Guggenheim Bilbao named best by European museum forum

BILBAO, Spain -- The Forum of European Museums named the Guggenheim Bilbao the best museum in Europe for 2000.

The Brussels-based forum, which operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe, cited the museum for its impressive architecture and success in attracting visitors.

The forum described the Guggenheim as "an example of how culture and the arts can achieve economic success."

The titanium exterior of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.The Guggenheim was one of 28 candidates nominated for the award.

In the two-and-a-half years since its opening, the Guggenheim has brought in $42.3 million to the local economy, according to a spokesman for the Tourist Office of Spain in New York.

More than 1 million visitors passed through the museum's doors in 1999.

The tourist office spokesman said the Guggenheim's success has prompted additional investment in the Basque region on Spain's northern coast, where the museum is based.

Recent examples include the opening of a congress center in San Sebastian and an aquarium and Basque education center in Bilbao.

Meanwhile, four new hotels are scheduled to open in Bilbao over the next two years.

A five-star, 200-room Sheraton hotel is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2002 as the first internationally managed property in the city, according to the Tourist Office of Spain.

A spokeswoman for Sheraton, a Starwood brand, said she could not confirm the property opening.

Another five-star property, the 160-room Gran Domine, will open in 2001.

Two four-star hotels under the Spanish chain Hesperia are also in the works, an 82-room hotel to open in August and a 182-room property scheduled for a spring 2001 debut.

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