Guggenheim museum. Even if you not the arty type it is well worth a visit. The shuttle bus will drop you off the street below, it is then a 5 min walk. If you can then buy tickets in advance, sometimes people have not been able to purchase tickets on the day. At least check admission charges online prior to sailing as most Spanish museums/art galleries have special rates of children, OAPs and some days of the week are free entry. For the entrance to the Guggenheim look for the big dog covered in flowers. You can’t miss it.
Then a visit to the old city across the river. There is a bridge near the Guggenheim, come out of the museum, turning left and at the other side take the lift down to the river, walk along the river side. Seeing as you are down this way drop off at the Artxanda Funicular. Trains are normally every 15mins. This takes you up to the Artxanda view point for great Aerial photographs of the Guggenheim Museum and views over the city, the price is .90c pp single, and there are no returns tickets. On coming back down make your way along the river bank to the C18th part of town to the bridge by the old railway station and enter the old town, Casa Viejo with its small cobbled lanes and a nice square for tapas, bars and restaurants about 15 mins walk but worth it. That way you see some of the architectural history of the city which goes back centuries. Then a walk back down the main street to Parque de Doña Casilda, close to where the shuttle goes from, a stroll around an ice cream.
By Peter Dagnall
See our holiday photos click here.