The_Guggenheim_BilbaoThis time of year Spain becomes a Mecca for British tourists trying to flee the country and get a tan, and whilst some football fans are currently postponing their holiday until after the world cup finishes, now is an ideal time to get away.

Bilbao in the Northern region of the country is the political capital of the nationalistic Basque people who inhabit Spain’s three northern Euskadi provinces. While not being a traditionally beautiful city, its main strength is that it offers an easy gateway to the rest of the country, with access to many attractions within the surrounding countryside and along the coast of the Bay of Biscay.

Bilbao itself is currently undergoing a programme of revitalization beginning with the opening of the controversial Guggenheim Museum in 1997, and visitors can easily experience some good beaches, cubs, bars and a few scenic spots. The regeneration of the city has also lead to the acquiring a new metro system and airport terminal which along with the port facilities help to make it a hub of activity. In addition to the Guggenheim, art lovers can also experience the Museo de Bellas Artes in the Plaza Museo, which houses some fantastic 12th through to 20th century works by Francis Bacon, Picasso, Gauguin, El Greco, Goya and Velazquez
behind its unassuming façade. For a cultural experience of the city, the Museu Vasco, housed in a 17th century Jesuit cloister in the heart of the old quarter is definitely worth a visit.

To get to the city, most visitors will elect to fly to Bilbao with British Airways or use the regular cheap flight operators and start their holiday in Spain with as little fuss and as fast as possible. Catch a plane from the nearest airport and you can be touching down in Spain just three hours later.

Others may choose to take a more leisurely trip with a mini cruise direct from the ferry operators or though a specialist short cruise company like UK based Superbreak. For those who want to take their time, this option comes highly recommended as P&O in conjunction with the charity organization, Biscay Dolphin Research Programme, has set up a fantastic themed cruise from Portsmouth to Bilbao aboard the “Pride of Bilbao”, through one of the best localities in the world for dolphin and whale watching. Although swimming with the dolphins is not on the agenda, whale and dolphin lectures are provided for free, and identification information is available on the top viewing deck as well as in the front “Posh” bar. Here you can sit and see the sun set while watching dolphins leap out of the water towards the ship to bow ride and you enjoy a soulful piano bar atmosphere.

However you decide to travel and whether you want culture or nightlife, you are sure to have a holiday experience you will want to remember for years.