Bilbao is the capital place of the province of Biscaglia, and the largest city of the Basque Country, with a population of approximately 352.000 inhabitants. The city history dates back to more than 2000 years ago, and was officially founded in the 14th century. Crossed by the river Nervión, Bilbao is an important tourist destination, a lively port and florid industrial centre at the same time.
Served by a modern international airport, the city has started a significant renewal of the urban asset, involving a massive modernization of the public transport system with the realization of a modern underground and tram network (EuskoTran, recently renovated).
The underground is a work by the British architect Norman Foster, and was inaugurated on 11th November 1995. It runs along the river Nerviòn for a total length of 40 kilometres. If you plan to reach the main tourist attractions by public transport, you may want to purchase the Bilbao Card, available at any tourist information offices. There are 3 kinds of card: a one-day card, two-day card and a 3-day card.
The purchase of any of these cards gives access to numerous discounts in museums and on all public transports. From the cultural and artistic point of view, Bilbao has a lot to offer to tourists.
The starting point for any visit should be the Old Town, overlooked by the towering presence of the Cathedral of Santiago, a gothic church dating from the end of the XIV century and recently renovated. The church is a perfect mix of classicity and modernity.
Not far away we find the famous Ria de Bilbao, with the promenade of the Arenal. Nearby you can see the Arriaga Theatre, the Town Hall and the University of Deusto. Remaining in the area of the city centre you can also visit the Gran Via Don Diego López de Haro, simply called the Gran Via, with its elegant buildings and all the most famous fashion shops and boutiques.
Close to it we find the square Moyú, with the two splendid civil buildings of the Hacienda and Gobierno Civil, and the hotel Carlton (a favourite place of Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway).
If you like shopping, then you should visit Spain’s largest covered market, Mercado de la Ribera. At night simply hang around the numerous tapas bars and pubs and discover the gastronomic specialties of the city, then end your tour at the Arriaga theatre, the city main cultural centre, or at the Centro Municipal Bilborock-La Merced, a huge baroque building of the 17th century which plays host to concerts and cultural events.
If you want to see Bilbao from an alternative point of view, take the cable car to the top of Mount Artxanda, or the lift which goes from calle Esperanza (in the heart of the old town) to the basilica of Nuestra Senora de Begona.
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