Travel Postcard: 48 Hours in Bilbao

Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:33am EDT
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BILBAO, Spain (Reuters) - A giant topiary terrier, a museum clad in steel scales, old-world elegant avenues and pine and palm trees swaying against dramatic dark hills are just some of the sights of Bilbao in northern Spain.

About an hour's flight from Madrid, Bilbao sits inland from the Bay of Biscay. Signs appear in both Basque and Castilian Spanish but people speak fluent Castilian and many are quite comfortable switching to English.

Even with about a million inhabitants Bilbao retains plenty of old-fashioned charm. Dainty 19th century apartment blocks line the avenues leading down to the Ria de Bilbao, the once-polluted river that now is one of the city's most attractive features.

Many residential buildings feature delicate wrought-iron railings and glassed-in balconies that seem to be almost unique to the north of Spain, where lower temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight mean its residents must do more to conserve warmth, especially during the long, dark winter months.


5:00 p.m. - Start off in Plaza Moyua, which boasts two of the famous shell-like glass and steel entrances to its subway system, known as "fostercitos", for their designer, British architect Norman Foster.

The centre of the plaza is a pedestrian square, decked with clusters of the white begonias and red impatiens that feature in most flowerbeds around town, evoking the colors of the "ekuriña", the green, red and white Basque flag that flutters outside most public buildings.

Walk down Alameda Recalde to the Guggenheim art museum, which is guarded by "Puppy", a five-storey high West Highland terrier statue made entirely of pink, orange, yellow, purple and white flowers, designed by American artist Jeff Koons.

Admire the shimmering asymmetrical steel sweeps of the walls of the Guggenheim, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. For 13 euros ($16) visitors can tour the museum's entire collection, which includes visiting exhibitions.   Continued...

People climb stairs to cross the Zubzuri (White Bridge) pedestrian bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, in front of the Torres Isozaki , by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, at dusk in Bilbao June 26, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent West