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Bilbao

Bilbao, the beating heart of the Basque Country

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Discover Bilbao

Surrounded by a verdant landscape, Bilbao is the provincial capital of Bizkaia and the beating heart of the Basque Country.

Surrounded by a verdant landscape, Bilbao is the provincial capital of Bizkaia and the beating heart of the Basque Country. With a population of over 300,000 and a history that dates backs to 1300, it is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Euskadi-The Basque Country.

Bilbao is also known by its sobriquet ‘el botxo’ (‘hollow’ in Basque) because of its geographical location surrounded by mountains. It has an endless array of its own typical hallmarks, such as the tiling on its pavements, a range of traditional cakes and sweets, and a very particular jargon of expressions and sayings that pepper the conversation of the proud locals.

The city was founded by Don Diego López de Haro in 1300, at that time focusing on trade, the port, the weekly market, and iron-ore, and it went on to consolidate its position as the leading commercial centre and economic powerhouse in Bizkaia.

The year 1870 signalled the start of an unprecedented period of development that also provided the kernel for its love of football, a passion that still persists to this day, and if anything, is more vigorous than ever, seeing its balconies and terraces bedecked with Athletic Club’s red-and-white colours on matchdays.

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Athletic Club, the pride of Bilbao

In 1890, a period of expansion saw Bilbao visited by a group of English seamen bringing with them a football as part of their ‘cargo’.

Athletic Club, the pride of Bilbao

In 1890, a period of expansion saw Bilbao visited by a group of English seamen bringing with them a football as part of their ‘cargo’. The place where they played football on the river bank is still known as the field of the English “La Campa de los Ingleses” (which has now lent its name to the tavern located at the San Mamés stadium), and it was precisely there where they taught the local people to play the beautiful game.

This paved the way for a true local’s other great pride and joy, with the foundation in 1898 of Athletic Club, a team that now celebrates a trajectory stretching back over more than 120 years, with a legendary stadium that is recognised throughout the world. Athletic Club has a unique philosophy, as it only fields players born or brought up in the Basque Country.

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A great city reinvents itself

The forging of the spirit of the red-and-whites (the local team’s colours since 1910) coincided with the emergence of a steel industry that radically transformed Bilbao, turning it into an industrial city, with the ensuing influx of migrants seeking work in Bilbao’s flourishing factories.

A great city reinvents itself

The forging of the spirit of the red-and-whites (the local team’s colours since 1910) coincided with the emergence of a steel industry that radically transformed Bilbao, turning it into an industrial city, with the ensuing influx of migrants seeking work in Bilbao’s flourishing factories.

This growth had a devastating impact on the cityscape, turning it dark and grey. But then, towards the end of the 20th century the steel industry entered a period of irreversible crisis, forcing the city to reconsider the pillars of its economic development.

This involved facing the arduous task of transforming an essentially industrial city and committing to new forms of socio-economic development. The services sector and new technologies won the day, reinventing Bilbao and converting it into a global benchmark.

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Turism. Urban regeneration

Bilbao’s urban and environmental regeneration meant that numerous industrial lands underwent a complete facelift, becoming tourist attractions in the heart of the city.

Urban regeneration

Bilbao’s urban and environmental regeneration meant that numerous industrial lands underwent a complete facelift, becoming tourist attractions in the heart of the city. One of these, and now the most iconic symbol of this “new Bilbao”, is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, one of the main contributors to the city’s transformation.

These major projects involving both buildings and infrastructures have underpinned the city’s urban and economic regeneration. A restructuring process that is now admired throughout the world and witnessed at first-hand by the ever-growing number of visitors and tourists.

The Euskalduna Conference and Music Hall, Norman Foster’s metro, Santiago Calatrava’s airport terminal, and the skyscrapers designed by the architects Arata Isozaki and César Pelli, among many other landmarks, are outstanding examples of the irrepressible vitality that Bilbao now exudes after years of belching chimneys under a leaden sky.

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Bilbao is culture, fine dining, history and its local people

Bilbao has a promising future. Its cultural offer is growing from one year to the next, hosting major events, congresses and all nature of national and international gatherings.

Bilbao is culture, fine dining, history and its local people

Bilbao has a promising future. Its cultural offer is growing from one year to the next, hosting major events, congresses and all nature of national and international gatherings. This is in response to a clear commitment to turn Bilbao and Bizkaia into a showcase for creative industries.

What’s more, its elaborate cuisine, its bar tops filled with plates of pintxos -our local tapas-, and the narrow streets of the old quarter, the Casco Antiguo, create a delightful ambience, of leisure and contrasts between the old and ‘new’ Bilbao. A history that renders it irresistible for those that enthuse over cities with tradition, charm and people that welcome all its visitors.

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