The business capital and largest city in the Basque Country, Bilbao has undergone an urban transformation that has awakened world-wide interest from other industrial cities in decline.
Gone are the shipyards in the city centre and the old steelworks and in have come a prize-winning underground with stations by Norman Foster, the Guggenheim by Gehry and many other new landmarks. But these are only part of the transformation which has led Bilbao to become a pleasant city to live in. The entire city has been shaken up with improved public transport, pedestrianisation, recovery of degraded areas which are taken advantage of to improve local services.
The entire process responds to a strategic planning process begun in the 80s that dozens of cities across the world have come to study. The process continues with the high-speed train link to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris currently under construction, a magnificent Phillipe Starck designed cultural centre in the old central wine warehouse and the new urban area on a peninsula in the old city centre dock area that will, over the next 20 years, radically change the urban landscape.
Large enough to have a vibrant cultural life; music for all tastes, theatre, museums (other than the Guggenheim), opera season, sporting opportunities (from surf to skiing) and street café culture, Bilbao is still manageable enough for somebody to find their way around in a short time.
Historically, Bilbao has had a privileged relationship with Great Britain based on the flourishing industrial base created in the 19th century. Today, Bilbao is a flourishing major centre for services and mid-to-high tech light industry, with an important international airport and the most successful technology park in Spain.
As a city it combines the serious business personality of northern Europe with the hard-playing and fun side of southern Europe, a perfect mix for serious young professionals.