Bilbao, the northern Spanish city that enchants travelers and leaves such an indelible memory, is of its own right a great tourist destination with good food, hospitable people, spectacular landscapes, architecture… But there’s one thing that has helped increase its popularity in a huge way: the creation of the Guggenheim Museum, which welcomes more than one million visitors each year.
Opened in 1997, the museum building was designed by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry, who created an innovative building of titanium, limestone and glass that has received international critical acclaim. And nothing was left to chance in this ambitious project. Even the location, near the estuary, was chosen by Gehry himself so that the museum could be seen from three strategic points in Bilbao.
Today it is a symbol of the city, of which the locals are very proud, and a must for anyone traveling to Bilbao. You can tour its 19 galleries and admire its impressive façade for free, but we recommend that you take the guided tour Guggenheim + because it allows you to access areas of the museum that normally remain closed to the public.
The tour lasts about two and a half hours. Its starting point is the museum´s Bistro restaurant, an avant-garde venue that is full of personality and has a special place in the local nightlife scene. You will then continue on to the museum´s collection. In addition to valuable works from the Guggenheim Foundation, which has works like Richard Serra´s sculpture The Matter of Time, there are frequently exhibitions featuring mostly 20th-century art. In recent years, however, they have also included some ancient artworks in an effort to reach other audiences and they have exhibited Durer engravings, paintings from the Hermitage, antiques from the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum and some drawings by Michelangelo.
During the next stop you’ll learn about the entire process behind each exhibition and where everything is organized and what happens from the point of time when a work of art arrives at the museum until it is actually on public display.
The care of both the artworks and visitors is of the upmost importance, and you will get to see the storage rooms and the facilities for security, plus a walk in the highest area of the museum from which you can admire the surprising structure of the building.
The tour ends with a culinary experience at the museum’s second restaurant, the Nerua. Recipient of a Michelin Star, it offers fine cuisine inspired by the Basque gastronomy at the hands of chef Josean Martínez Alija.
Prices: 75 euros; retirees and young people (12 to 18 years) 60 euros.
Hours: Thursdays in Basque, Fridays in English, Saturdays in Spanish and Sundays in French, from 10:15 am to 12:45 pm.
Tours must be booked in advance, at the latest by the Monday before the visit, by phone (944359090) or on the museum´s website.
To enjoy your trip to the Guggenheim to the fullest extent, rent one of our apartments in Bilbao city center so that you don´t have to worry about anything. And don´t forget to take a picture with Puppy, the flower sculpture at the entrance to the museum.