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Bilbao has thrown off its industrial past to become one of Europe’s most popular centres for contemporary art and culture, and its hotel scene has evolved with a new wave of design-conscious visitors in mind. Bilbao’s design hotels are exceptionally stylish, and are a huge hit with the visitors who flock here to visit the Guggenheim Museum and other arty attractions.
Bilbao’s design hotels are clustered in the centre of the city, along the banks of the Nervión River and close to the Guggenheim. Choose a design hotel to the east of the river to be near the atmospheric Old Town, or search in the Abandoibarra area to be near some of Bilbao’s best public parks.
Cutting-edge design comes as standard. You can expect everything from dramatic colour schemes and funky lighting to chic furniture and unusual art pieces. But these properties aren’t all style and no substance – you’ll also get amenities such as rooftop terraces, gyms and swimming pools, along with in-room coffee makers and free WiFi.
If you’re in Bilbao for art and culture, the Guggenheim Museum is an essential stop. The exhibits begin before you’re even through the door – there are excellent installations in the grounds, including Jeff Koons’ famous flower-covered ‘Puppy’. After touring the Guggenheim, head to the nearby Indautxu neighbourhood to visit the Philippe Starck-designed Azkuna Zentroa. Once a wine warehouse, it now hosts some of the city’s coolest events.
It isn’t just the art that is cutting-edge in Bilbao. Head to some of the city’s more modern pintxo (tapas) bars and restaurants to try innovative twists on Basque dishes and ingredients. Alternatively, stick to traditional neighbourhood bars for an authentic taste of Bilbao.
You won’t have to walk far from your design hotel to spot yet another Bilbao icon. The shell-like glass and steel entrances to the city’s Metro stations were designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster, and have been nicknamed ‘Fosteritos’ by Bilbao residents.