NEW YORK -- Much as some flock to Paris to scale the Eiffel Tower
or head to Rome to crane their necks at the Sistine Chapel, many
visitors and operators have wedged Bilbao stops into their Spain
itineraries ever since the Guggenheim Museum opened in 1997.
But there's much more to Bilbao -- from local Basque seafood
specialties to other architectural wonders.
In addition to the Guggenheim, other highlights worth a gander
include the Palacio Euskalduna arts and conference complex, subway
stations designed by British architect Norman Foster and the
city-center Abandoibarra commercial project, being built to connect
all these new civic dots.
The Guggenheim hosts two new exhibits: "Paris: Capital of the
Arts, 1900-1968," with works by Modigliani, Duchamp and Picasso,
through Sept. 3, and a photography installation by German filmmaker
Wim Wenders, to run until Oct. 1.
There's much else ado on Bilbao's cultural front this fall, with
several arts festivals scheduled for the city and its nearby
For example, in September, both the Festival of 20th Century
Music and the A.B.A.O. Opera Season kick off in Bilbao, as does the
International Folk Music Festival in Getxo.
In November, Bilbao hosts the International Festival of Puppets
and Marionettes; in December, it will hold a festival of
documentaries and short films from around the world.
Historical attractions include the city's Old Quarter, the
109-year-old Hanging Bridge and the Cathedral of Santiago.
Local Basque cuisine, a mix of Iberian and French takes on
seafood dishes, is gaining fame among both residents and
vacationers, said Tom Spagnoletti, account executive at Spain
operator Comtours in Cleveland.
"In summer, even people from Madrid will visit Bilbao for its
restaurants," he said. "Basque cuisine is up and coming, and we see
more interest in gastronomy tours."
Comtours offers a seven-night package with air from New York for
$1,969 per person, double, through Aug. 31. From Sept. 1 through
Oct. 31, the price is $1,729. Agent pay starts at 10%.
For information or to book, call (800) 248-1331, or visit www.comtours.com.
Another tour operator paying 10% on FIT stays in Bilbao is
Europe Express, which offers a three-night, land-only Bilbao
Stopover priced from $240 per person in early September.
For details, call (800) 927-3876 or visit www.europeexpress.com. For more on Bilbao, visit www.basquecountry-tourism.com.