Bilbao has only recently come to the attention of tourists, a characterful Basque city that was for so long hidden behind the guise of an industrial hub. The foundation of the Guggenheim Museum changed all that. The silvered, sinuous facade of the museum shelters an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art, ranging from the mind-boggling to the subtly enticing work of master artists from across the globe. The Guggenheim may be Bilbao's most iconic, but it is only one of its many charms. Stroll along the riverside in Casco Viejo and you'll encounter a beguiling array of pastel-hued facades. This is the Medieval town of Bilbao where stand some of its oldest architectural gems. Of these, the Santiago Cathedral is believed to be the most aged; built in the 15th Century, it still retains much of its original design. Here, also stands the bustling Mercado de la Ribera, a treasure trove of local specialties like fresh seafood, cured meats, cheese, sausages and a variety of produce. Along the way are Michelin-starred restaurants and chic designer boutiques. Nearby, are some fine day trip destinations, including the secluded San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a rocky outcrop off the coast, topped by a 10th-century church with spectacular views of the hills and sea. All this and more mark Bilbo as a well of delight just waiting to be discovered.
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