The defining traits of the new Metropolitan Bilbao are quality and service. In the midst of a far-reaching process of change. Prestigious architects such as Sir Norman Foster, Cesar Pelli and Santiago Calatrava have changed the face of the city and its river, earning it an international reputation as a centre for trade, tourism and culture in Europe.
The process of renovation, spurred on by public and media interest, began to take shape in 1988 with the opening of the Guggenheim Museum. In the wake of this event the whole metropolitan area has been remodelled, with more and more new features being incorporated into the fabric of the city as the years have passed. Many areas have been renovated under a broad urban revitalization plan, and many new shopping centres, public buildings, refurbished industrial buildings, modern residential complexes and green areas now stand around the River estuary, which forms the backbone of the city.
In this regeneration process, special attention has been paid to the city's transport network, with efforts to attract congresses, fairs and meetings to the new, service-oriented Bilbao. Mobility and access to the city have become faster and easier with the opening of the new La Paloma terminal at Sondika airport, designed by Santiago Calatrava, which can handle 4 million passengers per year and 20 flights per hour, and the revival of the city's tramways under the name EuskoTran, in a system that has been linking the historical and modern areas of Bilbao along 5 km of track since 2002. Special mention must also be given to the city's Metro system, designed by Sir Norman Foster, which has decongested road traffic and enabled several areas to be pedestrianised.
The boom in trade fairs and congresses
In the field of congresses, trade fairs and meetings, activities are centred on the new Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC) which opened in April 2004 and has already successfully staged several long-standing fairs and new events of different types. The BEC can be reached easily via the Metro system, and is equipped with state-of-the-art communications systems.
Several new hotels opened in the city and its metropolitan area, joining others opened in 2003 to give Bilbao a range of hotels of exceptional quality in which designer buildings stand alongside classical establishments of great tradition and charming, unique buildings such as refurbished mansion houses.
The new heart of the city is the area comprised by Paseo de Abandoibarra, the Pedro Arrupe footbridge and the Avenida de las Universidades boulevard, connected by a promenade decorated with sculptures by renowned artists including Eduardo Chillida, Ángel Garraza, Salvador Dalí and José Zugasti. These are just some of the many changes that the city has undergone: more new buildings and features will be opened over the next 10 years as projects currently underway are completed.
Far from detracting from the traditional city centre, these new projects have actually boosted its attractions. The commercial hub of Bilbao lies at the confluence of Gran Vía and Plaza Moyúa. The districts of Indautxu and El Ensanche are always bustling with commercial and financial activity as traditional shops mingle with cutting edge establishments and restaurants serving cuisine by prestigious chefs. Nowhere is this mixture more evident than at the Mercado de La Ribera produce market by the Church of San Antón: it is one of the biggest covered markets in Europe, and is filled with traditional local flavour.
Barakaldo has also undergone large-scale improvements that can only be described as exemplary in urban planning, environmental, cultural, sporting and social terms. The choice of the Ansio district as the site of the Bilbao Exhibition Centre was a key factor in the economic and social revitalization of the towns along the left bank of the river estuary, where a long tradition of manufacturing has given way to a service-based economy. The opening of large shopping centres and other amenities in Kareaga and Zuloko-Ibarreta and the subsequent transformation of the areas around them has turned this municipality into a driving force for economic and social growth.
BILBAO EXHIBITION CENTRE Ronda de Azkue 1 48902 Ansio-Barakaldo
: +34 94 404 00 00
: +34 94 404 00 01 email@example.com