The heart and soul of the city, the Casco Viejo (Old Town) has a unique ambiance which will take you back in time. Let yourself get lost in the history of these pedestrian streets and explore some of the best boutiques, restaurants, bars and popular plazas that Bilbao has to offer.
If you are interested in the city’s history, begin at the San Anton Bridge built in the 15th century, this is where the first foundations of Bilbao were laid almost one thousand years ago. This location is where trading took place with goods brought in from Castilla and ships would depart for the Netherlands and Northern Europe. One millennium later, this strategic meeting point continues to serve a strong commercial purpose and is the home of the Mercado de la Ribera (Ribera Market), the largest covered market in Europe according to Guinness. The market is a great place to visit in the mornings to witness the hustle and bustle of fishmongers, butchers, and specialty stores who sell the freshest produce, meats, cheeses and even some unexpected surprises.
The market is located on Calle Ribera, the entrance is filled with murals from local artists. From here follow Calle Ronda which will take you to the birthplace of Miguel Unamuno, a famous Basque writer. It will then lead you to Calle La Cruz, where you can visit the 17thcentury baroque church of Los Santos Juanes and the Basque Cultural Museum. In the Plaza of Umanumo you will find the Basque Archealogical Museum and the long stairway Calzadas de Mallona that lead up to the Basilica of Begoña. The Basilica is a beautiful church which is a must stop visit for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
Look for Calle Banco de España, and follow the route to Calle del Perro, which is where you will encounter the Yohn Palace, also called “La Bolsa”, an 18th century building which is now a cultural center, inside there is a patio where you can observe the original medieval walls. Nearby is one of the most beautiful plazas in the Casco Viejo, the small Plaza of Santiago, with its impressive cathedral built in neoclassical style using veined marble.
The Siete Calles or streets: Somera, Artecalle, Tendería, Belosticalle, Carnicería Vieja, Barrencalle, Barrencalle Barrena are the seven original streets that formed the nucleus of Bilbao. Here you will find many small shops, bars and restaurants.
You will come across Plaza Nueva, built in 1849 the plaza is home to Sunday flea markets and some of the best pintxos bars in town.
Bilbao La Vieja: The Other Side of the River
Crossing San Anton bridge you enter Bilbao La Vieja (The Old). Just as old as the Siete Calles, this area is home to many immigrants, artists, young entrepreneurs and eclectic bars. BilboRock is a concert hall built out of an old church. The first Saturday of each month on the street Dos de Mayo there is a street market, Rastro where you will find vintage clothing, discs, books, second hand goods and handicrafts by local artists.
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