This iconic building is the emblem of the city. You have probably booked your trip to Bilbao planning to visit the Guggenheim, an essential destination for modern art lovers. Tourism has grown exponentially in our city since the end of the 90’s when the decision was made to open the museum.
And hey, there’s a reason for that you know.
Just the building alone is stunning, from wherever you look at it you’ll be awestruck. Frank Gehry, the building’s architect called it a giant titanium boat, like the identity of Bilbao: highlighting its industrial heritage which centred on iron and shipbuilding. Our Guggenheim is a symbol of our urban evolution, the pride of the city.
And if you’re talking to anyone from Bilbao, there are three sacred subjects that it’s best not to make fun of: the Virgin of Begoña, Athletic Bilbao football club and the Guggenheim.
Everything that lies within the Guggenheim
Outdoor art installations
Even without entering the museum you can enjoy the iconic works of art surrounding the Guggenheim.
You can meet Puppy, Jeff Koons’ floral White Terrier puppy who greets visitors at the entrance or admire Mamá, the gigantic guardian spider (no less than ten metres!) by Louise Bourgeois, who protects the museum from the other side.
A spectacular permanent collection
If the exterior inspires passion, the interior of the Guggenheim is equally impressive: the museum’s own collection is the best reason to visit. Among well-known pieces such as Andy Warhol’s One Hundred and Fifty Multicolored Marilyns and Yves Klein’s iconic intense blue paintings, you’ll find others that will amaze you such as Richard Serra’s work The Matter of Time.
The Matter of Time is an installation formed by different toruses of steel, which form an almost labyrinthine circuit, which the sculptor invites you to enter and leave, discovering shapes, colours, sounds and nuances. Walking through it is one of the things you simply must do if you visit Bilbao.
Personally, if I had to choose just one of the museum’s works, it would definitely be Anselm Kiefer’s work Sunflowers. The flowers in this painting appear to be enormous, not only because of the size of the work but also because of the perspective: they are of gigantic dimensions that contrast with the lifeless body resting on the ground. The colour is also highly significant; the absence of light makes the work more intimate and makes you reflect about the vulnerability of the inert man.
Although, clearly, our response to each work is highly personal and can be different from what the artist was seeking to evoke, this is what makes it truly interesting. That’s why the best thing to do is to come to the museum, let yourself be carried away and experience it all for yourself.
A jam-packed calendar of temporary exhibitions
If you want to be up-to-date and know about the exhibitions that are currently on, it’s always a good idea to look at the website. The programme of events is very dynamic and changes often, but whenever you come, I’m sure there’ll be something interesting on.
Other ways of enjoying the museum
When the situation allows, an event called Art After Dark is held. One Friday a month, the museum would open its door from 10 pm to 1 am for a night of art and music, during which you can admire the exhibitions with music from some of the best DJs in the country in the background.
Also on the agenda are contemporary art courses for adults, children’s workshops with creative experiences, talks, guided tours and other events that will not only give you an in-depth knowledge of the museum but also help you see it from another perspective.
You can buy your tickets to the museum online so you don’t have to queue to enjoy the Guggenheim.
Discover the best food near the Guggenheim
I recommend you take a minimum of 3-4 hours to enjoy the museum experience to the full. Your visit will probably coincide with a meal time so here are my recommendations for where to go.
Breakfast at Sua San
If you want to fill yourself with energy before your museum visit, I suggest a good brunch a stone’s throw from the entrance to the Guggenheim. At Sua San you can enjoy some of the best eggs Benedict in the city, choosing between a classic version on an English muffin or more modern alternatives, like on a bagel with avocado and salmon. It’s open every day and brunch is served until 10:30.
An aperitif at Crazy Horse
If you got up at the break of dawn to get to the museum early and fancy a drink when you get out, my recommendation is that you cross the river by the Deusto bridge and head to the Crazy Horse, which opens at noon. It has, without doubt, the terrace with the best views of the Guggenheim museum and you can choose from their large selection of beers and enjoy the city’s most photogenic vistas.
Lunch at La Despensa del Etxanobe
La Despensa del Etxanobe is Michelin starred chef Fernando Canales’ most informal offering in the centre of Bilbao. OK so maybe you came to Bilbao for its culture, but feast on its food too! This sophisticated restaurant serves up classic Basque meals with an original, avant-garde flair and you can sample Canales’ most iconic dishes such as his famous lasaña fría de anchoas (cold anchovy lasagne). You can choose from different menus depending on your budget.
A drink at Sixty One Lobby Bar
If you’re longing for a glass of wine or a cocktail at a stylish venue, the Domine hotel bar is the perfect choice. A canny selection of drinks, exquisite service and super comfortable surroundings for after an intense day in the museum. The ideal location for chatting about your visit and the works that most appealed to you.
Dinner at Odoloste
Finally, if you finish at the museum late and it’s nearly time for dinner, I strongly recommend you head to Odoloste. Odoloste, which means black pudding in Euskera, specialises in pork. A lush menu at a very competitive price which offers super-tasty meals such as talo-tacos de carrillera (pork cheek tacos), hongos y papada ibérica a la carbonara (mushrooms and Iberian pork dewlap carbonara) or croquetas de talos con txistorra (corn tortilla croquettes with chorizo). To top it all off and cool down, don’t forget to order an helado de limón y albahaca con pesto dulce (lemon, basil and sweet pesto ice cream).
If these gastronomic suggestions have made your mouth water, we’re waiting to welcome you with arms open wide. Our city is culture, spectacular food, stunning views, great people and lots of nature – one of the most complete getaways for 2021.
If that weren’t enough, the folks at Volotea have made this hot Spotify playlist to play while you’re planning your adventure, on the road to our city or editing the photos you took during your break. Because travel is a full-on experience that you can enjoy before, during and after.
Have you had the chance to visit the Guggenheim museum yet? Look at the Volotea flights to Bilbao and grab a snack in the city of pintxos!