After nearly 12 hours sleep we woke up refreshed this morning and ready to see the sights of Bilbao. Our apartment is conveniently located near the old town so we set off to explore that, with our first stop being the impressive Santiago Cathedral.
The day was warm but quite overcast, and as we walked through the narrow streets of the old town with their tall buildings it was quite dark. We saw the Basque flag flying from a number of houses.
There were some very pleasant squares which weren't as busy as they would become once the locals had had time to ease into the day.
After spending some time exploring the squares of the old town, we wandered back down to the river. The sun was starting to come out, and on the hills behind the town we caught sight of the Artxanda funicular, which our guidebook had recommended as a good way of geting a panoramic view of the city. We decided to head in its general direction.
On the way we saw some more beautiful buildings, including the theatre...
...and the town hall.
Outside the town hall there was a flower display celebrating the founding of Bilbao in 1300:
There are wonderful (sneeze-inducing) flower displays all over the city!
We located the entrance to the funicular in the backstreets behind the town hall and were impressed to discover that a ride to the top cost a mere €0.91 each. Within a matter of minutes we had ascended to a pleasant hill top with amazing views back out across the city of Bilbao and the surrounding countryside.
The day was still quite hazy so we couldn't see all the way to the sea, but we could see the old town with its cathedral...
... as well as our next destination: the Guggenheim museum.
The Guggenheim museum, which houses a collection of modern art, was built in the late 1990's as part of efforts to regenerate Bilbao. We didn't go inside, but the architecture was impressive from the outside at least.
Scattered around the perimeter of the museum were some bizarre sculptures...
... including this metallic spider which I suspect is going to give me nightmares:
The most famous sculpture of all, which features in all the souvenirs sold in Bilbao, is 'Puppy', a giant piece of topiary in the shape of a West Highland Terrier puppy. It's hard to convey in a photo just how enormous it is, but apparently it contains more than 60,000 plants. We definitely saw it at the best time of year, with all the begonias in full bloom.
It was mid-afternoon by this point and the sun reflecting off the walls of the Guggenheim museum was blinding. We decided to head back to the cool darkness of our apartment, stopping off at the main train station on our way to research timetables for tomorrow's planned excursion to the seaside town of San Sebastian. The train timetables in Bilbao station make about as little sense as the train timetables on the Renfe website, so in the end we gave up and decided that tomorrow we will be travelling by bus.