The people we work with at the Kerren steak house love Bilbao, which is why we are proud to show it to you and invite you to get to know it.
Bilbao embarked on its path of history in the Middle Ages, when Don Diego López de Haro V, the Lord of Vizcaya, granted the Vizcayan capital the status of Villa (14th century). Owing to its strategic position on the Bay of Biscay, the city became a flourishing fishing and trading port in the 15th and 16th centuries, thanks to the establishment of trading routes with northern Europe and America.
The old quarter
The original nucleus developed alongside shipyards, warehouses and industries and comprised the axis of the Siete Calles (Seven Streets). The old quarter, declared a collection of historic-artistic buildings, is home to a wide variety of architectural styles, with Renaissance, Baroque, neo-classical and modernist buildings.
One of the most frequented areas within the old city is the shopping street Calle Correo, located beside the porticoed Plaza Nueva, built in the 19th century in the neo-classical style.
Access is gained in the immediate vicinity to Plaza de Unamuno, which is dominated by a bust of this writer and philosopher from Bilbao.
The Church of Santos Juanes is a fine example of religious architecture right in the heart of the old quarter. The church, built in the Renaissance style, formed part of the former Jesuit school, and is today the head office of the Basque Archaeological, Ethnographic and History Museum.
The Santiago Cathedral occupies a prominent place within the religious architecture of Bilbao. Built in the Gothic style at the end of the 14th century, it is especially noteworthy for its vaulted portico, typical of Basque churches, as well as its tower. The Angel faade at the far end of the cloister is well worth viewing. Another one of the city's emblematic churches dominates the old quarter, the Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña. This building, devoted to the patron saint of the city, was built in the 16th century in the Gothic style and has a beautiful Renaissance faade.
Another one of the city's emblematic churches dominates the old quarter; the Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña. This building, devoted to the patron saint of the city, was built in the 16th century in the Gothic style and has a beautiful Renaissance faade.
Other churches are also worthy of mention such as San Antón, 14th century Gothic, Merced (17th century) and San Nicolás, an original Baroque building from the 18th century with its twin towers.
Among the civil buildings, special mention should be made of the Arana Palace, which dates from the 16th-17th centuries, the building known as La Bolsa (the Stock Exchange), the former palace of the Vargas (18th century) and the municipal library, built in the modernist style. Alongside the Nervión estuary is located the Ribera market, a popular centre for stocking up on supplies and which was built during the first decades of the 20th century, and the Arriaga Theatre, located by Paseo del Arenal. The construction of this important building dates back to the 19th century and it is especially noteworthy for its eclecticism and the lavishness of its rooms inside.
The urban expansion area
The urban expansion area spreads out over the other side of the estuary. The Plaza Circular, dominated by the image of Don Diego López de Haro, paves the way to the modern Bilbao of the Gran Vía, the city's main artery. Along this thoroughfare are elegant civil buildings dating from the beginning of the 20th century, such as the Santander railway station, the head offices of the Sociedad Bilbaína and the Stock Exchange and the County Council Offices.
In the rest of the tidily laid out urban expansion area, it is possible to find corners full of charm, such as the area around the Albia gardens, which makes a leafy and peaceful stroll surrounded by nineteenth-century buildings. Among them rises the church of San Vicente, built in the 16th century in the late-Gothic style, with a Renaissance faade topped by a slender belfry.
The Plaza de Moyúa constitutes the nerve centre of the urban expansion area. Among the stately buildings rising around it, special mention should be made of the Chávarri Palace, the headquarters of the Civil Governor's Residence. In the Renaissance style, the building is noteworthy for its use of coloured marble.
The Gran Vía ends at the Plaza del Sagrado Corazón, where a huge column topped by a bronze statue was built in the mid-1930s.
The Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park has become a favourite place for relaxation among the inhabitants of Bilbao. With its pergola, its duck pond and cybernetic fountain, it has become another attraction on a sightseeing tour of Bilbao.
The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao is housed in this same park, one of the most important art galleries in the city.
A new city
In recent years, Bilbao has recovered its estuary so as to provide a more modern image. Among the latest projects that have been carried out, special mention should be made of the Metro, designed by Norman Foster, and the Guggenheim Museum, a building with a futuristic image designed by the renowned Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry, and which has become a new symbol for the city. The latter forms part of the ambitious Abandoibarra project, which will give rise to the future International Business and Arts Centre, with buildings such as the Euskalduna Conference and Music Hall.
The museums of Bilbao
The permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum includes works by some of the most important artists of the last forty years such as Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein, Antoni Tápies and Mark Rothko. Names from the world of young and Basque art such as Cristina Iglesias and Darío Urzay are also worthy of special mention. A characteristic feature of the collection is provided by contemporary artists such as Jenny Holzer and Richard Serra, who have been commissioned to produce works for specific sections of the building. The fact that the collection is shared means that what is on public display changes, without there being fixed rooms, which makes a visit to the museum a unique occasion.
The city's cultural facilities also include the Basque Archaeological, Ethnographic and History Museum, located in a former 17th century Jesuit school. Its collections provide an introduction to Basque culture. The cloister which provides access to the building is dominated by the idol of Mikeldi (a pre-Christian Basque sculptor). Inside, the permanent exhibition of this interesting museum includes permanent collections, among which the prehistoric tools used in agriculture, fishing and weaving are of special note.
Without forgetting the Museum of Artistic Reproductions, where some of the large masterpieces in sculpture to be admired, special mention should be made of the Museum of Fine Arts. Considered the most important and complete art gallery in the Basque Country, it houses many collections of Spanish and foreign paintings arranged in three main sections: classical art, contemporary art and Basque art.
The area set aside for classical art displays the evolution experienced by Spanish and European art since Medieval times until the 19th century, with works by painters such as El Greco, Murillo, Zurbarán and Goya. Within this part of the museum is a special section set aside for Flemish, Dutch and Italian painting from the era, with artists such as Van Dyck, Brueghel and Gentileschi.
The rooms set aside for contemporary art also house a great number of works ranging from the main avant-garde painters of the 20th century to our times.
Special mention should be made of monographic Basque art; without doubt one of the museum's main attractions. Zuloaga, Iturrino and other artists have their space inside this section set aside for the evolution of art in the Basque Country.