A giant topiary terrier, a museum clad in steel scales, old-world elegant avenues and pine and palm trees swaying against dramatic dark hills are just some of the sights of Bilbao in northern Spain.
About an hour’s flight from Madrid, Bilbao sits inland from the Bay of Biscay. Signs appear in both Basque and Castilian Spanish but people speak fluent Castilian and many are quite comfortable switching to English.
Even with about a million inhabitants Bilbao retains plenty of old-fashioned charm. Dainty 19th century apartment blocks line the avenues leading down to the Ria de Bilbao, the once-polluted river that now is one of the city’s most attractive features.
Many residential buildings feature delicate wrought-iron railings and glassed-in balconies that seem to be almost unique to the north of Spain, where lower temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight mean its residents must do more to conserve warmth, especially during the long, dark winter months.