Learn about Basque people in Bizkaia’s museums
Bizkaia’s museums hold collections where you can discover the history, the culture and the traditions of Basque people
Decades ago, Bilbao and Bizkaia decided to reinvent themselves as art and culture hubs.
This transformation can be easily seen walking across the city, admiring Bilbao’s spectacular landmarks, visiting museums or taking part in activities that reveal the identity of the region.
Bizkaia has all kinds of museums, from maritime venues where you can learn everything about fishermen’s ways of life to brand-new contemporary art galleries to the vestiges of the old industrial days.
Most museums have resorted to new technologies in an effort to help visitors get closer to the essence of Euskadi.
Dig into our culture
An interesting range of options for culture vultures
Bilbao is the capital of Bizkaia. As such, it has the largest number of museums in the region, including the Guggenheim and the Fine Arts Museums. But the city has a lot more to offer culture vultures beyond these buildings.
Since it opened in 1997, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum has become the centrepiece of the city’s art and cultural scene. Inside the spectacular titanium, glass and stone building designed by Frank Gehry, it exhibits works by influential contemporary artists like Richard Serra, Eduardo Chillida, Anselm Kiefer, Andy Warhol or Antonio Saura.
Before 1997, the most visited gallery in Bilbao was the Museum of Fine Arts. It holds an unrivalled collection of over 10,000 pieces of modern, contemporary and ancient art. You will see works by El Greco, Francisco de Zurbarán, Henri Matisse or Pablo Picasso, and a comprehensive set of works by the best-known Basque artists, including Ignacio Zuloaga or the Arrúe brothers.
The Museum of Archaeology houses artefacts made by prehistoric peoples in the region more than 10,000 years ago. Bizkaia’s culture, customs and traditions are well-represented and accurately described at the Basque Museum, housed in the old building of San Andrés School. It contains objects that belonged to the fishing, farming and industrial past of Euskadi.
In Abandoibarra, the area where the Guggenheim Museum stands, there is also the Ría de Bilbao Maritime Museum. In it, the relevance of the river estuary in the city’s history becomes fully apparent. The Athletic Club Museum and the Art Reproductions Museum are just two of the many smaller yet equally interesting exhibition centres you can visit in Bilbao.
Museums in Bizkaia
Bizkaia is home to many museums, so here we are mentioning only the most relevant. In Galdames, inside the Loizaga Tower (an impressive medieval fort), there is the Antique and Classic Car Museum, where you will see a vast collection of Rolls-Royce cars. In El Pobal (Muskiz) you can visit the Ironwork Museum, a workshop that shows how the mineral is transformed into metal to be forged and welded. A thorough description of Bizkaia’s industrial past is found a few kilometres away at the Basque Country Mining Museum.
One of Bizkaia’s most important fishing villages, Bermeo, is home to the Fishermen’s Museum, dedicated to Basque arrantzales (fishermen) and showing everything you want to see about sailing techniques. In Portugalete, close to the Bizkaia Bridge, there is the Rialia Museum of Industry, where you can learn about Bizkaia’s industries against the background of the river estuary.
Finally, the Peace Museum stands situated in the most suitable location for a museum focusing on peace: Gernika-Lumo, the target of the atrocious aerial attack of 1937. The museum is aimed at promoting peace and human rights. In the medieval district of Balmaseda lies La Encartada, today a museum and in the past a manufacturer of txapelas (berets), a very popular clothing item in Euskadi.