Just a few miles from the coast of the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao, Spain, was not always the tourist destination it is today. In fact, it was only in 1997, when the Guggenheim Museum opened its doors, that Bilbao made its shining debut on the international map. However, since then, people from all over the world have flocked to this little haven of Basque country known for its contemporary art, architecture and cuisine.
The Groundbreaking Guggenheim
The famed Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry designed Bilbao’s prime tourist attraction: the Guggenheim Museum. A work of art itself, the museum’s daring and innovative façade curves at random with silver panels that catch the light and a flower-like atrium. Inside, walls and pedestals are covered in contemporary paintings, sculptures and collages from the mid-twentieth century to today. Artists featured include Andy Warhol; German artist Anselm Kiefer; and Basque masters Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza. The Guggenheim often features a large-scale sculpture at its entrance, with past works including Jeff Koons’ enormous flowering Puppy and Louise Bourgeois’ gargantuan spider, Maman.
Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, the Zubizuri or “White Bridge” connects the right and left banks of the Nervión River. The tied arch footbridge is a site to behold from afar but is truly mesmerizing to experience up close. It was originally created with a glass surface that allowed pedestrians to view the water beneath their feet. However, in the rain the surface proved dangerously slippery. It has since been covered in a non-slip mat and, while controversial, the change has made the bridge no less dazzling for visitors to cross.
Mercado de la Ribera Market
Did you know that Bilbao’s Mercado de la Ribera Market was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records in 1990 for being the world’s largest municipal food market? Covering a surface area of 10,000 square meters over three stories, the market sits on the waterfront of the Nervión River. It is a feast for the senses with art deco windows and stained glass illuminating a vibrant palette of colorful fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood and premium cuts of meat. New spaces dedicated for Basque tapas known as pintxos have also appeared within the market, rendering it not only a must-see but a must-eat for any Bilbao sightseer.