angle-left In the wake of an industrial past

The steel and iron industry in Bizkaia found its raw materials in the Mining Area (in Basque, Meatzaldea). The Triano Mountains, a range cutting across the villages of Abanto-Zierbena, Muskiz, Galdames, Trápaga and Ortuella, were key to its development, offering large amounts of quality iron.

"The high factory smokestacks (…) will come to be an archaeological curiosity, a silent witness to the world that was and is now dead."

Miguel de UnamunoLa Casa Torre de los Zurbarán

The mining sites, manufacturing plants and shipbuilding drew banks and steel and iron companies that settled in Bizkaia. The Bizkaia Bridge, or Puente Colgante, was built in 1893 to connect the working-class neighbourhoods on the left bank to the bourgeois districts on the right. It soon became a sort of triumphal arch for Bizkaia. Today, this World Heritage Site connects Portugalete to Getxo by spreading over the river estuary.

If you are interested in Bizkaia’s industrial past, you can visit the Rialia Museum of Industry, in Portugalete. It displays items from companies like Altos Hornos de Bizkaia or Babcock & Wilcox, and works of art with industrial flare  by Agustín Ibarrola, Luis Badosa, Ignacio Ipiña, and others.

To learn more about iron ore exploitation, visit the Mining Area. In Muskiz there is Ferrería El Pobal, a forge where iron ore was transformed into metal that was used to make all kinds of tools. Today, El Pobal is a living museum in the vicinity of the river Barbadún. It features hydraulic machinery at the mill and in the forge itself.

From the mines to the estuary

Take a trip on La Reineta funicular rainway, or a walk or boat ride along the river estuary for a close look at Bizkaia's industrial past.

The tour of industrial Bizkaia begins at the Mining Area (Meatzaldea) where the iron ore used to be found. In the Triano Mountains there is the cave of La Magdalena, which features a humble shrine and traces of iron ore exploitation. Close to Muskiz there is El Pobal, an old forge converted to museum.

Once in Meatzaldea, get on La Reineta funicular railway, which used to carry the iron from the mountains to the district of Zugastieta. Today, it takes visitors on a scenic 2000m-long route affording the best views of the area: the natural setting, the traces of industrial activity, the Abra and Gran Bilbao. Close to Zugastieta, you can also visit the Peñas Negras Environmental Visitor Centre.

Another way of being in contact with Bizkaia’s industrial past is going on a boat ride along the river estuary or a stroll along its banks. On the left-hand side (Sestao) you will spot the first blast-furnace owned by Altos Hornos de Vizcaya. It is still standing there. On your way to Bilbao, you will also see the large plant of Grandes Molinos Vascos, a flour-making company. For more industrial vestiges, look out for the premises of the biscuit factory Artiach in Zorrotzaurre. The Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall was built on the site of the Euskalduna Shipyard, in Abandoibarra.

How To Get There

  • Bizkaia has a rich, variegated industrial past – the forge where today’s Bizkaia was shaped. Traces of the steel and iron industry can still be seen in the so-called Iron Mountains, on both banks of the river Nervión and in several museums – the guardians of Bizkaia’s history. Find the most interesting sites below.

    Ferrería El Pobal
    Barrio El Pobal, Carretera de Muskiz-Sopuerta. 48550 Muskiz, Bizkaia
    Phone number: +34 629 271 516
    Email address

    Bizkaia Bridge
    Barria kalea, 3 - Behea
    48930 Areeta (Getxo) - Bizkaia
    Phone number: +34 944 801 012
    Email address 

    RIALIA Museum of Industry
    Canilla ibilbidea, z/g; 48920 Portugalete (Bizkaia)
    Phone number: +34 944 724 384
    Email address

    • Timetable

      Ferrería El Pobal

      From 16 October to 14 April (winter)
      Tuesday-Sunday and holidays, 10:00am to 2:00pm

      From 15 April to 15 October (summer)
      Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am to 2:00pm and 4:00 to 6:00pm
      Sunday and holidays, 10:00am to 2:00pm

      Closed on Monday, 1 and 6 January, 25 December
      Show (machines at work): Saturday 12:00 noon

      RIALIA Museum of Industry
      October to March
      Tuesday and Wednesday, 9:30am to 1:30pm
      Thursday and Friday, 10:00am to 2:00pm and 3:00 to 5:00pm
      Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 10:00am to 3:00pm
      April to September
      Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00am to 2:30pm
      Friday and Saturday, 10:00am to 2:00pm and 5:00 to 7:00pm
      Sunday and holidays, 10:30am to 3:00pm
      Closed on Monday, 1 and 6 January, 25 December; 24 and 31 December, open 10:00am to 2:00pm

    • Price

      Ferrería El Pobal
      General admission: €3.50 (guided tour)/€5.50 (guided tour and show)

      Concessions:
      €2.25 (guided tour)/€3.25 (guided tour and show) for visitors ages 26 and under, senior citizens over 60, disabled visitors, unemployed visitors, pensioners, large families, groups (+10 people)
      €1.00 (guided tour)/€2.00 (guided tour and educational workshop) for school or leisure groups
      Free admission: Children ages 12 and under, teachers, guides and journalists (proof of identity required), Museum Day (Friday), International Museum Day (18 May), local holidays, Nagusi Txartela holders, ICOM card holders

      RIALIA Museum of Industry
      Adults: €2
      Free admission: seniors ages 65 and over, children ages 14 and under

    • Location

      Ferrería El Pobal (Muskiz)
      Bizkaia Bridge
      Grandes Molinos Vascos (Zorrotza, Bilbao)
      Port of Bermeo