Bilbao River Walk Audio Guide: From the Old Town to the Guggenheim Museum

Chart the port city's transformation from humble whaling village to art and culture icon
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Audio Guide Details
1 hour 30 minutes
Product Type
Audio Guide
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Preview Bilbao River Walk Audio Guide: From the Old Town to the Guggenheim Museum
Find out how a bomb dropped by Franco's army in 1937 was converted into a new entrance to Plaza Nueva
Discover how the Guggenheim has been the great economic driver of the city
Dive into the details of the Santiago Cathedral, a silent witness to almost all of Bilbao's history
Photos & Highlights
Audio Guide Description
Today, Bilbao is a culture and contemporary art hub, with the Guggenheim Museum as its icon. But just 800 years ago, it was little more than a whaling village. On this walking tour with Basque local and Context Travel expert, Maria Martinez Salaverria, you'll take in the city's most impressive sites and discover its history along the way.  

Starting in front of Mercado de la Ribera (the Ribera Market), you'll learn about the city’s oldest bridge and church, San Anton, and the "Seven Streets" connecting this port area with Santiago Cathedral, the monumental Gothic church in the heart of the Old Town. As you make your way to the iconic Guggenheim Museum where the tour ends, you'll take in great views of Puente del Arenal (Arena Bridge) and Teatro Arriaga (Arriaga Theatre). 

Located in the heart of  the Old Town, you'll visit the Santiago Cathedral, a silent witness to practically all of Bilbao's history and the most monumental Gothic church in the Basque Country. On this stroll past Bilbao’s main landmarks, you’ll gain a better understanding of how in just 800 years this city has evolved from a village of whale fishermen into an international center of cultural tourism and contemporary art, with the Guggenheim Museum as its icon. Maria will fill you in on the city's humble river-port beginnings as you walk through the Old Town along the same ancient streets as pilgrims, soldiers and merchants.You'll gain a deeper understanding of how a new industrial and bourgeois Bilbao flourished after 1850, in the middle of several civil wars. 

As you stroll along the right bank of the river where Bilbao was born, you'll unravel Bilbao's late 1800s urban expansion project on the left bank. Instead of the twisty narrow alleys in the Old Town, you'll notice straight broad and elegant avenues that speak about the economic growth and the enterprising spirit of the city's ascending bourgeois class, thanks to the increasing industrialization. As you pass beautiful parks such as Arenal or the Campo del Volantin, you'll dive into Franco's dictatorship and the economic crisis in the 1970s when the city became a gray, polluted, and sad shell of what it once was. You'll also hear how the Guggenheim became the great economic driver of the city, contributing to the extraordinary urban, economic, and social regeneration.

On this tour, you'll:

• Dive into Bilbao's deep whaling history and discover the many products harvested from whaling, including lamp fuel and baleen (used for fans, corsets, and umbrella ribs) 
• Be shocked by the bombing of Bilbao's bridges, to prevent Franco's army from entering the city during the Spanish Civil War
• Delve into Arenal Square's origins as a sandy water inlet, a boat dock, and a seat for shipyards until it was filled in 1754 to the level of today's Bilbao City Hall
• Find out about the strong cultural and economic links between Spanish-speaking America and Basque Country
• Get a taste of Pintxos, the Basque speciality featuring small portions of high-quality, artistically presented food
• Learn how Frank Gehry, one of the most relevant and influential architects in the world, designed Bilbao's daring, innovative and iconic Guggenheim Museum
• See pilgrims on the St. James Path, or el Camino de Santiago, and learn how it became the third European spiritual, cultural and commercial route after Rome and Jerusalem
• Discover Bilbao's dark side when it was a polluted and industrial city, suffering the extra burden of Basque independentists' terrorism and how the city's priority became industrial reconversion

By the end of this 75-minute tour, you'll have a deeper understanding of the city's recent transformation. You'll uncover how, throughout the centuries, the city and its residents have shown their strong-as-iron will and admirable ability to adapt or perish. 
Meet Your Expert

Maria is a licensed journalist and a polyglot European guide. She was born in the Basque country, in the city of San Sebastian, where she lives after years of travelling the world. She is a naturally social Spaniard, fond of meeting people and of cultural interchange. Maria has many different interests. She loves travelling, reading, eating, listening to music, talking with others, learning, and sharing the beauty of the world with other people. She is passionate about sharing the secrets of her Basque culture. As a journalist and guide her main areas of expertise are: history, art, music and gastronomy. She is very fond of cooking, and a prototypical Basque when it comes to good food: she loves it! As a professional guide her main concern is to make her guests feel welcome, well informed and special.

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Our recorded audio guides typically run for 75 minutes.

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(5.0) 2 Reviews

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Just listened to the whole tour from home, as a preparation for my visit to Bilbao in July - thanks to Maria‘s vivid explanations the city came to life for me just by listening to the audio guide without setting foot in the city. Thanks to Maria & Context for the wonderful introduction! Very recommendable!
Wow! I knew absolutely nothing about Bilbao or Basque Country prior to this audio guide but thanks to Maria’s excellent narrations and storytelling, I feel like I got a good grasp on the city’s history. The route is scenic and includes a walk along the riverfront while Maria shares more about how the city came to be the bustling hub it is today. 11/10 highly recommend