Bilbao city guide: what to see plus the best restaurants, bars and hotels

In the 20 years since the Guggenheim opened, the Basque port city has not looked back – the museum acting as a magnet for great art and architecture as well as buzzing nightlife and restaurants

This year sees Bilbao celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, an institution that brought art and its lovers to the north coast city, and started an urban relaunch in which its industrial past was overlaid with fluttering palms, promenades and a proliferation of wonky, asymmetric, eye-popping glass and steel buildings by many of the world’s best architects – Norman Foster, Philippe Starck, Santiago Calatrava and Arata Isozaki among them. Thankfully, Bilbao’s old Basque soul remains intact. The additions enhance the old city, and tourism hasn’t disrupted the enviable lifestyle of its inhabitants, in which lifelong friendships, culture, pintxos (Basque tapas), and the spirit of football figure large.

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