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Bilbao (Also Bilbo in Basque) is the largest city in the Basque Countrymarker and the capital of the province of Biscay (Basque: Bizkaia), Spainmarker.The city has 353,168 inhabitants (2007) and is the most financially and industrially active part of Greater Bilbao, the zone in which almost half of the Basque Country’s population lives. Greater Bilbao’s 953,152 inhabitants are spread along the length of the Nervión Rivermarker, whose banks are home also to numerous businesses and factories, which during the industrial revolution brought heightened prosperity to the region.

A major seaportmarker and industrial centre, the city is located on the Estuary of Bilbao, the city's suburbs extending to the Bay of Biscaymarker. The population of the city of Bilbao proper was 353,168 in 2007. The population of the urban area of Greater Bilbao ( the conurbation) was 953,152 as of 2007 estimates. Population of the metropolitan area (urban area plus satellite towns) was 950,155 as of 2007 estimates, ranking as the fifth-largest metropolitan area of Spain. , the mayor of Bilbao is Iñaki Azkuna.


In the north, Bilbao’s city edge is considered to be around the towns of Erandiomarker, Sondikamarker and Deriomarker, in the east it is encompassed by Zamudiomarker and Etxebarrimarker. The southern border passes outside Basaurimarker and Arrigorriagamarker and, in the west, Barakaldomarker and Alonsotegimarker are the furthest extremes. The urban area is enclosed by two small mountain ranges called Pagasarrimarker (to the south) and Artxandamarker (to the north); this gives the city its nickname, "el botxo", "the hole".


The city of Bilbao is divided into eight different districts, including the following neighbourhoods:
image=Distritos Bilbao numerados.svg|width= |float= }}


Bilbao has an oceanic climate, generally mild, with not too extreme temperatures. January average temperature is 9°C and July average 21°C. Precipitation is around per year, almost entirely rain, although in winter it snows three days on average.
Jan 1985, strong blizzards covered Bilbao in snow for 2 weeks.
Extreme heat is also common a few days each summer, mainly when strong winds from the south blow through the mountains and temperatures rise because of the foehn wind.

Extreme record observations in Bilbao are 42.2°C maximum (13 August 2003) and - 8.6°C minimum (3 February 1963). The maximum precipitation in a day was in 26 August 1983 when severe flooding was originated by the Nervión River.


Saint Anton church and bridge, the symbol of the city, as viewed in the coat of arms.
Bilbao's Cathedral of Santiago.
Bilbao was founded as a village by Don Diego Lopez de Haromarker V, Lord of Biscay, on 15 June 1300 on the opposite river bank of an existing fishing settlement (now known as Bilbao la Vieja or Bilbo Zaharramarker, "Old Bilbao").

Prior to formal establishment as a township, a village and port called "Bilbao" (the name designated in the founding village charter of 1300) is believed to have been located near an ancient wall (circa XII century) recently discovered by the "San Anton" Bridge. Other evidence suggests that first settlements in Bilbao came earlier near the "Malmasin" promontory.

The name of the city has unclear origins, some think it may come from "bel vado", ancient Spanish for "good river crossing" while others proclaim it stems from Basque "bi albo" meaning "two river banks".

Nearby places like Sestaomarker and Ugao-Miraballesmarker have the same ending that could be Basque aho, "mouth".


Don Diego gave the city rights and privileges along with land for growth. At first there were only three streets: Somera ("Upper"), Artekale ("middle street") and Tendería ("Shopkeeper's"), following the pattern of three parallel streets found in other Basque towns, and the Santiago churchmarker, surrounded by a city wall. Bilbao was in the northern branch of the Way of Saint Jamesmarker, thus the name of Santiago (Saint James') church.

The city grew slowly but steadily, its area is now known as the "Seven streets", after the new parallel developments. The privileges conceded by the successive Lords of Biscay were resented, sometimes violently, by other chartered villas like Portugaletemarker and by the unchartered villages.In the 15th century wars between noble families disrupted the city, which had reached a population of almost 3000.
Bilbao in 1575.
Three floods and a fire shook the city, and Santiago Church was almost totally destroyed. But once again the city recovered and it grew beyond the wall.

In 1511 the Consulate of Bilbao was granted to the city by the Spanish Crown, this allowed Bilbao to be the main export port for Merino wool from Castile to northern European cities such as Antwerpmarker.

Bilbao became the most important commercial and financial hub of the Spanish north coast during the Spanish Empire era. The swords exported through Bilbao were known in England as "bilboes".


In 1602 Bilbao was made capital city of Biscay, replacing the former capital Bermeomarker. The following centuries saw a constant increase of the city's wealth, especially after the discovery of extensive iron resources in the surrounding hills.At the end of the 17th century, Bilbao overcame the economical crises that affected Spain thanks to the iron ore and the commerce with England and the Netherlands. During the 18th century the city continued to grow and almost exhausted its small space.
1876 Extension plan, by Alzola, Achúcarro and Hoffmeyer architects.
The 19th century's industrial revolution was crucial for Bilbao, with the developing of strong mining, steel and shipbuilding industries.At the beginning of the 20th century Bilbao was the wealthiest city of Spain, where the main banks (BBVA) and insurance companies were established.

Bilbao was besieged four times by the Carlists during the Carlist Wars, but due to the defenders (the regular Spanish army and local Liberal volunteers), it was never conquered, as is recorded in the city's title ("undefeated").

In 1886 the University of Deusto was established by the Company of Jesus and a major plan for the city was announced after the village of Abando was annexed. The Alzola, Achúcarro and Hoffmeyer "Ensanche" (extension) project of 1876 almost doubled the city's area and was developed during the following decades, as it happened in other cities like Barcelonamarker at that time.

20th century

In 1901 half of the original "Ensanche" project was built.
In 1925, the village of Deusto was annexed and several other parts of the city were developed including Basurto and Begoña.

Bilbao sided with the Republican Government in the Spanish Civil War and was the capital of the first Basque Autonomous Government led by José Antonio Aguirre. A defensive ring, called "Cinturón de Hierro" (Iron Belt) was built around the city, with heavy artillery and many bunkers linked by kilometers of tunnels. Despite these efforts, on 19 June 1937 Bilbao succumbedmarker to Franco's troops' siege (aided by the betrayal of the engineer Goicoechea, designer of the defensive ring); the bridges were destroyed to stop the enemy, but the city survived relatively intact.

During Franco's dictatorship the city's heavy industries fuelled Spain's economy and thousands of immigrants from central and southern Spain moved to Bilbao, the city and surrounding towns expanded greatly and sometimes chaotically. In an effort to accommodate the influx of immigrants in the city's limited space, the towns in the adjacent Txoriherri valley (Erandio, Derio, Zamudio, Sondika, Lezama) were annexed. This annexation was reversed in 1981 after the transition to democracy.

In 1983 heavy floods struck the city, killing many people in the province and causing great damage to the old part of the city; the old Arriaga Theatermarker was devastated. Since then the "Casco Viejomarker" (the old district) has been renewed, along with the general trend of renewal seen all around the city.

Regeneration and renewal

Euskalduna Palace, one of the major developments in the former industrial district of Abandoibarra.
The city has recently undergone major urban renewal, in order to move away from the region’s industrial history and instead focus on tourism and services. The developments are centered around the new metro system by Sir Norman Foster (see Metro Bilbao) and, most of all, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museummarker by Frank Gehry. A new tram line(EuskoTran) was introduced in 2002. The Port of Bilbaomarker, formerly on the river, has been moved and expanded downstream on the Bay of Biscaymarker, opening a great deal of central real estate on the river that has been the site of most of the new building. Other new landmarks include the Santiago Calatrava- designed Zubizuri Bridgemarker and the Euskalduna Palacemarker, a cultural centre, further downstream. The two points are linked by a new riverside passageway opposite University of Deusto, which provides an open green space for the city’s inhabitants to relax.

A major landmark tower, designed by César Pelli, to house the Iberdrola electric company will also be built and there are ambitious plans to regenerate the peninsula on the river known as Zorrozaurre.

Main sights

As well as the famous Guggenheim Museummarker, the city acts as home for the Fine Arts Museummarker recognised as one of Spain’s finest art museums and recently refurbished and the Maritime Museum on the Nervión’s banks, which recently hosted the RMS Titanicmarker exhibition which has been touring Europe. Museums are only a part of the city's attractions.

Since the inauguration of the Guggenheim museum in 1997, eight new hotels have been opened in the city, reflecting the increasing interest for the city.

Old Town or "Casco Viejo"

The medieval neighbourhood is the most colourful part of Bilbao, a maze of narrow streets full of taverns, shops and monuments.
File:Plaza nueva de Bilbao.JPG|Plaza Nueva.File:Portal de Zamudio.JPG|Casco viejo, Zamudio Gate.File:Mercado de la Ribera.JPG|La Ribera market .File:Teatro Arriaga exterior 2.jpg|The Teatro Arriagamarker opera house.

Museums and cultural centres

The Guggenheim Museum.


Fine Arts Museum.

Civil buildings



Greater Bilbao is the Basque Countrymarker's main economic area and one of Spainmarker's most important. The metropolitan area concentrates several key industrial sectors: steel, energy production, machine tool, aeronautics industry, electronics and IT. The municipality of Bilbao has been an industrial one for decades, but the heavier industries have been moved from the city center to the periphery and the city has centered its activities in the services sector which accounts for the 75’5% of the city's added value. The GNP per capita is 19,648 (FY 2000), slightly above the average of the Basque Country and well above the average of Spain. The city is the corporate seat of the BBVA bank and Iberdrola electric company.

The International Trade Fair, now Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC) hosts many international level exhibitions, especially the Biannual Machine Tool Fair (BIEMH), that help dynamizing the economic life. On top of BEC, Bilbao has the Euskalduna Palacemarker as a congress center.

The port of Bilbaomarker is the most important one in the north of Spain and one of the most important in the Bay of Biscaymarker. In 2005, the port moved 36.8 million tonnes, being the fourth port of Spain after Algecirasmarker, Barcelonamarker and Valenciamarker.


Historical populations


1842 10,243
1860 17,969
1877 35,227
1887 51,314
1897 74,076
1900 81,956
1910 92,116
1920 115,014
1930 156,920
1940 192,351
1950 216,417
1960 294,174
1970 405,908
1981 433,115
1991 369,839
2001 349,972
2003 353,173
2006 354,145
2007 353,168
2008 353,340

In 1970, Bilbao was the sixth most populated city in Spain and the third-highest ranked metropolitan area. In 1981, its population peaked at 433,115. From there on the population of the city proper started to decline.
Demographics of Bilbao (1900–2005)
This was due to the fact that the towns surrounding Bilbao that were merged into the city during the 1940s and 1960s (Erandiomarker, Loiu, Deriomarker, Sondikamarker and Zamudiomarker) regained independence and because of a population movement into the suburban towns in The right bank, like Getxomarker and Leioamarker, whose populations increased sharply. In 2008, Bilbao’s official figures counted 353,340 inhabitants.

Decreasing population

Whilst the overall region’s population continues to climb, the city centre has noticed a drop in residents. This is a result of the steady and seemingly unbreakable trend of the city’s people flocking to the coastlines which has been underway since the 1990s, caused mainly by high real-estate prices in Bilbao. Bilbao is the fourth most expensive city in Spain, after Madridmarker, Barcelonamarker and San Sebastianmarker.
% of immigrants in Bilbao's districts.
Industrialised areas have been left in favour of the coast. In fact, of the 18 towns around Bilbao with more than 10,000 inhabitants, only eight - Amorebieta-Etxanomarker, Arrigorriagamarker, Durangomarker, Gernikamarker, Getxomarker, Leioamarker, Mungiamarker and Sopelanamarker – have increased their number of inhabitants. Sestaomarker has been worst hit, losing nearly 11% of its population in eight years.


Since 2001, the number of immigrants in the city has risen steadily each year as a result of increasing migration into Spain. In 2000, 2% of Bilbao's population consisted of immigrants, in contrast with the national average of 11,3%.


Main building of the University of Deusto
The Basque Government is in charge of education in the Basque Countrymarker.

In Greater Bilbao there are two Universities:
  • University of Deusto: founded in 1886 by the Society of Jesus. The University has another campus in San Sebastiánmarker. The Bilbao campus offers the following studies: Law, Philosophy, Education, Business - La Comercial, Theology, Politics and Sociology, Engineering - ESIDE.

  • University of the Basque Country: created in 1968 as University of Bilbao and renamed to its current name in 1980. It is a public university with the following studies in Greater Bilbao: Business school of Sarriko (Bilbao), Education (Bilbao), Engineering and Telecommunications(Bilbao), Technical Engineering school of La Casilla (Bilbao), Medium grade Business school (Bilbao), Nautical school (Portugalete), Mining (Barakaldo), Elderly University (Bilbao), Medicine and Odontology (Leioa-Erandio), Sociology and Communication (Leioa-Erandio), Fine Arts (Leioa-Erandio), Laboral Relationships (Leioa), Nursing (Leioa).

Infrastructure and transportation


A-8 motorway in Bilbao.
The city has 13 bridges connecting both sides of the river, it is connected to the European road network by the AP-8 toll motorway and to the north of Spain by the A-8 motorway and to the rest of Spain by the AP-68 toll motorway.


The underground network (Metro Bilbao), inaugurated in 1995, is used by more than 85 million passengers every year. It has 2 lines that connect both banks of the Bilbao Metropolitan Area. There is a project under way to build a third line.


The city has 43 Bilbobus bus lines, 28 for normal buses, seven "micro-buses" for zones of the city that a normal bus can't access, and eight night lines. The inner-city bus network has recently won a prize for its efficiency and quality of service. In addition, there are more than 100 BizkaiBus bus lines, connecting Bilbao with almost every point in Biscay and part of Alava. The city's main bus station is called Termibus and is located near the San Mamés stadium.


File:Bilbao-Abando2.jpg|Bilbao-Abandomarker, main station of RENFE.File:Tranbia.jpg|The tram going down Navarra street.File:Bilbao-Concordia1.jpg|Estación de la Concordia, the main station for the FEVE trains.There are 7 commuter rail lines operated by three different companies:

Renfe (Spanish railway network) operates 3 Cercanías lines in metropolitan Bilbao:
*C1, Bilbao-Abandomarker-Santurtzimarker
*C2, Abando-Muskizmarker
*C3, Abando-Orduñamarker

FEVE (Spanish Narrow Gauge Railways) operates one line:
*Abando (Concordia)-Balmasedamarker.

EuskoTren (Basque railway network), operates three lines:

In 2002, the new tramway, EuskoTran, was inaugurated. It has one line connecting Atxuri with Basurto. Plans are afoot to greatly expand the network over the coming decade.


A new airport terminalmarker designed by Santiago Calatrava was opened in 2000, expanding the capacity of the former facility, and allowing growth in tourism fuelled by low-cost flights by airlines such as EasyJet and Vueling. The airport handled 4,277,610 passengers in 2007.

By sea

A P&O ferry service links Santurtzi, near Bilbao, to Portsmouthmarker (UKmarker). The Pride of Bilbao ferry departs from the port of Bilbaomarker, north west of the city centre. A service operated by Acciona Trasmediterranea served the same route from May 16, 2006 until April 2007.

Transportation links


City Hall.
Bilbao has several theatres and concert halls (Teatro Arriagamarker, Palacio Euskalduna), cinemas, and opera season. The Bilbao Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1922, its current conductor Günter Neuhold being appointed in 2008.

Museums include the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbaomarker of contemporary art and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museummarker, with a great collection of Spanish painting.

Like in other Spanish cities, night life is long and vibrant, with clubs that offer live music (Kafe Antzokia, Bilborock).

Bilbao was briefly featured at the start of the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

The Bilbao Live Festival, initiated in 2006, is another measure of new interest


Marijaia, the symbol of the Aste Nagusia saluting from the Arriaga Theatre.
Semana Grande (Spanish for Big Week, Aste Nagusia in Basque) is Bilbao's main festival attracting over 100,000 people and takes place each year, lasting 9 days. It has been celebrated since 1978 and begins on the Saturday of the 3rd week of August each year. People from around Spain, and increasingly from abroad attend the celebrations.

The celebrations include the strongman games, free music performances, street entertainment, bullfighting and nightly firework displays. The best views of the display are from the city's bridges. Each year, there is something different occurring, thus a festival programme (these are available all over the city) is strongly recommended.

you can also get a crackin night out there too so yi can.


Like in most of both Spain and the Basque country, football is the most popular competitive sport, followed by basketball.

The main football club is Athletic Club, commonly known as Athletic Bilbao in English. It plays at the San Mamésmarker stadium, which is Spain's oldest built stadium and seats 39,750 spectators.Athletic Bilbao was one of the founder members of the Spanish football league, La Liga, and has played in the Primera División (First Division) ever since - winning it on eight occasions. Its red and white striped flag is to be seen throughout the city.

In addition, Bilbao offers the possibility of many outdoor activities owing to its location in a hilly countryside, hiking is very popular as well as rock climbing in the nearby mountains. Watersports, specially surfing is practiced in the beaches of Sopelanamarker and Mundakamarker, easily accessed from the city centre by car, metro or train.
Club Sport League Venue Logo
Athletic Club de Bilbao Football Spanish 1st division San Mamésmarker
Bizkaia Bilbao Basket Basketball Spanish ACB league Bizkaia Arenamarker

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Bilbao is twinned with:

Famous people

Writers Musicians Artists Science and Technology

Sports Politicians Military Media

Night panorama of central Bilbao from Etxebarria Park.


External links

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