The City


Bilbao is located on the Eastern Atlantic seaboard, in the Spanish State, and stands 19m above sea level, covering a surface area of 41.6 sq. km. It has important transport infrastructures that provide connections to the main cities in Europe by land, sea and air. The capital of Bizkaia/Biscay stands at the heart of a metropolis with over 1,000,000 inhabitants and is a welcoming cosmopolitan city, with over 700 years of history, where tradition and avant-garde live side by side.

The foundation of Bilbao as a town dates back to 1300 DC, and its origin is due fundamentally to its strategic location as internal port. The city has been known for its industrial character with an economy based on steel, ship-build and business industries until the 1980s of the XX Century. As a result, in 1980 the industry generated 49% of GDP and 36% of GDP the service sector. It is during the first years of the 80’s when the strong industrial economy of Biscay and Bilbao began its nonstop fall.

The city of Bilbao has come a long way from the 80´s, when it was immersed in a deep crisis and decline, which it has managed to overcome almost thirty years later reinventing itself as a city based on knowledge and advanced services. Today, services represent 62% of the city’s economy and industry 27%, however the industry still generates high added value.

Now it´s looking at future challenges also through the eyes of its dynamic art, engineering and design community. The strategic plan for the urban regeneration has transformed Bilbao into a global reference for city transformation and has earned the city several prizes and awards like the 1st Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. The UNESCO designation as a “City of Design” in November 2014 was a recognition of Bilbao´s successful people-centred urban transformation and the potential of the city to continue developing in a creative way. It recently joined the Global Destination Sustainability Index with a commitment to meet specific guidelines for the development of more sustainable conferences.


34.273€            GDP PER CAPITA
1,97%                 R&D SPENDING AS % OF GDP
127,9                  AVERAGE PRODUCTIVITY


Useful information

The official currency is the Euro. The majority of retail establishments accept credit cards and will ask the customer to show proof of identity. However, it is also easy to get cash from the ATM at the many bank branches around the city.

In the same way as in the rest of the Basque Country, Bilbao has two official languages: Spanish and Basque. Both are used interchangeably in the administration and in the public services and increasingly more in everyday life, the result of the endeavor to mainstream Basque in recent decades.

Bilbao is near the sea, surrounded by green mountains and a few kilometers away from beaches and nature reserves. The Transporter Bridge of Bizkaia, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, joins the two banks of the river Nervion, and the beautiful coastline means that there are many outdoor leisure activities available around.

It has a humid oceanic climate, with predominantly West winds, that make temperatures milder and favour temperate weather throughout the year. Given its proximity to the sea, the climate is mild and without extreme temperature changes between the seasons: with an average temperature 8ºC in winter and 20ºC in summer.

Getting around Bilbao is easy. From the centre to the Casco Viejo old quarter is 2.5 km, making it simple to travel on foot or by bike, while the city has modern, efficient, sustainable metro, bus and tram systems.

El puente Zubi Zuri con las torres Isozaki. Bilbao Bilbo Foto: Mitxi
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