9 Must See Works of Art Outside the Guggenheim

07/03/2022

The incredible transformation of Bilbao from an industrial force to an arts and cultural hub is exemplified in the Guggenheim. This museum is the crown jewel of the revitalization of Bilbao. When visiting a new city there often places that are mentioned as "must see." In the case of the Guggenheim, calling it a must see is an understatement. 

The Guggenheim is located on Mazarredo Zumarkalea, a narrow but busy street. It backs on to the riverwalk along the Bilbao estuary, one of the most used spaces in the city. To the left of the museum is the Rupublica de Abano Park. To the right is the LA Salve bridge. This bridge is famous for its bright red archway the marks the entrance to the city center. Without ever stepping inside the Guggenheim you can easily spend a day enjoying what is around the building.

Quick facts:

Built: October 1993- October 1997

Architect: Frank Gehry

Website: English version

Closest public transit:  Subway: Moyua station. Less than a ten minute walk away.

                                        Tram: Guggenheim station. The station is located next to the building.

Statues and Monuments:

Red Arches: There are large red arches that shoot out of the La Salve Bridge. These arches are to the right side of the museum and are impossible to miss. The bridge was actually built in the 1970's to connect downtown to the suburbs, however, the arches were not added until 2007, ten years after the Guggenheim originally opened. The bridge's arches are actually three circles bordered in a bright impassioned red that forms the frame of the arches. The middle of the three circles is where the traffic passes through. While the upper semicircle is reflected by the air and the lower reflected by the water of the Bilbao Estuary.

Tulips: This work of art is located on a plaza coming at the back of the museum. A close up viewing is only possible if you go through the Guggenheim as there is a pond that separates the river walk from the plaza. The piece is made up of seven brightly coloured metallic tulips that stretch out as if they are balloons. 

The Puppy: A large floral monument of a Scottish terrier. A popular place for people to get their photos taken in front of. The look of this terrier charges seasonally, but is always marvelous.

Fire Fountain: This installation is placed in the museum's pond, on the left side. The reason that it's in the middle of the pond is that it would be extremely dangerous if it wasn't. These five fountains torpedo flames into the sky. It is impressive to watch and outstanding to listen to. The spray of the fountains sounds like a rockets is taking off. 

The Fire Fountain's show is every four minutes and lasts a minute. It is not always in operation, so depending upon the time of year you visit, you might miss out on pleasure of this viewing experience. 

The Gate of the Honourable: This sculpture is located to the right of the Red Arches of the La Salve Bridge. Located beside the river walk named Campa de los Ingleses, it is very captivating. The sculpture is of former Presidente del PSOE Ramón Rubial, a Basque nationalist politician walking towards the Gate of the Honourable. This gate is a large iron block with the silhouette of a person cut into it.

Fountain: To the left of the Guggenheim, you take the set of stairs down towards the park and the River walk. During the summer months, a series of fountains seem randomly to spray water straight up towards the sky and then just as randomly stop. Children have great fun running between fountains trying to guess which one will go off next while remaining cool under the summer sun.,

Fog Sculpture: This installation is one of the most interactive of all the pieces that surround the museum. When in operation, it will start up periodically, to the delight and wonder of those nearby. The fog comes out of the museum's pond and envelops different areas of the river walk. The way that this installation interacts with it's surroundings depends on the time of day, weather, and which way the wind blows. 

Tall Tree and the Eye: This sculpture is made up of 73 shiny, silvery spheres that are stacked haphazardly upon each other reaching up towards.  It is located at the rear of the museum inside the pone that separates the Bilbao Riverwalk from the Guggenheim. It 

Maman: This giant spider sculpture is massive, standing at over nine meters tall (30 feet). It is located in the middle of the Campa de los Ingleses, near the La Salve Bridge. It is a pregnant mother spider that is carrying here eggs beneath her. You are able to see these eggs if you stand underneath her and look up. The Maman statue is actually one of seven of these sculptures that can be found around the World. Can you guess the other six locations? Shoot us a message with your guesses and we will let you know if you're correct!

Places to eat:

At the park: Zuku Naturala

This restaurant is more snacks, pintxos and refreshments than a full service restaurant. Nothing overly fancy but a nice place to relax and enjoy your surroundings. Others find themselves winding down here while keeping a lazy eye on their children playing at the park next to the patio. 

Michelin star restaurant: Nerue

One of the highest rated restaurants in Bilbao. To earn a Michelin star you know they have to be doing things right. The dishes at Nerue start to be curated a full 365 days before ever hitting the menu.

Off the front plaza: Bar / Bistro Guggenheim

This bistro, located at the front of the museum to the left of the front entrance, offers cuisine somewhere between the other two restaurants already mentioned. They have a variety of different pintxos and beverages, if you are in the mood for something light. They also have an A La Carte menu, if you are seeking something fancier and more filling. This restaurant has a upscale relaxing vibe  and the patio facing the Puppy floral monument is a thing of beauty. It's a great place to enjoy some sun and a cocktail.

There are also several different restaurants on Mazarredo Zumarkalea out front of the Guggenheim. They vary in many different styles of cuisine, from Japanese to Indian, Mexican to local. In fact, Bilbao has a large proportion of restaurants per block in this area. So if you want to explore a bit there is always a place to pop into for a Pintxo!

The park adjacent to the museum is fantastic for kids of all ages. There are little slides and swing sets for the kids under six. Also, there is a larger jungle gym obstacle course for older kids who are more active and enjoy a challenge. Kids often try to see how fast they can get from one side to the other, like it's a junior version of an army training course. Other times an impromptu game of tag takes over. Either way, fun times are enjoyed all!

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Authentic Basque Country was born on a a rainy day in Gorliz, Biscay when Adam moved to Bilbao from British Columbia, Canada.

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