Bilbao used to be an ugly place to visit. However, this Spanish port city is now considered to be a blooming contemporary capital. Located in the Basque Country area in Northern Spain, Bilbao is the capital city of the province of Biscay. If you want to drive around the area in your own car, get the ferry to Bilbao from Portsmouth, one of a great choice of ferry crossings to Spain. The journey takes only twenty-four hours to arrive in a stylish, up-and-coming port city.

It was the building of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao that turned around this city. Since then, various other buildings have popped up, sporting interesting and often psychedelic structural design. There is also a huge creative art scene in the city, so if you’re after culture, Bilbao is the destination for you.

But it’s not all harsh architectural lines. Bilbao is situated on the banks of the Nervión River. It’s a beautiful place to explore, particularly if you take time out to stroll along the waterfront footpaths. There’s also some excellent shopping to be done on the waterfront. The Old Town is a great place to explore by foot, where you’ll find plenty of traditional Spanish architecture, including plazas dating back to the medieval era and gothic-looking churches. The Old Town is linked to the new city by five bridges, and circles around the Siete Calles. Here, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars. There are even a few pintxo bars hidden away in this area of town, some of which are the oldest in all of Spain.

Once you’ve arrived and settled in, head straight over to the Guggenheim Museum. It single-handedly turned the city around, and is a phenomenal example of modern architecture, considered to be one of the best in all of Spain. The building itself was designed by Frank O. Gehry and architect from America who specializes in the avant-garde, and influenced a great many buildings which were constructed afterwards. Not only is the building itself something to be seen, the actual contents are world famous. It is one of many of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s museums and it is a haven of modern artwork created by both Spanish and worldwide artists, including Jeff Koons, Chillida, Robert Rauschenberg and Louis Bourgeois.  The museum is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, and closed every Monday.

A great trip to take during your stay is to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Begoña, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful Roman edifices in the city. One of the best ways to reach it is by footpath which takes around twenty minutes to get to the hill’s summit. From here, there are some incredible views of the rest of Bilbao.

If you’re using Bilbao as a base to explore the area, or as a starting point for a driving holiday, you’ll find it very easy to drive onwards to your next destination. For a taste of the coast, Fuengirola is 470 miles’ drive, Madrid is 251 miles’ drive, or you can wind back up through France, as Calais is 557 miles’ drive.