• Food


    Pintxos are the star dish of Basque gastronomy – real bite-size culinary gems and a tourist attraction in their own right. They are perfect for poteo (bar hopping with friends), washed down with a glass of txakoli (white wine) or a zurito (small beer). There is an endless variety of pintxos to taste, from the traditional Gildas (anchovy, olive and chilli pepper skewers) or stuffed mushrooms to seafood like squid or meat like steak.

  • Main courses

    In coastal towns in Bizkaia there are lots of places where you can have grilled fish – sardines, seabream, angler… – as you stare at the sea. Cod is the star fish in Basque cuisine. It is served in traditional sauces like pil-pil (the onomatopoeia comes from the sounds made by the fish juice in contact with hot oil) or vizcaína (with bell peppers). A feast for your senses!

  • Desserts

    People in Bizkaia have a sweet tooth. Bilbao has its own sweets like Carolinas (puff pastry, meringue, chocolate and egg yolk), created by a patissier for his daughter, whose name was Carolina, butter sweet rolls or rice cakes (which, despite their name, have no rice).

  • Architecture

    Guggenheim Museum

    Since it opened in 1997, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has become an icon of the city around the world, putting the Basque Country on the global cultural map. It is a symbol of Bilbao’s transformation and what it has brought along. Designed by Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most renowned architects, it looks like a ship moored by the estuary of the river Nervión, by the La Salve bridge – a tribute to the shipbuilders you could find in Abandoibarra in the old industrial days.

    In addition to a valuable permanent collection, the Guggenheim Museum houses temporary exhibitions by leading twentieth- and twenty-first-century artists and movements. At the entrance you will meet the Museum’s watchdog, Puppy, always ready to appear in visitors’ selfies.

  • Arriaga Theatre

    Standing at the entrance of the Old Town, in the heart of the city, the Arriaga Theatre is one of Bilbao’s traditional icons. Designed by architect Joaquín de Rucoba in the Neo-Baroque style and dedicated to the Bilbao-born composer Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga – the Basque equivalent to Mozart –, the theatre opened its doors for the first time in 1890. Today, it stages theatrical, musical and dance performances, zarzuelas and concerts.

  • Iberdrola Tower

    The Iberdrola Tower, 165 metres high, is the tallest building in Bilbao. On clear days, you can even make it out from the neighbouring towns.

    This tower marks the end of Bilbao’s transformation and the backbone of the new financial district. Designed by the Argentine architect César Pelli, it stands on Plaza Euskadi. Its 41 floors, covering 50,000 square metres, house the offices of 40 local, Spanish and international companies.

  • Language


    The Basque people have their own language, known as Basque or Euskera. It is the oldest living language spoken in Europe. Its origin continues to be a mystery, but some linguists place it in Aquitaine, France, while others trace it back to the languages spoken by cavemen in Altamira, Ekain or Lascaux, about 15,000 years ago.

  • The Basque language today

    Today, about 34% of the Basque people speak the Basque language. There are numerous Euskalkis, or Basque language varieties, spoken across Euskal Herria. In the province of Bizkaia, for instance, there are the dialects spoken in the Txorierri valley, in Uribe Kosta, in Mungialde or in Durangaldea, to name but a few regions.

    In 1968, the Academy of the Basque Language, Euskaltzaindia, led by the linguist Koldo Mitxelena, established the rules of standard Euskera, or Euskara batua, to make it easier for Basque speakers from different regions to understand each other.

  • Words and phrases in Basque

    Basque speakers say: ‘Kaixo!’ when they meet, and ‘Agur!’ (or a variant like ‘Aio!’) when they bid farewell. If they want to know about you, they will ask: ‘Zer moduz?’ or ‘Zelan?’ (‘How are you?’). For ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’ and ‘Good evening’, they say ‘Egun on,’ ‘Arratsalde on’ and ‘Gabon,’ respectively. For an additional drink at the bar or an extra song at a concert, just cry ‘Beste bat’ (‘One more’ or ‘Another’). ‘Mesedez’ (‘Please’) and ‘Eskerrik asko’ (‘Thanks’) are the magic words. And if you make a mistake, say ‘Barkatu’ (‘Sorry’). ‘Ongi etorri Bizkaiara!’ (‘Welcome to Bizkaia!’). ‘Ondo pasa!’ (‘Have a good time!’).

  • Basque rural sports


    Basque people have a strong cultural identity of their own, which builds on language and tradition. Traditional sports are part of this culture: Basque pelota, rowing and rural sports, also known as herri kirolak. Basque sports have a social and cultural function, and they are attractive to watch. They are deeply rooted in ancient customs, tasks performed in the old days and early habits associated with life in the fields or the mines.

  • Hole drilling

    Like most herri kirolak, hole drilling dates back to working practices from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century – from the iron ore mines in Bizkaia. Workers used iron drills to reach into the ores, sometimes more than 2 metres deep.

    Challenging and gambling moved the practice from the mines to the squares, transforming hole drilling into an iconic sport of the Basque people. Neglected for a few decades, this sport is now back in fashion.

  • Wood chopping and stone lifting

    Wood chopping – aizkolaritza – and stone lifting – harrijasotzea – are two of the most popular traditional Basque sports. Wood chopping comes in several versions, the most popular consisting in chopping the largest number of trunks in the shortest possible time. There is an annual nationwide event, Urrezko Aizkora (Gold Axe) where men show who the best aizkolari (wood chopper) is. Aitzol Atutxa, from Dima, has won the competition since 2007, bearing the champion’s beret, or txapela.

    As to stone lifting, it consists in lifting stones of various shapes and sizes off the ground and onto the shoulder. Iñaki Perurena, from Navarra, is the most popular harrijasotzaile.

  • Folk traditions


    Basque people are passionate about dance. Traditional dances are an essential part of Basque culture and identity. Basque dances – Euskal dantzak – have been passed on from generation to generation, standing the test of time: Kaixarranka in Lekeitio, Dantzari Dantza in Durango, and so on. Folk dances are intertwined with life and celebration in Basque villages.

    An annual dance festival – Bizkaiko Dantzari Eguna – is held every year in a different town or village in Bizkaia.

  • Myths and legends

    Bizkaia (and Euskadi at large) is a land of myths and legends. Our leafy woods, rocky mountains, mysterious caves and majestic rivers are home to our dearest mythological creatures.

    Mari, the mother goddess, lives in the caves in Anboto, the mountain towering over Durangaldea. She protects all men and women, and she administers justice.

    With the advent of Christianity, the Jentil, a race of giants with superhuman strength, took refuge in the woods. They live in the Baltzola caves in Dima. One of them, however, Olentzero, came down to announce the birth of Jesus. He turned into a charcoal burner and every year, for Christmas, he leaves his home in the woods to bring gifts to Basque children.

  • Festivals

    The people of Bizkaia love to celebrate life. There are many festivals throughout the year, especially in the summer: Goose Day in Lekeitio, the feast of Andra Mari in Bermeo, paella competition in Algorta… In August, Bilbao gets ready for Aste Nagusia (Big Week), a nine-day festival with lots of activities and 29 different krewes parading on the streets.

    On the last Monday of October, Gernika holds a big farming and cattle fair, where you can buy top-quality artisan foods: Gernika peppers, honey, Idiazabal cheese, and many others.