The industrial port city of Bilbao is the political capital of the Basque people, who inhabit Spain's three northern provinces (an area known collectively as Euskadi). The city is not exactly beautiful, though, as the buildings are soot-stained and the Nervion River running through it is one of Spain's most polluted waterways.
But Bilbao does have some wonderful surprises to offer visitors, and there are plenty of attractions in the surrounding countryside and around the coast on the Bay of Biscay, which can be easily reached on excursions by rail or road.
The main attraction in the city is the Guggenheim Museum, relatively new on the scene, having been opened in 1997. The city regard this avant-garde building as the beginning of Bilbao's revitalisation, and the city has also recently acquired a new metro system and airport terminal.
Bilbao has some good beaches and a few scenic spots, such as a favoured picnic site is on Monte Archanda, north of the old town, accessible by funicular. Of the beaches, Getxo is the favourite, particularly with surfers, and features a 100-year-old suspension bridge and some lively bars and nightclubs. Bilbao is an interesting industrial city that is steadily increasing in popularity with tourists and makes for a fantastic weekend getaway.