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Bilbao lies on the banks of the River Nervion on the north coast of Spain about 80K west of the border with France. It is surrounded by the green hills of Euskadi (Basque Region) and close to beaches on the Atlantic. This Basque region city is the capital of the Vizcaya region, and is economically and industrially one of the most important cities in Spain. It has a population of just under 400,000 in the city, although there are more than a million in the urban area extending out from the city.
Bilbao is a perfect base to enjoy some Basque culture, thought to be one of the worlds oldest. The Basque region is also one of the most well regarded destinations for food and wine and Bilbao is certainly no exception. The local version of Tapas, called Pintxos is fantastic and there are some excellent wines to sample as well. The locals are warm and welcoming to visitors and there exists a definite commitment to art, culture and the enjoyment of life in the attitudes here.
The city was established sometime around 1300 in a loop of the Nervion River which served to protect the town on three sides. The town overall has relatively few medieval monuments compared to many from this era, perhaps owing to it's modern commercial and industrial functions. However the old town is very historic and intact and there are some impressive churches such as the 14th century Gothic Cathedral of St James and it's adjoining square, and the Basilica de Beona which was built in the 1700's. There are also plenty of impressive and historic open plaza's, market buildings and interesting architecture from the 15th century right through to more modern times.
The city is perhaps most famous for the outlandish and impressive Guggenheim Museum with it's titanium clad surfaces and twisted forms on the banks of the river. The design is reminiscent of sailing vessels and looks particularly impressive from across the river. The museum has given international recognition to Bilbao as a city of culture, although in truth there was always plenty to enjoy anyway. Never the less the Museum is certainly a major attraction and hosts several guest exhibitions each year as well as having it's own collection which includes works by many of the 20th centuries most luminary artists including Picasso, Warhol as well as many others.
The warm climate is conducive to the many outdoor activities available in the area. There is plenty of opportunities for hiking and skiing in the Pyrenees or taking a visit to the nearby beaches when the sun is out.