Our first visit to Bilbao was in a transatlantic crossing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Southampton, England. Our cruise ship, the Ruby Princess departed Ft. Lauderdale on April 27, with stops in Bermuda, Lisbon, Bilbao and Le Havre. When our ship came into the port of Bilbao, we saw this was a small fishing and commercial city, but at the same time a very vibrant and dynamic city; being the financial and commercial hub of north east Spain. We were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the place, and by the fact that most everyone was busy going about their daily lives.
The port in Bilbao is mainly for smaller vessels. The new cruise ship terminal in Getxos accommodates large vessels, but this was not so that many years ago. Bilbao is the home port to an extensive fishing fleet, and the commercial cargo area is very busy with the loading and unloading of small to medium sized freighters. The bedroom community of Getxos, where the cruise terminal is located is home to a host of recreational sail boats and several sailing academies. As we were leaving port, there were two dozen or so sail boats either participating in a regatta or simply enjoying the afternoon breezes out on the mouth of this estuary.
Once away from the port, the surrounding residential areas are very beautiful, with houses and apartment buildings of every size and description, but almost all of them well maintained with manicured lawns. The city of Bilbao graciously provided free shuttle service from the cruise ship terminal into the center of Bilbao. At the terminal, several very friendly and informative representatives of the Biscayan government provided visitors with good city maps and other tourist information. At the drop off point in Euskadi Plaza, there were more ship’s and government representatives to further help you with any questions you might have.
A short walk from Euskadi Plaza is the Guggenheim museum, with its impressive buildings, and very beautiful gardens. In front of the main entrance to the museum you can see the famous “puppy” of Guggenheim, a beautifully sculpted topiary. The area surrounding the Guggenheim along the river has been landscaped with nice gardens and a very generous pedestrian avenue which takes you into the old part of Bilbao (Casco Viejo). This old part of the city dates to the beginning of Bilbao in the 14th century.