The Best Galleries And Museums In Bilbao

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Bilbao is the capital of Spain’s Basque Country, an industrial port city full of cultural and historical museums and galleries in its art district. Bilbao is a city where art and architecture are one and the same, and has gained an international reputation since the turn of the century. Find out more about the best museums to visit while in this historically unique city.

1. Guggenheim Museum

Building, Museum

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
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The Guggenheim in Bilbao is renowned internationally, not only for its excellent exhibitions and wealth of information presented in creative ways, but for its unique architecture. Many pay a visit to the Guggenheim, located on the banks of the River Nervión, just to admire the shape and titanium structure of this incredible building. Designed by the North American architect Frank Gehry to imitate the form of a scaly fish, the museum’s unusual architecture is reminiscent of the days of Bilbao’s thriving historic reputation as a port city.

2. Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts

Museum

Sculpture Lugar de Encuentros IV by Eduardo Chillida, Museum of Fine Arts, Bilbao. Vizcaya. Spain
© Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo
The Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts is a respected and well-established institution in Bilbao, home to ‘100 Years of History, 10 Centuries of Art’. Works by Francis Bacon, Velázquez, Goya and Picasso are proudly displayed and well maintained in this high ranking museum. The Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts is also known for its pieces by Basque artists. One of the museum’s core characteristics lies in its desire to be contemporaneous in response to the concerns of the local artistic community: it hosts new and dynamic exhibitions and explores Spanish culture and history through its art.

3. Museo Maritimo

Museum

The maritime museum Museo Maritimo Ria de Bilbao
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
In the interest of preserving Bilbao’s history as a port city, The Bilbao Maritime Museum vows to ‘bring sea and society together through an integrated experience, working to spread knowledge of the Bilbao Estuary’s seafaring heritage’. Its permanent exhibitions explore this heritage by focusing on the sea port, the market and factory, and the shipyard. The halls are constructed in metal or wood to give the appearance of ships’ hulls, adding meaning to the different themes and making for an enjoyable and remarkable journey through Bilbao’s history.

4. Euskal Museo

Museum

Mikeldi and giants in courtyard of Euskal Museoa-Basque museum
© Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo
If you want to know about the history of Bilbao, The Euskal Museo Bilbao is your go-to museum for superb displays detailing the history and lives of the Basque people throughout history. Focusing on the ethnography of the Basque people, walking through this museum is an archaeologist’s haven; the many ancient historical artifacts and photographs transport you directly into the lives of the Basque people of Bilbao, examining how they lived, their work, their customs and age-old traditions. The museum is located in an ancient building first established in the 17th century as the San Andrés de la Compañía de Jesús College and Church.

5. Sala Rekalde Contemporary Art Gallery

Art Gallery

Established in 1991 the Sala Rekalde Gallery dedicated itself to looking at contemporary art in Spain and abroad in all its respects and dimensions. This space is dependent on the Culture Department of the Executive Council of Biscay and aims to ‘serve as a forum for all those who want to take part in the debate on the various languages of culture’. Here, you will find thought-provoking exhibits and artistic experiences provided by new and up-and-coming artists with many abstract works and installations.

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