Weather forecast Bilbao
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Bilbao (including rainfall and temperature averages)
The capital of Biscay province and the largest town in the Basque country, Bilbao is a hive of activity, cultural, industrial and political. Originally a small fishing settlement, the town was officially founded in 1300. Like so much in the region, the origins of its name are disputed: some claim that it comes from “bel vado”, ancient Spanish for “good river crossing” while others say it stems from the Basque “bi albo”, meaning “two river banks”. Whatever the provenance, it seems to have brought good fortune; the city has grown steadily ever since its inception, seemingly unaffected by fire, plague and civil strife alike, to become the most important port in northern Spain. The industrial revolution helped: at the beginning of the twentieth century it was the richest city in the country. Its trajectory was only halted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, when the city sided with the Republicans and was besieged by General Franco for over a year before the defensive walls were breached. The brutal suppression of Basque culture notwithstanding, Bilbao remained an industrial centre throughout the dictatorship (1939-75) and tens of thousands of Spaniards flocked there to work. In recent years, Bilbaoans have been trying to establish their city as a touristic destination, with the result that some of the most innovative architecture in Europe is found here, along with some astonishing sites.
Bilbao isn’t the warmest of places, with an average annual low of 5°, so it’s best to visit in spring or summer, when temperatures reach 27°. August is also fiesta time, when the streets are filled with open-air bars, live music and wild dancing. At other times, the great attraction these days is the fantastical Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and filled with an excellent modern art collection. The Museo de Bellas Artes caters to more traditional tastes, with works by Zurbaran and El Greco among others. The Euskalduna Palace is a vibrant new cultural centre that hosts dance and theatre performances as well as a variety of festivals. The Maritime Museum is world-renowned and has recently been renovated.
There are a number of fine beaches – the best are in Sopelana and Plencia. Alternatively, the old quarter of Agorta, home to Bilbao’s millionaires, has an impressive waterfront promenade fringed by private mansions. For those who like to spend their holidays wandering, the medieval town is the most tempting part of the city. Colourful and friendly, the maze of narrow streets conceal several stunning buildings, including the Teatro Arriaga, the elegantly arcaded Plaza Nueva and the Gothic Catedral Santiago. It’s also the best place to indulge in the favourite local activity – eating. Basque cuisine is generally accepted as Spain’s finest and the best food of all is the seafood. Squid cooked in its ink, creamed cod, spider crab and hake a la vasca are all superb here – or try pinchos, the Basque equivalent of tapas. Nightlife is as varied as the population, ranging from relaxed fishermen’s pubs to the historical cafes, decorated with nationalist murals, where poets and politicos used to hang out and foment revolution during the Franco years.
Monthly temperature and rainfall averages for Bilbao
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