From an industrial town to a service city

Cities change: they transform themselves and evolve and Bilbao is an example of this urban evolution. This is how an industrial grey activity centre has become a dynamic cosmopolitan city where design is the order of the day.

In the 19th and 20th centuries the growth of Bilbao was associated with iron and steel industry and shipbuilding. The port was one of the largest in Europe, connecting the main European cities and sending off ships carrying refined oil products, and raw materials like iron or coal. The economic crisis in 1973 damaged the local and regional industry. This was the beginning of a new city, achieved by a huge rehabilitation plan that was designed to recover the economy and revitalise Bilbao as a city of services.

Bilbao, before and after. Source – EITB

As a result of its transformation, Bilbao began to look attractive to both locals and foreigners. The rehabilitation plans and the urban development projects carried out since 1992 have transformed Bilbao into a global reference in city transformation. Thanks to this project, Bilbao boomed as an international hub of trade and business travel, attracting important events at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC), the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall, the Guggenheim Museum and other venues in town.

Guggenheim Museum

Avant-garde architecture is the symbol of the new Bilbao, being Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall two of the most special buildings in town. They play a major role in the activation of the local travel industry and invite locals to enjoy green areas for strolls, sports and leisure. Other buildings complete the image of an avant-garde city that, despite its modern design, does not forget its traditional heritage: Arriaga Theatre, Museum of Fine Arts, Riverside Market… are there to remind us about it.

Riverside Market

To complete the project, a modern transportation network was built, with ground (underground, tram, bus), rail (commuter and long-distance trains) and air (Bilbao International Airport is the main airline hub in northern Spain.

100% Basque - Experience Basque culture and tradition at first hand

Nowadays, Bilbao is modern architecture, design, urban development, sustainability, art, worldwide prized gastronomy and first class tourist, but, without tradition and culture, the destination would not be complete. So, what can Bilbao and surrounding areas offer to companies to win the bid among other destinations? Let’s see its hidden assets, mainly related to local traditional gastronomy and sports, which can be part of every incentive program.

The culture of Basque cider: a visit to a cider house in the mountain areas around Bilbao is a chance to learn about apples and cider making, discover the ritual of “txotx” (how to hold the glass when pouring cider from the barrel) and end with a must when visiting the Basque Country: a meal made up of cod omelette, fried cod with green peppers, T-bone steak, cheese with quince jelly and walnuts and, of course, cider straight from the barrel.

Source: Sagardoetxea - Basque Cider Museum

Shepherd for a day: Basque cheese is an essential ingredient in local gastronomy. During the visit to a cheese dairy, guests discover cheese making tradition, taste the famous Idiazabal, stroll through the fields in a stunning natural setting while sheepdogs lead sheep across fields and spend a day surrounded by the green Basque nature.

A sensorial trip to a 16th C farmhouse: teamwork, workshops with aromatic plants in a representative authentic farmhouse that displays the local cultural heritage, ending with a tasting of locally produced products. A chance to taste the senses and become and alchemist for a day.

Bread-making at a 16th C mill: learn about the traditional techniques of bread-making and make a small loaf. Visit the bread museum, where its history and its role in the traditional Basque farmhouse and popular culture are explained into detail.

Basque country sport – Herri Kirolak: the Basque country has always been strongly connected to its traditions and practices. The chores carried long ago on the farmhouses were converted into sports, where people would challenge themselves during famous competitions.  Now, these competitions have been transformed into team building experiences: log chopping, stone dragging, sokatira (pull the rope) … discover the world of Basque country sports, choose and have fun trying them.

Source: Troka

Would you like to know more about how to combine avant-garde and modernity with tradition in Bilbao and build a different incentive program? Let us know, we will be pleased to assist you.