Not a city many would rank amongst Spainâ€™s greats; a Barcelona or Madrid it is not and barring those of you whom are not architecture geeks I would happily wager youâ€™re completely unaware of its existence. Hell, the Spanish news doesnâ€™t even include it in itâ€™s list of forecasted cities so who am I to expect you to have heard about it.
That said, itâ€™s not a small place by any means, the population pushes upwards of 350,000 and hosts what is deemed to be one of Spainâ€™s best universities, Duesto. Remnants of Bilbaoâ€™s shipping history line the central river, which acts as a natural division between the cityâ€™s historic hillside and its newly formed modern life.
The cityâ€™s division is personified by itâ€™s uncontested crown jewel, the Gehry designed, Guggenheim museum which takes prize position upon the riverâ€™s banks in an almost directly opposite position to the original town hall.
Lonely Planet intro aside there is but one reason for someone to visit Bilbao and in case you hadnâ€™t guessed already itâ€™s for the giant-fuck-off-metal-distortion that is Frank Gehryâ€™s Guggenheim. Old Gehry is one of my favourite architects and his work is admired by around the world. The last piece of his I visited was the Toronto art museum which opened whilst I was living there a couple of years ago and for anyone even remotely interested I highly suggest you watch one of Sidney Pollack’s last pieces of work, â€œSketches of Frank Gehryâ€, a documentary of Gehryâ€™s work.
There was another reason, beyond man-love, for me to see the Guggenheim; which is that simply Iâ€™ve never seen one… well not properly anyway. Each time (and itâ€™s been three now) that I have been to visit the Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim in New York Iâ€™ve been greeted with no more than a scaffolding clad structure obscuring any chance of appreciating itâ€™s external facade first hand.
So what if it meant an hour long flight to the complete opposite side of Spain that I had flown in to, to a place most people had never heard of, I was doing it (and Iâ€™d checked there was no scaffolding on this one).
Excluding a hail ridden thunder storm and hideous grey skies that consistently haunted each photograph this Guggenheim reconnaissance mission was a success. I suppose. I could have sat and stared at the building for hours (should the weather have allowed it), its contents and exhibiting pieces bored me to tears, mostly, but I got what I came for.
As for Bilbao, well if you Google â€œthings to do in Bilbaoâ€ every list I came across basically had the museum at number one and then quickly turned in to a random list of bars and cafes. It has a nice shopping mall that seems nice but never has anyone in it and theyâ€™re building a giant sky-scraper that sticks out a bit.
Yeah. Unless youâ€™re an architecture or art buff I canâ€™t recommend this one, but if I was ever nearby again Iâ€™d be back to Bilbao in a heart beat.