Over 350.000 inhabitants

Bilbao is a municipality located in northern Spain, capital of the historical territory of Biscay, which belongs to the Basque Country (Euskadi in Euskera, official language in the autonomous region). Its population is close to 350.000 inhabitants, but one million people live within its metropolitan area, which encompasses the Estuary of Bilbao or Nervión.

Continuous social and economic development

The Villa of Bilbao was founded in 1300 by Diego López de Haro, although there were already some small settlements at both sides of the river estuary, where nowadays the Old Quarter and Bilbao la Vieja are located. A decade later, María Díaz de Haro, Lady of Biscay, granted a new town charter that further extended the trade privileges of the Villa, making it the obligatory passage for all trade from Castile towards the sea. Soon, the Port of Bilbao gained relevance and it caused a constant social, economic and urbanistic development to the city during the XV, XVI and XVII centuries.

The impact of the industry on the city

However, it was in the second half of the nineteenth century that Bilbao experienced a strong boost in its economy thanks to the arrival of rail, mining, commerce, port activity and the flourishing steel industry and shipbuilding. As a matter of fact, this type of industry was the engine of Bilbao’s economy until the end of the twentieth century, when a deep crisis in this sector forced the city to rethink its economic model. A symbolic fact of that end of stage was the closing of the Euskaduna shipyards in 1988, which today has become the Euskalduna Conference Center, the place where the Sustainable Urban Mobility Congress is to be held.

The transformation process

Thereafter, Bilbao carried out a transformation process based on industrial reconversion and urban and environmental regeneration, which is why it is awarded and recognized internationally. In the last 25 years, the Biscayan capital has invested in large projects, such as the rehabilitation of the Estuary, the recovery of Old Quarter, the construction of new infrastructures to improve the mobility in the territory and the international connection, such as the airport, the metro, the tramway or the highway, as well as the Guggenheim Museum, current symbol of the transformation process of the city. Nowadays, Bilbao is a modern city that bets on new technologies and sustainability. As a result, it was selected as the “Best European City 2018”, according to the Academy of Urbanism.