Just two decades into a major renaissance, the charming city of Bilbao, Spain, is a fascinating destination in which to extend your Taste of Bordeaux cruise.

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.

Zubizuri Bridge

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.

Casco Viejo

No visit to Bilbao is complete without strolling along the Casco Viejo–seven 15th-century streets that formed the original medieval town. The heart of the city, these narrow pedestrian-only streets are lined with taverns and pintxos bars, shops and colorful homes with plant-laden balconies, as well as the Gothic Catedral de Santiago with its breathtaking interior.

Artxanda Funicular

Mount Artxanda is one of two small mountain ranges that border Bilbao. For more than a century, a charming red cable car known as the Artxanda Funicular has offered a delightful ride up to the mountain’s lookout platform every 15 minutes. There you can gaze out over the rooftops and even spot the point where the river meets the sea.

Bilbao Tiles

Originally created to stop people from slipping on rainy days, Bilbao’s flagstone pavements have their own unique rosette style. You’ll find this trademark design beneath your feet in many areas of the city. In fact, it has become a proud symbol of Bilbao and appears on the design of many souvenirs, local awards and even pastries!

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