Bilbao, or Bilbo in Basque, is the largest city of the Spanish Autonomous Region of Euskadi (The Basque Country). It is also the capital of the province of Vizcaya.
Bilbao straddles the estuary of the River Nervión and is on one of the many pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella. Since 1997 the city has been one of the five cities in the world to have its own Guggenheim Museum, the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao.
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For the visitor, the "Casco Viejo" or old quarter is, with its cosy bars and many shops, a very pleasant part of the city to explore. From the old quarter it is but a short walk to the modern part of the city and its myriad boutiques, department stores and eateries, and if you follow the River Nervión downstream you soon reach the Guggenheim, which you can see from afar.
Portugalete is one of the many municipalities to have been absorbed by Greater Bilbao (Gran Bilbao). After passing through Bilbao the Nervión River flows between the two municipalities of Portugalete on the left and Las Arenas on the right bank. Due to the large natural estuary on which it was built, in the Middle Ages (between 1300 and 1511) Portugalete established itself as an important seaport. However, in 1511 Portugalete’s importance as a port receded when the Port of Bilbao was awarded exclusive trading privileges. In Spain Portugalete is best known for the Vizcaya Bridge (the transporter bridge that links it with Las Arenas on the opposite bank of the Nervión Estuary. The bridge, which was built in 1893, consists of a large frame from which a small gondola hangs, and it is this that transports both cars and foot passengers between the two river banks. On July 13, 2006 the Vizcaya Bridge was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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