Holy Week in Bilbao is an opportunity to enjoy relaxing walks, tours, gastronomy, art, shopping, and active tourism activities and excursions around the territory of Bizkaia. It is advisable to reserve Holy Thursday in the afternoon and/or Good Friday in the morning for travelling the 35 kilometres that separate you from Balmaseda, a historic town where a spectacular Living Passion has been celebrated since 1771 (with more than 600 participants). We also recommend that consider the extensive programme of the Basque Fest, a festival that offers the best of the Basque tradition and avant-garde in different public spaces and cultural centres in Bilbao, which cater to a variety of audiences.
Tour of the Large Buildings of Abando
As always when visiting Bilbao, it is essential to visit two of the leading art centres in Europe: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao– where there is an exhibition on Henri Michaux and a provocative performance by Esther Ferrer– and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum with spectacular exhibitions by Goya and Eduardo Arroyo. Very close by is the Ría de Bilbao Maritime Museum, an enormous exhibition space dedicated to exploring the historical and economic importance of the estuary since the Middle Ages, where you can enjoy the boats anchored at its dock.
For architecture and/or football fans, it is highly recommended to take a guided tour of the next stadium in San Mamés, historically known as the “soccer cathedral” by the locals who come to see the Lions play. This Holy Week in Bilbao there is an Athletic – Celta match on Saturday the 31st at 4:15pm. After the game, we recommend stretching your legs in the romantic Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar, where you can enjoy fountains, sculptures and a peaceful and romantic atmosphere. Another worthwhile visit is to the Euskalduna Palace, a centre for shows with an international programme that includes “The Swan Lake” by the Moscow Ballet on 31st of March at 8 pm. After leaving the show there is always time for dinner in any of the many restaurants and bars in the area.
Religion in Bilbao’s Seven Streets
Between the aforementioned museum area and the Seven Streets of ancient Bilbao is the Ensanche, a cluster of avenues and malls filled with powerful buildings in a neo-Basque, eclectic and modernist style built in the last third of the 19th and early 20th centuries– when Bilbao was one of the most vibrant industrial and financial centres in southern Europe. In this area, the recently restored Azkuna Zentroa, a cultural, civic and commercial complex, stands out.
Bilbao does not have a massive attendance at its Holy Week processions, but this does not imply that the quality of this sacred art is not excellent. In the Old Town, very close to the exquisite Atxuri train station, is the Museum of Sacred Art; from there, going into the Seven Streets you can reach the Gothic cathedral of Santiago. Make sure to stand at its “gateway of the Angel,” as every pilgrim does. The route exploring the powerful Christian presence in Bilbao can be continued into the Tomás Meabe Plaza, where you can visit the neighbouring Museum of Passages for Holy Week. Then, you can go to 52 Prim Street, where there is an elevator that avoids the steep climb that leads to the Basilica of Begoña, a popular destination during Holy Week in Bilbao. The Virgin of Begoña is the patron saint of Bizkaia and its temple is a place very dear to all Biscayans. Once the visit is over, you can return to the estuary with a gentle descent down to the Town Hall. The beautiful municipal palace, known for its magnificent Arab Hall, can be visited by reservation.
Bilbao’s fame and power is due to its port. To understand it, it is advisable to go to the Abra de Bilbao by the Metro line 2, to first visit Portugalete. This town has a rich history and buildings with a lot of flavour. Afterwards, you can walk to the neighbouring town of Santurce, where there is an interesting centre for the interpretation of sea life. In the surroundings of this port from the famous song “Desde Santurce a Bilbao,” you can try some delicious sardines or typical pintxos. Next, we recommend the enjoyable experience of crossing the estuary by the ferry of the Bizkaia Bridge, one of the most spectacular bridges in the world.
Once in the stately town of Getxo, we recommend a walk along the Evaristo Churruca pier to enjoy the panoramic view of the Abra. Then, you can walk along the pier towards Neguri, contemplating its parks and mansions, as well as the two marinas. This walk of several kilometers continues along the beach of Ereaga to the so-called Old Port of Algorta. This place has a great atmosphere, especially at dusk, and is known as the birthplace for the world-famous combination known as kalimotxo, a drink of Coca Cola and red wine (see the history). After recovering strength in the bars of the Old Port or Algorta itself, you can return to Bilbao by taking Metro line 1. There is a lot to do during Holy Week in Bilbao, which is a reason why many people return time and time again.
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