Capital of the province of Bizkaia
First time stage city
Personalities: Julian de Ajuriaguerra (psychoanalyst and resistance fighter), Juan Crisostomo de Arriago (composer), Alex De la Iglesia, Arantxa Echevarria (filmmakers), Blas de Otero (poet), Miguel de Unamuno (writer), Inaki Gaston (cyclist), Pichichi, Inaki Williams (footballers)
Specialities: Biscayan cod, cod al pil-pil, choricero (pepper), Guernica beans, marmitako (a kind of tuna bouillabaisse), Pisto a la bilbaina (ratatouille with egg and ham).
Culture and festivals: Guggenheim Museum, Fine Arts Museum. Aste Nagusia (August), commemoration of the founding of the city (15 June).
Sport: Athletic Bilbao (football), CBD Bilbao (basketball). Events : Grand Départ of the 2023 Tour de France. Vuelta. Bilbao-Bilbao cycle tour.
Economy: Bilbao is the 10th largest city in Spain and one of its main economic centres. Shipbuilding, services, high technology (Bizkaia Technology Park), port activities (first port on the north coast of Spain), banking (BBVA headquarters), Iberdrola (electricity and gas).
Websites / FB / Twitter / Instagram: bilbao.eus, bilbaoturismo.net, guggenheim-bilbao.es
BILBAO AND CYCLING
The largest city in the Basque Country is one of the cradles of Spanish cycling, as circuit races and road races to San Sebastian have been held here since 1893. One of the riders to win here, Vicente Fatras, became a Republican deputy for Bilbao before being assassinated in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War. A cycle touring race open to all has been held in the city since 1988 at Easter. Bilbao has also featured in 36 editions of the Vuelta, most notably continuously between 1955 and 1978, when the country's flagship event was organised by El Correo Espanol del Pueblo Vasco, which was based in the city. On the Vuelta’s last visit, in 2022, Marc Soler took his second stage victory of the edition. Three years earlier, it was Philippe Gilbert, now a young retiree, who raised his arms in town. The Tour of the Basque Country also has its habits in Bilbao: Primoz Roglic was the winner of the last two stages of the event to finish here, in 2017 and 2021. Among the riders born in Bilbao who have taken part in the Tour de France, the most notable are Inaki Gaston, who rode eight times between 1985 and 1993, Ramon Gonzalez Arrieta, with four participations between 1992 and 1995, Cesar Solaun (1998 and 1999), but also Eduardo Gonzalez or David Herrero, who only took part once.
Foundation: opened to the public in 1997.
Attendance: one million visitors per year.
Features: This is one of the two museums of the Salomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The building's innovative structure was designed by Frank Gehry in the style for which he is famous. Its silhouette is the result of a unique combination of stone, glass and titanium. The museum quickly became one of the world's best-known and most popular contemporary buildings, which has played a major role in the city's revival and reputation. Important works at the Guggenheim Bilbao include gigantic sculptures by Richard Serra, installations by Jenny Holzer, a Spider by Louise Bourgeois (1999), and the giant Puppy dog dressed in flowers by Jeff Koons (1992) located at the entrance.
History: the construction of the museum was decided by the Basque government and the authorities of Bizkaia in order to restore the image of the region and the city affected by the loss of heavy industry. The cost of the museum, financed by the Vizcaya Provincial Council and the Basque government, is 100 million dollars. An agreement signed on December 13, 1991, between the political authorities and the Guggenheim Foundation stipulates that the latter will be responsible for the collections and their management. The museum was built between October 1993 and October 1997 by the Spanish multinational Ferrovial, at a cost of 89 million dollars.
Special feature: a colossal construction, which required more than 25,000 t of concrete, i.e. about 10,000 m3.
Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts
Attendance: 300,000 visitors per year.
Characteristics: Notable for the long period it covers (from the 12th century to the present day), the collection of the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts currently has more than six thousand works. Painting dominates, with leading Spanish artists from Bartolomé Bermejo (15th century) to Miquel Barceló. The most famous works are by El Greco, Zurbarán, Ribera and Goya, many of which have been included in international exhibitions. There is also an important collection of Flemish painting, as well as more recent works by Gauguin, Cézanne, Francis Bacon and Fernand Léger.
History: It was founded with the sponsorship of local collectors in a city with a rather short art tradition and no large aristocratic or ecclesiastical collections. The present museum is the result of the merger in 1945 of the original museum with the Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1924. Inspired by the Prado Museum, the building follows neoclassical lines combining stone and red brick. An extension was built in the 1970s.
Listing: Property of cultural interest (1962).
St. James Cathedral
Foundation: 13th century
Style: Gothic and neo-Gothic.
Characteristics: architecturally, the present building is a mixture of 15th century Gothic for the cloister and the main vault and Neo-Gothic for the façade and spire. There is a curious custom of stone carvings by local merchants along the buttresses of the main vault.
History: the cathedral is dedicated to Santiago de Compostela because it is on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago. It was granted the title of minor basilica in 1819, before becoming the cathedral of the diocese of Bilbao in 1950.
Listing: listed as a Site of Cultural Interest (1931). Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Basilica of Begona
Foundation: 16th century.
Features: The Basilica of the Virgin of Begona, patron saint of Bizkaia, dominates the city of Bilbao from its hilltop. The church is the work of Sancho Martínez de Arego. It was built on the very spot where the Virgin appeared at the beginning of the 16th century. The basilica is in late Gothic style, and the main façade is a splendid Renaissance example of a triumphal arch. The baroque altarpiece of the church disappeared during the first Carlist war and was replaced by the present Elizabethan one. It is dominated by a Gothic sculpture in polychrome wood of the Virgin of Begona. The bell tower, on the other hand, dates from the early 20th century.
Special features: on 11 October, the day of the Virgin, a romeria is held in honour of the "amatxu de Begona" (mother of Begona). On this occasion, there are concerts, street marches, children's activities, dance performances and demonstrations of local sports.
History: Built in 1888 by Atanasio de Anduiza to a design by the Belgian architect Paul Hankar, it is reminiscent of both the tenement buildings of Brussels and the Renaissance palaces of the Belgian cities of Antwerp and Bruges. Today it houses the Spanish government's representation in the province of Vizcaya.
A special feature of the building is that no two windows are alike.
Biscayan cod (Bakailaoa bizkaitar erara in Basque or Bacalao a la vizcaína in Spanish) is one of the traditional dishes of the Basque Country. Its main ingredient is cod, accompanied by a sauce known as Biscayan, which is made up of red choricero pepper, tomato, garlic and red onion. The preparation is simple. The back of the cod is candied in oil flavoured with garlic at a low temperature and the Biscayan sauce is added. There are many variations, with the addition of bay leaves or breadcrumbs.