Now that we are back living in Europe, I’m busy planning travels to the continent and, I’ve already spotted some great holidays deals to Spain with Brittany Ferries who sail into Bilbao and Santander from the UK. Of the many places that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit, I have yet to spend any time in Spain. I’ve transferred planes in Madrid airport but I’ve never set foot on Spanish soil and I’m excited that I now have the opportunity to do so.
First up is a trip to Barcelona in April where we’ll spend a couple of nights at the home of a very good friend of mine. And, at some point, I want to explore the tiny villages and castles of inland Spain. Also on my list is Bilbao. The industrial Basque city might not rank in the top 10 places to take your kids in Spain but I’ve always liked destinations that are a little out of the ordinary.
Once known for its steel and shipbuilding industries, Bilbao is now celebrated for its art and culture (something which the government has invested heavily in). So much so that the city just won the 2018 European City of the Year. Perhaps the most famous cultural landmark on the cityscape is the Frank Gehry Guggenheim Museum but there are plenty of other sights and museums to visit. Here are five cultural attractions that I look forward to visiting in Bilbao with my kids.
The Guggenheim Museum
Designed by American architect Frank Gehry, it’s worth visiting the Guggenheim just to admire the building itself. Set on the edge of the Nervión River, the spectacular structure has been constructed out of titanium, glass, and limestone. Exhibitions change regularly but irregardless of what’s on inside the museum, take the kids to see the artwork on the museum grounds. Jeff Koons’ enormous “Puppy” stands guard near the entrance as does the giant spider, Marmen, by Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture garden is also fun to explore.
The Maritime Museum
Bilbao’s Maritime Museum is a brilliant place to take the kids with lots to keep them entertained. Housed in an old shipyard, the museum is enormous with lots of space for kids to run around. Bilbao was once Spain’s largest port and this museum follows the city’s maritime history. There are lots of interactive exhibits and ships that kids can climb on board.
Painted Forest of Oma
Although not technically a museum, I love the sound of the Painted Forest of Oma and have filed it under ‘outdoor museum’. Located approximately 45 minutes northeast of the city is the town of Kortezubi, in the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. This is where you’ll find the work of painter and sculptor Agustín Ibarrola, colourfully painted trees decorated with eyes, figures, animals and abstract designs, hidden among the forest. Kids will love it!
Learn more about the Basque history and culture at the Basque Museum. Exhibits include old fishing equipment, a wolf trap and a 3D topographical map of the region built to scale. Of particular interest to kids are the enormous, colourful costumes worn in traditional festivals.
Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao (Bilbao Museum of Fine Art)
This might be an art gallery too far for some kids (mine included!) but even if it’s just for a quick visit, it’s worth stopping by the Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao (BilbaoMuseum of Fine Art). Here you’ll find a large collection of works by Basque, Spanish and European artists including Goya and Gaugin.
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