Bilbao is a modern and metropolitan city, located in the Basque country, a northern province of Spain that borders the Cantabrian Sea to the north and the Pyrenees mountains and France to the east/northeast. Although known in the past as the industrial and financial capital of the north, Bilbao is undergoing tremendous changes these days, including the recent opening of the Guggenheim museum. Today’s Bilbao is bustling, friendly and beautiful. It is big enough to offer all the diversity and advantages of a city, and yet still small enough to be manageable. One can easily walk almost anywhere–from the “Casco Viejo” (old town) to the shopping and business district, to the Guggenheim and back across the river to the university. A new metro system connects downtown with the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Basque Country (País Vasco) is one of Spain’s 17 “comunidades autónomas,” and is one example of Spain’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity. Home of the Basque people, who, although connected to the rest of Spain for centuries through political and economic ties, have retained their distinct culture and language. Nearby is the town of Guernica, the historical center of Basque culture and the site of one of the worst tragedies of the Spanish civil war. This region also boasts some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches and mountains, and is famous for its delicious pintxos and seafood.