Bilbao (/bɪlˈbaʊ, -ˈbɑːoʊ/; Spanish: [bilˈβao];
Basque: Bilbo [bilβo]) is a city in northern Spain, the largest city
in the province of
Biscay and in the Basque Country as a whole. It is
also the largest city proper in northern Spain.
Bilbao is the tenth
largest city in Spain, with a population of 345,141 as of 2015. The
Bilbao metropolitan area
Bilbao metropolitan area has roughly 1 million inhabitants,
making it one of the most populous metropolitan areas in northern
Spain; with a population of 875,552 the comarca of Greater Bilbao
is the fifth-largest urban area in Spain.
Bilbao is also the main
urban area in what is defined as the Greater Basque region.
Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain, some 16
kilometres (10 mi) south of the Bay of Biscay, where the economic
social development is located, where the estuary of
Bilbao is formed.
Its main urban core is surrounded by two small mountain ranges with an
average elevation of 400 metres (1,300 ft).
After its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de
Haro, head of the powerful Haro family,
Bilbao was a commercial hub of
the Basque Country that enjoyed significant importance in Green Spain.
This was due to its port activity based on the export of iron
extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Throughout the nineteenth
century and the beginning of the twentieth,
Bilbao experienced heavy
industrialisation, making it the centre of the second-most
industrialised region of Spain, behind Barcelona. At the same
time an extraordinary population explosion prompted the annexation of
several adjacent municipalities. Nowadays,
Bilbao is a vigorous
service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and
aesthetic revitalisation process, started by the iconic Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum, and continued by infrastructure
investments, such as the airport terminal, the rapid transit system,
the tram line, the Alhóndiga, and the currently under development
Zorrozaurre renewal projects.
Bilbao is also home to football club Athletic Club de Bilbao, a
significant symbol for
Basque nationalism due to its promotion of
Basque players and one of the most successful clubs in Spanish
On 19 May 2010, the city of
Bilbao was recognised with the Lee Kuan
Yew World City Prize, awarded by the city state of Singapore, in
collaboration with the Swedish Nobel Academy. Considered the Nobel
Prize for urbanism, it was handed out on 29 June 2010. On 7 January
2013, its mayor, Iñaki Azkuna, received the 2012
World Mayor Prize
awarded every two years by the British foundation The City Mayors
Foundation, in recognition of the urban transformation experienced by
the Biscayan capital since the 1990s. On 8 November 2017,
Bilbao was chosen the Best European City 2018 at The
2018, awarded by the international organisation The Academy of
7.1 Port of Bilbao
7.2 Mining and ironworks
7.4 Stock exchange
8.1 Urban planning
9.1 Higher education
10.1 Public transportation statistics
11.2 Festivals in Bilbao
13 Notable people from Bilbao
14 Twin towns
15 See also
17 External links
The official name of the town is Bilbao, as known in most languages of
the world. Euskaltzaindia, the official regulatory institution of the
Basque language, has agreed that between the two possible names
existing in Basque,
Bilbao and Bilbo, the historical name is Bilbo,
Bilbao is the official name. Although the term Bilbo does
not appear in old documents, in the play
The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Merry Wives of Windsor by
William Shakespeare, there is a reference to swords presumably made of
Biscayan iron which he calls "bilboes", suggesting that it is a word
used since at least the sixteenth century.
There is no consensus among historians about the origin of the name.
Generally accepted accounts state that prior to the 12th century the
independent rulers of the territory, named Senores de Zubialdea, were
also known as Senores de
Bilbao la Vieja. The symbols of their
patrimony are the tower and church used in the shield of
this day. One possible origin was suggested by the engineer
Evaristo de Churruca. He said that it was a Basque custom to name a
place after its location. For
Bilbao this would be the result of the
union of the Basque words for river and cove: Bil-Ibaia-Bao. The
historian José Tussel Gómez argues that it is just a natural
evolution of the Spanish words bello vado, beautiful river
crossing. On the other hand, according to the writer Esteban Calle
Iturrino, the name derives from the two settlements that existed on
both banks of the estuary, rather than from the estuary itself. The
first, where the present
Casco Viejo is located, would be called
billa, which means stacking in Basque, after the configuration of the
buildings. The second, on the left bank, where now
Bilbao La Vieja is
located, would be called vaho, Spanish for mist or steam. From the
union of these two derives the name Bilbao, which was also written
as Bilvao and Biluao, as documented in its municipal charter. An
-ao ending is also present in nearby
Sestao and Ugao, that could be
explained from Basque aho, "mouth".
The titles, the flag and the coat of arms are Bilbao's traditional
symbols and belong to its historic patrimony, being used in formal
acts, for the identification and decoration of specific places or for
the validation of documents.
Bilbao holds the historic category of borough (villa), with the titles
of «Very noble and very loyal and unbeaten» («Muy Noble y Muy Leal
e Invicta»). It was the
Catholic Monarchs who awarded the title
«Noble borough» («Noble Villa») on 20 September 1475. Philip III
of Spain, via a letter in 1603 awarded the borough the titles of
«Very noble and very loyal». After the Siege of
during the First
Carlist War, on 25 December 1836, the title of
«Unbeaten» was added.
See also: Timeline of Bilbao
Remains of an ancient settlement were found on the top of Mount
Malmasín, dating from around the 3rd or 2nd century BC.
Burial sites were also found on Mounts Avril and Artxanda, dated 6,000
years old. Some authors identify the old settlement of
Amanun Portus, cited by Pliny the Elder, or with Flaviobriga, by
Ptolemy. Ancient walls, which date from around the 11th century,
have been discovered below the Church of San Antón.
Bilbao was one of the first towns founded in the fourteenth century,
during a period in which approximately 70% of the Biscayan
municipalities were developed, among them
Portugalete in 1323,
Ondarroa in 1327,
Lekeitio in 1335, and
1376. The then lord of Biscay, Diego López V of Haro, founded
Bilbao through a municipal charter dated in
Valladolid on 15 June 1300
and confirmed by King Fernando IV of Castile in Burgos, on 4 January
1301. Diego López established the new town on the right bank of the
Nervión river, on the grounds of the elizate of
Begoña and granted
it the fuero of Logroño, a compilation of rights and privileges that
would prove fundamental to its later development.
First engraving of the city, made by
Franz Hohenberg in 1554 and first
published in 1574. Many notable buildings can be seen, like the
Santiago Cathedral, and the church of San Antón.
On 21 June 1511, Queen
Joanna of Castile
Joanna of Castile ordered the creation of the
Consulate of Bilbao. This would become the most influential
institution of the borough for centuries, and would claim jurisdiction
over the estuary, improving its infrastructure. Under the Consulate's
control, the port of
Bilbao became one of the most important of
Spain. The first printing-press was brought to the town in 1577.
Here in 1596, the first book in Basque was edited, entitled Doctrina
Christiana en Romance y Bascuence by Dr. Betolaza.
Art Nouveau architecture of Bilbao
Bilbao was made the capital of Biscay, a title previously held
by Bermeo. The following centuries saw a constant increase in the
town's wealth, especially after the discovery of extensive iron
deposits in the surrounding mountains. At the end of the 17th century,
Bilbao overcame the economic crises that affected Spain, thanks to the
iron ore and its commerce with England and the Netherlands. During the
18th century, it continued to grow and almost exhausted its small
The Battle of Luchana.
The Basque Country was one of the main sites of battles of the Carlist
Wars, and the Carlists very much wanted to conquer the city, a liberal
and economic bastion.
Bilbao was besieged three times between 1835
and 1874, but all proved unsuccessful. One of the main battles of this
time was the
Battle of Luchana
Battle of Luchana in 1836, when Liberal general Baldomero
Espartero defeated the Carlists, freeing the borough.
Despite the warfare,
Bilbao prospered during the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, when it rose as the economic centre of the Basque
Country. During this time, the first railway was built (in 1857), the
Bilbao was founded (later to become the BBVA), and the Bilbao
Stock Exchange was created. Many industries flourished, such as Altos
Hornos de Vizcaya, founded in 1902. The borough grew in area with the
Abando ensanche and was modernized with new avenues and walkways, as
well as with new modern buildings such as the City Hall, the Basurto
Hospital and the Arriaga Theatre. The population increased
dramatically, from 11,000 in 1880 to 80,000 in 1900. Social movements
also arose, notably
Basque nationalism under Sabino Arana.
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War started in
Bilbao with a number of small
uprisings suppressed by the Republican forces. On 31 August 1936, the
city suffered the first bombing. The next month, further bombing by
German planes occurred, in coordination with Franco's forces. In
May 1937, the Nationalist army besieged the town. The battle lasted
until 19 June of that year, when Lieutenant Colonel Putz was ordered
to destroy all bridges over the estuary, and the troops of the 5th
Brigade took the borough from the mountains Malmasin, Pagasarri, and
With the war over,
Bilbao returned to its industrial development,
accompanied by a steady population growth. In the 1940s, the city was
rebuilt, starting with the bridges. In 1948, the first commercial
flight took off from the local airport. Over the next decade,
there was a revival of the iron industry. The demand for housing
outstripped supply, and workers built slums on the hillsides. In
this chaotic environment, on 31 July 1959, the terrorist organization
ETA was born in Bilbao, as a faction of the PNV.
After the fall of Francoist
Spain and the establishment of a
constitutional monarchy, in a process known in
Spain as the
Bilbao was able to hold democratic elections again. This
time Basque nationalists rose to power. With the approval of the
Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country
Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country in 1979,
elected the seat of the government and therefore the de facto capital
of the Basque Autonomous Community, although
Bilbao was larger and
more powerful economically. In the 1980s, several factors such as
terrorism, labor demands and the arrival of cheap labor from abroad
led to a devastating industrial crisis.
Since the mid-1990s,
Bilbao has been in a process of
deindustrialization and transition to a service economy, supported by
investment in infrastructure and urban renewal, starting with the
opening of the
Bilbao Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao Guggenheim Museum (the so-called Guggenheim
effect), and continuing with the Euskalduna Conference Centre and
Concert Hall, Santiago Calatrava's Zubizuri, the metro network by
Norman Foster, the tram, the
Iberdrola Tower and the Zorrozaurre
development plan, among others. Many officially supported associations
Bilbao Metrópoli-30 and
Bilbao Ría 2000 were created to
monitor these projects.
Satellite image of Bilbao.
The municipality of
Bilbao is located near the northern edge of the
Iberian Peninsula, about 16 kilometres (10 mi) from the Bay of
Biscay. It covers an area of 40.65 square kilometres
(15.70 sq mi), of which 17.35 square kilometres
(6.70 sq mi) are urban and the remaining 23.30 square
kilometres (9.00 sq mi) consist of the surrounding
mountains. The official average altitude is 19 metres
(62 ft), although there are measurements between 6 metres
(20 ft) and 32 metres (105 ft). It is also the core of
the comarca of Greater Bilbao. It is surrounded by the municipalities
of Derio, Etxebarri, Galdakao, Loiu, Sondika, and
Zamudio to the
Basauri to the west;
Alonsotegi to the south;
Erandio to the east.
Bilbao is located on the Basque threshold, the range between the
Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees. The soil is
predominantly composed of mesozoic materials (limestone, sandstone,
and marl) sedimented over a primitive paleozoic base. The relief
of the province is dominated by NW-SE and WNW-ESE oriented folds. The
main fold is the anticline of
Bilbao which runs from the municipality
Elorrio to Galdames. Inside
Bilbao there are two secondary
folds, one in the northeast, composed of Mounts Artxanda, Avril,
Banderas, Pikota, San Bernabé, and Cabras; and other in the south,
composed of Mounts Kobetas, Restaleku,
Pagasarri and Arraiz. The
highest point in the municipality is Mount Ganeta, of 689 metres
(2,260 ft), followed by Mount Pagasarri, of 673 metres
(2,208 ft), both on the border with Alonsotegi.
Estuary of Bilbao
The estuary of
Bilbao crossing the borough.
The main river system of
Bilbao is also the hydrological artery of
Biscay. The rivers
Ibaizabal converge in
Basauri and form
an estuary named variously "estuary of Bilbao", "of the Nervión", "of
the Ibaizabal", or "of the Nervión-Ibaizabal". The estuary runs
for 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) and with a low flow (with an average
of 25 m3 (883 cu ft) per second). Its main
tributary is the river Cadagua, which rises in the Mena valley and has
a basin of 642 square kilometres (248 sq mi), mostly lying
in the neighboring province of Burgos. This river is also the
natural border between
Bilbao and Barakaldo.
The river has frequently suffered from human intervention, as seen in
the dredging of its bottom, the building of docks on both banks and
especially in the
Deusto canal, an artificial waterway dug between
1950 and 1968 in the district of
Deusto as a lateral canal, with the
aim of facilitating navigation, sparing ships from the natural curves
of the estuary. The project was stopped with 400 metres
(1,300 ft) left to complete, and it was decided to leave it as a
dock. However, in 2007, a plan was approved to continue the canal
and form the island of Zorrozaurre. This human intervention has
also brought negative results in the quality of the water, after
decades of toxic waste dumping causing a situation of anoxia (lack of
oxygen), which almost eliminated the entire fauna and flora.
However, in recent years this situation is being reversed, thanks to a
dumping ban and natural regeneration. now it is possible to
observe algae, tonguefishes, crabs, and seabirds, as well as
occasional bathers in the summer months.
The estuary is also a natural border for several neighbourhoods and
districts within the borough. Entering the municipality from the west
it separates the districts of
Begoña and Ibaiondo, then
Uribarri and lastly
Deusto and Basurto-Zorroza.
Main article: Climate of Bilbao
The Biscayan government
Its proximity to the Bay of
Bilbao an oceanic climate
(Cfb), with precipitation occurring throughout the year and without a
well-defined dry summer.
Precipitation is abundant, and given the
latitude and atmospheric dynamics, rainy days represent 45% and cloudy
days 40% of the annual total. The rainiest season is between
October and April, November being the wettest. Snow is not frequent in
Bilbao, although it is possible to see snow on the top of the
surrounding mountains. Sleet is more frequent, about 10 days per year,
mainly in the winter months.
Bilbao is nearest to the subtropical
boundary of all the Atlantic coastal cities in the country with an
August daily mean of 20.9 °C (69.6 °F). There is also
a drying trend in summer with only around 50 millimetres (2.0 in)
of rainfall in July  - but not dry enough to be considered
The proximity of the ocean also means that the two best defined
seasons (summer and winter) remain mild, with low intensity thermal
oscillations. Average maximum temperatures vary between 25 and
26 °C (77.0 and 78.8 °F) in the summer months, while the
average minimum in winter is between 6 and 7 °C (42.8 and
Extreme record observations in
Bilbao are 42.2 °C
(108.0 °F) maximum (on 13 August 2003) and −8.6 °C
(16.5 °F) minimum (on 3 February 1963). The maximum
precipitation in a day was 225.6 mm (9 in) on 26 August 1983
when severe flooding was caused by the
Climate data for
Bilbao airport: 1981-2010
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología, Aena
Bilbao demographic evolution (1900–2005).
The local Register office shows a total resident population for Bilbao
of 349,356 in 2013[update].
The first credible data on the population of
Bilbao are post-1550.
It is known that in 1530
Biscay had approximately 65,000 inhabitants,
a number that could have been reduced by plagues that struck the city
in 1517, 1530, 1564–68, and 1597–1601, the last being especially
devastating. This trend for periodic reverses in population growth
was maintained until the nineteenth century. Since then,
experienced an exponential growth in population thanks to
industrialisation. After a peak of 433,115 inhabitants in 1982, the
municipalities of the
Txorierri valley were removed from Bilbao, with
the corresponding loss of their population.
Of the 355,731 people residing in
Bilbao in 2009, only 114,220 (32.1%)
were born inside the municipality. Of the remainder, 114,908 were born
in other Biscayan towns, while 9,545 were born in the other two Basque
provinces; 85,789 came from the rest of
Spain (mainly Castile-León
and Galicia), and 33,537 were foreigners. There are 127 different
nationalities registered in Bilbao, although 60 of them represent
fewer than 10 people each. The largest foreign communities are
Bolivians and Colombians, with 4,879 and 3,730 respectively. Other
nationalities with more than 1,000 inhabitants are Romanians (2,248),
Moroccans (2,058), Ecuadorians (1,832), Chinese (1,390), Brazilians
(1,273) and Paraguayans, with 1,204.
Largest groups of foreign residents in Bilbao
Bilbao is a municipality with a Mayor-Council form of government. The
mayor and councillors are elected for four-year terms. There is a
division between the executive, made up of the mayor and a board of
governors and the plenum, consisting of 29 councillors. The
councillors of the plenum represent political parties and are
distributed as follows: Basque Nationalist Party: 15 seats plus the
mayor; People's Party, 6 seats; Bildu, 4 seats; and Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party, 4 seats.
In 2008 and 2010,
Bilbao won the Municipal Transparency Prize, awarded
by the Spanish division of Transparency International. In 2009 it came
second, after Sant Cugat del Vallés.
Its former mayor, recently deceased, Mr.
Iñaki Azkuna Urreta
(PNV-EAJ) was awarded as the Best
World Mayor 2012.
The borough of
Bilbao consists of eight different districts. Each
district is further subdivided into neighbourhoods, totalling 35:
Arangoiti, Ibarrekolanda, San Ignacio-Elorrieta, and San Pedro de
Castaños, Matiko-Ciudad Jardín, Uribarri, and Zurbaran-Arabella.
Otxarkoaga and Txurdinaga.
Begoña, Bolueta, and Santutxu.
Bilbao La Vieja, Casco Viejo, Iturralde, La Peña, Miribilla,
San Adrián, San Francisco, Solokoetxe, and Zabala.
Abando and Indautxu.
Amezola, Iralabarri, Iturrigorri-Peñascal, Errekaldeberri-Larraskitu,
Altamira, Basurto, Olabeaga, Masustegi-Monte Caramelo, and Zorrotza.
Headquarters of BBVA, formerly headquarters of the Bank of Biscay.
Headquarters of Iberdrola.
Bilbao has been the economic center of the Basque Country since the
times of the Consulate, mainly because of commerce in Castilian
products on the town's port, but it was not until the 19th century
when it experimented with big development, mainly based on the
exploitation of the iron mines and siderurgy, which promoted the
maritimal traffic, the portuary activity and the construction of
ships. During those years Banco de
Bilbao (Bank of Bilbao),
Bilbao in 1857 and Banco de Vizcaya (Bank of Biscay), which
was established in 1901, also in Bilbao, made their appearance. Both
entities merged in 1988 creating the BBV corporation (Banco Bilbao
Vizcaya, Bank of Bilbao-Biscay). BBV merged with Argentaria in 1999,
creating the current corporation, BBVA. The savings banks that were
established locally, Caja de Ahorros Municipal de
Savings Bank of Bilbao) in 1907, and Caja de Ahorros Provincial de
Vizcaya (Provincial Savings Bank of Biscay) in 1921, would merge in
1990 and form
Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa
Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK). There is also the
Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of
Bilbao and the Stock
Exchange Market of Bilbao, founded in 1890.
After the dramatic industrial crisis of the 1980s,
Bilbao was forced
to rethink its very economic foundations. That is how it transformed
into a successful service town.
Bilbao is home to numerous
companies of national and international relevance, including two among
the 150 world's biggest, according to
BBVA at #40 and
Iberdrola at #122. The city's
GDP per capita
GDP per capita is of €26,225 in
2005, considerably above the country average of €22,152. According
to the official economic yearbook, the strongest sectors are
construction, commerce, and tourism. The unemployment rate
reached 14.4% in 2009, well below the national rate, of 18,01%.
Nevertheless, it is the highest rate in the last ten years.
Port of Bilbao
Main article: Port of Bilbao
Panoramic view of the superport, as seen from mount Serantes.
The historical port was located in what today is an area called the
Arenal, a few steps from the Casco Viejo, until the late 20th century.
In 1902, an exterior port was built at the mouth of the estuary, in
the coastal municipality of Santurtzi. Further extensions led to a
superport, that in the 1970s replaced the docks inside Bilbao,
with the exception of those located in the neighbourhood of Zorrotza,
still in activity.
The port of
Bilbao is a first-class commercial port and is among the
top five of Spain. Over 200 regular maritime services link Bilbao
with 500 ports worldwide. At the close of 2009 cargo movements
amounted to 31.6 million tonnes, Russia, the United Kingdom, the
Netherlands and the Nordic countries being the main markets. In
the first semester of 2008, it received over 67,000 passengers and
2,770 ships. This activity reported 419 million euros to the
GDP and generates almost 10,000 jobs.
Mining and ironworks
Iron is the main and most abundant raw material found in Biscay, and
its extraction is legally protected since 1526. Mining was the main
primary activity in
Bilbao and the minerals, of great quality, were
exported to all over Europe. It was not until the second half of
the nineteenth century when an ironworks industry was developed,
benefited by the resources and the well connected borough. In the 20th
century, both Spanish and European capitals imported around 90% of the
Biscayan iron. Although World War I made
Bilbao one of the main
ironworks powers, later crisis prompted a decline in the activity.
Bilbao and the Guggenheim Museum
The first notion of
Bilbao as a tourist destination came with the
inauguration of the railway between
Bilbao and the coastal
neighbourhood of Las Arenas, in the municipality of
Getxo in 1872. The
Bilbao a minor beach destination.
The real tourist surge though would come much later with the
inauguration of the
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997. Thereafter
tourist arrivals registered a continued upward trend, reaching over
615,000 visitors in 2009. The trend was exponential considering that
Bilbao only counted 25,000 tourists.
Bilbao also hosts
31% of the total Basque Country visitors, being the top destination of
this autonomous community, outranking San Sebastián. The majority
of tourists are domestic visitors, coming from
Madrid and Catalonia.
International travellers are predominantly French, crossing the border
just to the east. The others arrive from the United Kingdom, Germany,
and Italy. Tourism generates about 300 million euros yearly for
the Biscayan GDP.
Bilbao also draws business tourism, having been
equipped with facilities like the Euskalduna Conference Centre and
Concert Hall, and the
Bilbao Exhibition Centre, in nearby
Plans to create a stock exchange market in
Bilbao began in the early
19th century, even though it would not be realized until 21 July
1890. Bilbao's institution is one of the country's four regional
stock exchanges, joining Barcelona, Madrid, and
Valencia as Spain's
commercial centers. It is owned by Bolsas y Mercados Españoles. The
Bilbao Stock Exchange is considered a secondary market.
Bilbao from Mount Artxanda
18th century picture showing the original seven parallel streets of
the old town.
In its beginnings,
Bilbao only had three streets (Somera, Artecalle,
and Tendería) surrounded by walls located where Ronda street now
stands. Inside this enclosure, there was a small hermitage dedicated
to the Apostle Saint James (the current St. James' Cathedral), which
pilgrims visited on their way to Santiago de Compostela. In the
fifteenth century, four more streets were built, forming the original
Zazpikaleak or "Seven Streets". In 1571, after several floods and
a major fire in 1569, the walls were demolished in order to allow the
expansion of the town.
In 1861, engineer Amado Lázaro projected an ensanche inside the
Abando with wide avenues and regular buildings,
that included the hygienists ideas of the time. The project was mostly
based on Barcelona's Eixample, designed by Ildefons Cerdà.
However, the project was dropped by the City Council after considering
it "utopian and excessive" because of its high cost, though of great
quality. Furthermore, Lázaro had calculated the demographic growth of
the town was based on the previous three centuries, a provision that
eventually would not conform to reality.
The next large urban change in
Bilbao would come in 1876, when the
capital annexed (in several stages) the neighbouring municipality of
Abando. The new ensanche project was planned by a team made of
architect Severino de Achúcarro and engineers Pablo de Alzola
(elected Mayor that same year), and Ernesto de Hoffmeyer. Unlike
Lázaro's, this project was significantly smaller, compassing
1.58 km2 (0.61 sq mi) against the original
2.54 km2 (0.98 sq mi). It also featured a not so
strict grid pattern, a park to separate the industrial and residential
areas and the Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro, the main
thoroughfare, where many relevant buildings were located, such as
Biscay County Hall or the
BBVA Tower. By the end of the 1890s, this
widening was half completed and already filled, so a new extension was
planned by Federico Ugalde.
By 1925, the municipalities of
Deusto and Begoña, as well as part of
Erandio were annexed, and in 1940, the remaining part of Erandio
became part of Bilbao. The last annexation took place in 1966, with
the municipalities of Loiu, Sondika, Derio, and Zamudio. This made
Bilbao larger than ever, with 107 km2 (41 sq mi).
However, all these municipalities, with the exception of
Begoña regained their independence on 1 January 1983.
On 18 May 2010, the government of
Bilbao the Lee
Kuan Yew World City Prize, at the
World Cities Summit
World Cities Summit 2010. It is
considered the Pritzker of urbanism.
Main category: Buildings and structures in Bilbao
Typical late-19th century architecture of Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum, symbol of modern Bilbao.
The gothic St. James' Cathedral
Bilbao's buildings display a variety of architectural styles, ranging
from gothic, Art Deco, Art Nouveau,
Neo-Gothic and contemporary
architecture. The Old Town features many of the oldest buildings in
the city, as the St. James' Cathedral or the Church of San Antón,
included in the borough's coat of arms. Most of the Old Town is a
pedestrian zone during the day. Nearby is one of the most important
religious temples of Biscay, the Basilica of Begoña, dedicated to the
patron saint of the province, Our Lady of Begoña.
Seventeen bridges span the banks of the estuary inside the town's
boundaries. Among the most interesting ones are the
for "white bridge"), a pedestrian footbridge designed by Santiago
Calatrava opened in 1997, and the Princes of
Spain Bridge, also known
as "La Salve", a suspension bridge opened in 1972 and redesigned by
French conceptual artist
Daniel Buren in 2007. The
is a bascule bridge opened in 1936 and modelled after the Michigan
Avenue Bridge, in Chicago. Between 1890 and 1893 the first
transporter bridge ("Puente Colgante") in the world on the Nervion
Portugalete and Getxo, was built by Alberto Palacio
(architect and engineer) together with his brother Silvestre.
Since the deindustrialization process started in the 1990s, many of
the former industrial areas are being transformed into modern public
and private spaces designed by several of the world's most renowned
architects and artists. The main example is the Guggenheim Museum,
located in what was an old dock and wood warehouse. The building,
Frank Gehry and inaugurated in October 1997, is considered
among architecture experts as one of the most important structures of
the last 30 years, and a masterpiece by itself. The museum
houses part of the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation modern art
collection. Another example is the Alhóndiga, a wine warehouse built
in 1909 and completely redesigned in 2010 by French designer Philippe
Starck into a multi-purpose venue that consists of a cinema multiplex,
a fitness centre, a library, and a restaurant, among other
spaces. The Abandoibarra area is also being renovated, and
it features not only the Guggenheim Museum, but also Arata Isozaki's
tower complex, the
Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall
Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall and
Iberdrola Tower, designed by
Argentine architect César Pelli
which is, since its completion in 2011, the Basque Country's tallest
skyscraper, 165 metres (541 ft) high.
Zorrozaurre is the
next area to be redeveloped, following a 2007 master plan designed by
Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.
Torre Isozaki and Zubizuri
This current peninsula will be transformed into a 500,000 m2
(5,400,000 sq ft) island and will feature residential and
commercial buildings, as well as the new BBK seat.
The Etxeberria park, with its distinctive chimney.
As of 2010[update],
Bilbao has 18 public parks inside its limits,
totalling 200 ha (490 acres) of green spaces. Besides, its green
belt has a total area of 1,025 ha (2,530 acres), of which
119 ha (290 acres) are urbanized. The largest parks are
Mount Cobetas, of 18.5 ha (46 acres), and Larreagaburu, of
12 ha (30 acres), both located on the outskirts.
Doña Casilda Iturrizar park
Doña Casilda Iturrizar park is located in the district of Abando,
near the town centre and covers an area of 8.5 ha (21 acres). It
is named after a local benefactress who donated the grounds to the
borough. It is an English-style garden designed by
Ricardo Bastida and
opened to the public in 1907. It features a dancing water fountain
surrounded by a pergola, and a pond with many species of ducks, geese
and swans, which gives the park the alternate name of "Ducks' Park",
as known locally. In recent years, it was expanded to be connected
with the Abandoibarra area. In Ibaiondo, the Etxeberria Park was
built in the 1980s in the place where a steel mill previously stood.
The original chimney was maintained as a homage of its industrial
past. It covers an area of 18.9 ha (47 acres), on a sloped
terrain that overlooks the Old Town. Other relevant public spaces
inside the city include the Europa Park, the Miribilla Park, or the
Memorial Walkway, a 3 km (1.9 mi) long walkway, with
12 m (39 ft) high lamps, located in the left bank of the
estuary and that connects the main sights.
Artxanda is easily accessible from the town centre by a
funicular. There is a recreational area at the summit, with
restaurants, a sports complex and a balcony with panoramic views. In
the south, Mount
Pagasarri receives hundreds of hikers every weekend
since the 1870s, who seek its natural wonders. Its environment is
officially protected since 2007.
The main building of the University of Deusto.
The Basque Country has a bilingual education system, with students
able to choose between four linguistic models: A, B, D, and X, which
differ in the prevalence of Basque or Spanish as the spoken and
written language used in classes. In Bilbao, there is a
prevalence of model D (where Basque is the vehicle language and
Spanish is taught as a subject) in Primary School, while Compulsory
Secondary Education students favour model B (where some subjects are
in Basque and other in Spanish). Finally, 67% of Baccalaureate
students choose model A (in which Spanish is the vehicle language and
Basque is a subject). English is the most widespread foreign
language taught, being the option for 97% of pre-university
Two universities are seated in Bilbao. The older is the University of
Deusto, founded by the
Society of Jesus
Society of Jesus in 1886. It took its name from
the then independent municipality of Deusto, annexed to
1925. It was the only higher education institute in the borough until
the establishment in 1968 of the University of Bilbao, later to become
University of the Basque Country
University of the Basque Country in 1980. This public university,
which has a presence in the three provinces of the autonomous
community, has its main Biscayan campus in the municipality of Leioa,
although the Technical and Business faculties are based in
Bilbao. Since 2014,
Mondragon University has also a presence in
the city through the innovation and entrepreneurial centre Bilbao
Innovation Factory. In 2015, the offer of higher education in the
city was expanded with the foundation of Dantzerti, the Higher School
of Dramatic Arts and Dance of the Basque Country.
Inside the airport terminal.
Bagatza station fosterito.
Bilbao Airport serves the city and it is the busiest terminal in the
Basque Country and in the entire Northern coast, with 3.9 million
passengers in 2010. It is located 12 km (7.46 mi)
north of the borough, between the municipalities of
Sondika. 15 airlines operate in the terminal, including Iberia,
Lufthansa, and TAP Portugal. Top destinations include London,
Frankfurt, Munich, Madrid, Paris, Malaga, and Amsterdam. It
opened to the public in September 1948, with a regular flight to
Madrid. On 19 November 2000, a new terminal building was opened,
designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. In February 2009,
a project was approved to expand the current building to double its
capacity. Although expected to be completed by 2014, the current
financial crisis and the decrease of passenger traffic delayed it to
at least 2019.
The borough has 13 bridges connecting opposite sides of the river. It
is connected to the European road network by the AP-8 toll motorway
and to the north of
Spain by the A-8 motorway and to the rest of Spain
by the AP-68 toll motorway.
The underground network (Metro Bilbao), opened on 11 November 1995, is
used by more than 85 million passengers every year. It has 3 lines
that connect both banks of the
Bilbao Metropolitan Area. There is a
project under way to build a fourth line.
The city has 43
Bilbobus bus lines, 28 for normal buses, seven
"micro-buses" for zones of the city that a normal bus cannot access,
and eight night lines. The inner-town bus network has recently won a
prize for its efficiency and quality of service. In addition, there
are more than 100
BizkaiBus bus lines, connecting
Bilbao with almost
every point in
Biscay and part of Alava. The borough's main bus
station is called
Termibus and is located near the San Mamés stadium.
There are 7 commuter rail lines operated by three different companies:
Renfe (Spanish railway network) operates 3 Cercanías lines in
FEVE (Spanish Narrow Gauge Railways) operates one line:
EuskoTren (Basque railway network), operates three lines:
In 2002, the new tram, EuskoTran, was inaugurated. It has one line
Atxuri with Basurto. Plans are afoot to greatly expand the
network over the coming decade.
Brittany Ferries ferry service links Santurtzi, near Bilbao, to
MV Cap Finistère
MV Cap Finistère ferry departs from the port of
Bilbao, 15 km (9 mi) north west of the town centre. A
service operated by Acciona
Trasmediterranea served the same route
from 16 May 2006 until April 2007. P&O Ferries operated this route
until its withdrawal on 28 September 2010 with a ship called the Pride
Public transportation statistics
The average amount of time people spend commuting with public transit
in Bilbao, for example to and from work, on a weekday is 35 min. 3% of
public transit riders, ride for more than 2 hours every day. The
average amount of time people wait at a stop or station for public
transit is 7 min, while 4% of riders wait for over 20 minutes on
average every day. The average distance people usually ride in a
single trip with public transit is 6.9 km, while 10% travel for
over 12 km in a single direction.
Bilbao has several theatres and concert halls (Teatro Arriaga, Palacio
Euskalduna), cinemas, and a regular opera season offered by ABAO
Bilbao Association of Opera Lovers) . The
Bilbao Symphony Orchestra
was founded in 1922, its current conductor Günter Neuhold being
appointed in 2008. Choral music is very popular in the Basque Country
and concerts are offered regularly. The
Bilbao Choral Society
(Sociedad Coral de Bilbao) was founded in 1886.
Like in other Spanish town, night life is long and vibrant, with clubs
that offer live music (Kafe Antzokia, Bilborock).
Bilbao was briefly featured at the start of the 1999
James Bond film
The World Is Not Enough.
Bilbao Live Festival, first held in 2006, is an increasingly
popular live music event.
Bilbao has more than a dozen museums covering a range of fields
including art, science, and sport, which have played a central role in
Bilbao being named one of the creative cities in the world.
Museums include the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbao of
contemporary art, designed by
Frank Gehry and opened on 19 October
1997. Another important museum is the
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum,
established in 1908 and housing a notable collection of Spanish and
other European work.
Bilbao is also home to the Basque Museum, which
showcases Basque archaeology, ethnography, and history.
Festivals in Bilbao
Main article: Aste Nagusia
Marijaia, the symbol of the
Aste Nagusia saluting from the Arriaga
Semana Grande (Spanish for Big Week,
Aste Nagusia in Basque) is
Bilbao's main festival attracting over 100,000 people. It begins on
the Saturday of the 3rd week of August each year, lasting 9 days and
has been celebrated since 1978. People from around Spain, and
increasingly from abroad, attend the celebrations.
The celebrations include the strongman games, free music performances,
street entertainment, bullfighting and nightly firework displays. The
best views of the display are from the town's bridges. Each year,
there is something different occurring, thus a festival programme
(these are available all over the city) is strongly recommended.
Bilbao is also the home city of the SAIL IN Festival, a unique event
in the world of sailing, attracting the very best skippers from around
the world featuring movie premiers, lectures, debates, masterclasses
and exhibitions in some of the most iconic venues of the city. The
SAIL IN Festival takes place in march and is an event open to the
public / Promo 2016
The San Mamés stadium.
Bilbao Arena, home venue of
As in the rest of Spain, football is the most popular competitive
sport, followed by basketball.
The main football club is Athletic Club, commonly known as Athletic
Bilbao in English. It plays at the new San Mamés stadium, which
opened in 2013 and seats 53,332 spectators.
Athletic Bilbao was
one of the founding members of the Spanish football league, La Liga,
and has played in the Primera División (First Division) ever
since - winning it on eight occasions. Its red and white striped flag
can be seen throughout the city. Athletic are noted for its Basque
policy, with only players born in or having clear connection to the
Basque Country or
Navarre being allowed to represent the club.
The main basketball team is
Bilbao Basket, which plays in the Liga
ACB. Their home venue is the
Bilbao offers many outdoor activities owing to its
location by the sea among hilly countryside.
Hiking and rock climbing
in the nearby mountains are very popular. Watersports, especially
surfing, are practised on the beaches of nearby
Sopelana and Mundaka.
Notable people from Bilbao
Joaquín Achúcarro (1932), pianist
José Antonio Aguirre (1904-1960), football player, nationalist
politician and first lehendakari of Basque Government
Joaquín Almunia (1948), parliamentarian and minister of
commissioner of the European Union
Sabino Arana (1865-1903), politician and writer, Fundator of PNV
Gabriel Aresti (1933-1975), promoter of poetry in euskera
Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga
Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga (1806-1826), composer, violinist and
Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991), Jesuit priest, Superior General of the
Jesuits between 1965 and 1983
Mariví Bilbao (1930-2013), actress
Fito Cabrales (1966), singer, guitarist and composer
Diego de Gardoqui (1735-1798), politician and diplomat, first Spanish
ambassador to the United States
Álex de la Iglesia
Álex de la Iglesia (1965), film director and scriptwriter
Antonio Fernandez Saenz (1947), lawyer and human rights defender
Jon Kortajarena (1985), actor and international model
Iñigo Lekue (born 1993), professional footballer
Juan Martínez de Recalde
Juan Martínez de Recalde (c.1526-1588), admiral
Rafael (Pichichi) Moreno (1892-1922), football player
Anabel Ochoa (1955-2008), psychiatrist, communicologist, writer and
actress of Los monólogos de la vagina
Pedro Olea (1938), director, producer and film scriptwriter
José Luis de Oriol (1877-1972), businessman, architect and Carlist
Txus di Fellatio, Jesús María Hernández Gil (1970), lyricist, poet
Mägo de Oz
Mägo de Oz folk metal drummer
Miguel de Unamuno
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), writer and philosopher
Iñaki Williams (born 1994), professional footballer
Secundino Zuazo (1887-1970), architect and urbanist
Ander Herrera (born 1989), professional footballer
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Spain
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Bilbao is twinned with:
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Qingdao, People's Republic of China
Pittsburgh, United States
Sant Adrià de Besòs, Spain
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^ a b "El tráfico de pasajeros del aeropuerto de
Loiu creció un 6,4%
en 2010". deia.com. 13 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21
January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
Aena (ed.). "Cómo llegar". Archived from the original on 22
September 2008. Retrieved 22 October 2008.
^ "La ampliación del aeropuerto de
Bilbao se retrasa al menos 5
años". El Correo. 19 November 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
Bilbao Public Transportation Statistics". Global Public Transit
Index by Moovit. Retrieved June 19, 2017. Material was copied
from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License.
Bilbao Turismo". .bilbao.net. Retrieved 7 July 2009. [dead
^ "Bilbao, one of the 9 most creative cities of 2016". Retrieved 6
^ "Guggenheim Museum Bilbao". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
^ "Basque Museum". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
^ Gunther Lades. "Football stadiums of the world – Stadiums in
Spain". Fussballtempel.net. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
^ "Spanish Primera División Table - ESPN Soccernet".
Soccernet.espn.go.com. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
^ José Antonio Agirre Lekube at Athletic Bilbao
^ "Town Twinning Agreements". Municipalidad de Rosario - Buenos Aires
711. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
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See also: Bibliography of the history of Bilbao
Beascoechea Madina, José María (1999).
Bilbao en el espejo. La
Bilbao más antigua 1300/1700. Bilbao. p. 194.
Gómez Piñeiro, Francisco Javier; et al. (1979). Geografía de Euskal
Herria: Vizcaya. San Sebastián. p. 291.
Montero, Manuel (2000). Construcción histórica de la villa de
Bilbao. San Sebastián. p. 142. ISBN 84-7148-384-X.
Olaizola Elordi, Juanjo (2002). Bilboko tranbiak-Los tranvías de
Bilbao (PDF). Bilbao. p. 177. ISBN 84-920629-8-3. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2009. Retrieved 26 October
Pérez Pérez, José Antonio (2001).
Bilbao y sus barrios: una mirada
desde la historia. Bilbao. ISBN 978-84-88714-94-7.
Quiroga, Ramón; Marrodán, Miguel Ángel (2001). Bilbao: 700 años de
historia. Abanto y Ciérvana. p. 115.
Sánchez-Beaskoetxea, Javier (2006). La vuelta a
Bilbao a través de
sus montes y de su historia. Bilbao. p. 94.
Tusell Gómez, Javier (2004).
Bilbao a través de su Historia. Bilbao.
p. 212. ISBN 84-95163-91-8.
V.A. (October–December 1998). La Ría, una razón de ser. Bilbao.
V.A. (2000). El karst de Pagasarri. ISBN 84-7752-319-3.
García de la Torre; Francisco Javier (2009). Bilbao :
arquitectura. ISBN 9788461328703.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bilbao.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bilbao.
Official website (in Basque) (in Spanish) (in English)
Municipalities in Biscay
Valle de Trápaga-Trapagaran
Abanto y Ciérbana-Abanto Zierbena
Capitals of provinces of Spain
Castellón de la Plana