If there is one thing that unifies this extraordinary diverse territory, it is the intense commitment to the Basque culture and to Euskara, the ancient Basque language that is unrelated to any other language spoken in Europe.
The Basque people succeed spectacularly in combining a strong commitment to tradition with an intense acceptance of the future. Nothing exemplifies this more than the city of Bilbao.
Until the 1970s, Bilbao was the most important Basque industrial seaport. Then, failing to adapt to changing technology, dockyards closed, factories were shuttered, and many people abandoned the city.
With foresight that can only be described as ‘astounding’, the Basque government suggested that the American Guggenheim foundation, build and manage a world class art museum, on land and with funds, provided by the Basque Government.
The Museum opened in 1997 and within 4 years the entire area was transformed by what is referred to as “the Guggenheim effect”. World class architects designed parks, boulevards, buildings and a subway system. But the gem at the heart of Bilbao is the Frank Gehry Museum. With an exterior of flowing curves made from titanium, glass and steel; filled with incredible art; surrounded by wonderous sculptures; and featuring a Michelin starred, Gehry designed restaurant, the Guggenheim in Bilbao is a tourist ‘must see’.
With the highest per capita concentration of Michelin starred restaurants, the Basque Country is a universally recognized gastronomic destination centered in the exquisite seaside town of San Sebastian.
The coastline dotted with fishing villages offers endless opportunities to indulge in local cuisine at reasonable prices. And everywhere, you will find extraordinary pintxos, the small-plate food that is more mini works of art than quick snacks. It is interesting (and fun) to explore the various interpretations of The Gilda, a pintxo named after Gilda, as portrayed by the Hollywood star, Rita Hayward.
While Bilbao was reconstructed because of economic events, Gernika’s reconstruction was due to the Spanish Civil War. In 1937, in perhaps the first example of ‘terror bombing’, Nazi German and Fascist Italian planes, in support of Francisco Franco, bombed Gernika on Market Monday, when masses of people from the surrounding area were expected. Picasso’s brilliant anti-war painting, Guernica, now in Madrid, commemorates this attack.
Perhaps nothing honours the renewal of Gernika more than the interactive Peace Museum which is dedicated to the dissemination of the ‘culture of peace’. Experiencing Begonia’s House in the Museum of Peace is transformative.
As part of Green Spain, with its oceanic climate, the Basque Country features numerous trails for hiking or walking including the popular Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
Whether your interest is historical or contemporary, seaside or inland, rural or urban, there is no end of things to do, places to see, and foods to discover in Spain’s glorious Basque Country.
SpainTOP has been officially chosen to carry out this fascinating tourism project