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Bilbao’s titanium success


Bilbao’s titanium success
El Ciego, Hotel Marques de Riscal / Photo © Elisabeth Lang

(eTN) - Located in the north of Spain, on the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao is the fourth largest city in Spain with 353,187 inhabitants and is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain.


Bilbao has one of the country’s most important ports. In the past, it had a huge merchant fleet and was the heart of Spain’s mining industry, metallurgy, as well as banking and insurance center during the nineteenth century.


With the closure of mining companies, shipping companies that were once so proud during the 80s in the city of Bilbao went into a deep depression. In the late 1980s, the Basque authorities embarked on a very ambitious plan, which kicked off with great success as time showed.


With new designs for an airport, a subway system, and a footbridge, among other important projects by major international architects such as Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, and Arata Isozaki, the city planned to build a first-class cultural facility.


With the de-industrialization process starting in the 1990s, many of the former industrial areas were transformed into modern public and private spaces, designed by some of the world's most renowned architects and artists.

The most spectacular example is the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, and is built on what was once an old dock and wood warehouse. The legendary Museum was built alongside the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Atlantic coast, and is one of several museums belonging to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which was inaugurated on October 18, 1997 and hailed as the most important structure of its time.


Hoping to receive one million visitors within the first 3 years, the breakthrough came only 10 months after the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum. It was the beginning of an incredible success story, something like the Frog Prince.


When coming to Bilbao 15 years ago, it was rather dirty, rusty, and the only shiny and extraordinary combination of interconnecting shapes of orthogonal blocks, and curved and bent forms covered in titanium piling up in front of the Nervion river, with 11,000 square meters of exhibition space distributed in 19 galleries of the glittering Guggenheim Museum.


The magic touch – and arrival of the one millionth visitor being celebrated – has brought back life, hope, and an enormous push to the people of Bilbao.


With only one 5-star hotel (The Carlton) ever since 1926 and up to the late 90s, the city now boasts 5 5-star hotels with very reasonable rates, as well as many new
hotels for less.


Bilbao’s new airport, inaugurated at beginning of the new century, is located only 10 km away from the city center and offers 600 weekly flights.


Seeing the incredible changes over the years, Bilbao is impeccably clean now, with beautifully-restored old houses and great walking areas, great cuisine, and an outstanding opera house.


The once-avoided banks along the Nervion River have become hot spots that locals enjoy until late into the night, and has became famous for the fantastic (illuminated at night) Zubizuri footbridge.


The oldest transport bridge in the world, that was inaugurated in 1883, connects Las Arenas with Portugalete, and since then has been used by 650 million people. It was recently declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.


People in Bilbao have always been hard workers, and this year, it is time to celebrate. The Guggenheim Museum celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, a commemoration marked by a successful trajectory, with over 100 exhibitions and with nearly 15 million visitors.


Currently, the Guggenheim Museum offers 12 months of musical, gastronomic, and architectural activities in order to draw the public closer.


Creative T-shirts especially designed for the 15th anniversary by renowned designers, are part of the unique collection and will be on sale from April at the Museum shop.


But there is another must-see place – and another crown jewel of Frank Gehry of breathtaking architectural design – within only an hour-and-a-half drive from Bilbao, located in the medieval village of ELCiego. Right in the heart of the Rioja region, is the “City of Wine” of Herederos dei Marques de Riscal (heirs of Marques de Riscal), which was founded in 1858 by one of Bilbao’s old mercantile elite families and shipbrokers, Aznar.


To celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2008, a colossal project has been brought to life and is the most ambitious project ever undertaken in the Spanish wine cellar to date. It is the Hotel Marques de Riscal (opened in 2006), which is surrounded by extensive vineyards and the installation of a vinery. The spectacular form of Frank Gehry’s building is the home of the Hotel Marques de Riscal, where for the first time, Frank Gehry’s exclusive interior design puts guests to sleep from all over the world.


With views over the Cantabric Mountains (and even ski slopes nearby at 30 km) and the Rioja Alavesa vineyards, the Avantgarde Hotel Marques´Hotel de Riscal, part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, has 43 rooms and suites, a Michelin Star Restaurant, and a Spa Vinotherapie Caudalie.


Not the region, the hotel is the destination, says General Manager Alexander Peev. He is right, Guests are arrive from all over the world just to see the extraordinary construction and also to go on a wine tour ( www.hotel-marquesderisacal.com ).
For that, the wine cellars of Marques de Riscal are well equipped – having the largest wine cellar in the world, with over 5 million bottles of wine. Cheers!




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