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Culture and art
Bilbao's old town

I'm sure that if you've told your friends and family that you're going to Bilbao, they will have looked at you with a certain envious look on their faces. Those who haven't been there are desperate to visit, and those who have been there are dying to go back.

Of all the information you have already read about the essential places to visit in Bilbao and everything you have been told by those who have already been to the city, one place stands out above the rest; the Casco Viejo.

And we put it like that, in capital letters, because it is not like the old quarter of any other city, it represents much more. Las Siete Calles, as it is known, is a masterpiece in itself, both urbanistically, culturally and historically.

Let's take a walk through the historic centre of Bilbao. This is and this means both the Casco Viejo and its Siete Calles.


The Seven Streets of Bilbao

Why is Bilbao's Old Town also known as the Seven Streets? The old town of Bilbao was originally made up of... Three streets! But what happened here?

Somera, Artecalle and Tendería, these were the three streets that made up the city in the year 1300 when Don Diego López de Haro founded the Villa de Bilbao on the banks of the Nervión Estuary.

In the middle of the 15th century, in 1442, a royal permit allowed Bilbao to expand, so the wall was demolished and more streets were added and the city began to grow.

To this day, the streets are decorated with the artistic movements of the time, highlighting the fresco painting on the wall. Each street is a story. They have seen the Carlist wars of the 19th century, the Civil War of the 20th century, attacks of all kinds and natural disasters such as floods.

Although there are also many lights in their history, these streets saw the birth of great names in Spanish and universal history, such as the composer Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, known as the "Spanish Mozart", or the writer Miguel de Unamuno.

Let's take a look at each of the streets and their history.



Also known as Cimera, "the street above" was the main street when there were only three. It is the oldest and most historically important street. Walking along it takes us from the estuary to the upper part of the Old Town.


Arte Street, or "The Middle Street", used to house an important part of the shoemakers, silversmiths and carpenters' trades. You can still see an old oil lantern at the entrance, although it is no longer in use.


This is where the Franks lived and where a large number of negotiations and the signing of documents took place. Its name does not come from "tender" but from "dendería", which means "place surrounded by shops or businesses". Even today, the people of Bilbao still know it as "Denderikale".


We leave behind the three original streets to start on the oldest of the new ones. Belosti Street is the "upper street" or "fishing street", as the fish shops and fish trade in the whole town used to pass through here.

As a curiosity, at the beginning of the 19th century, in 1805, an unsuccessful attempt was made to change its name to "Ochoa de Asúa".

Old Butcher's Shop

As you can imagine, we have moved on from fish to meat, as this street was the first place in the city where meat was sold, a municipal butcher's shop.


Means "lower street" or "lower end" and it was the street that had the lowest position in relation to the other five. If this is where the Arana Palace is located, you can imagine that it was the street where all the high society of the Basque Country and the rest of Spain stayed. From kings to lords and people of high lineage.


When it seemed that there could not be a lower street, this "street that is lower or below there" appears. As it is, that is its meaning. And it is the one that suffers most from the rising waters of the estuary, as it floods quite easily.


What to see in the Old Town

As well as seeing the Seven Streets themselves, and enjoying a walk through the past and the history of the town itself, there are other monuments and corners that you cannot miss on your stroll through the Old Quarter.

If you want to enjoy classical and religious buildings, stop by the Church of San Antón, an emblematic landmark of the Old Quarter, built in the 15th century and almost as old as the town itself, its Gothic style will captivate you.

Although you won't believe what you read, you will also be able to visit the Cathedral of Santiago. Obviously it is not the Cathedral of Santiago, but this cathedral has nothing to envy it.

Art is also hidden among the Siete Calles, where you'll find everything from galleries to museums, which focus on medieval artworks. As well as handcrafted works in different materials, a perfect gift for those waiting for you at home.

Have you ever noticed the gullies in the Old Town? The gullies are small, narrow alleys that form in front of the houses, allowing the water to run through. Another sign of the city's identity, can you find the 16 that exist?

We finish with the markets. In the Plaza Central, the fantastic and colourful flower market is held every week without fail, although the Plaza Nueva is well worth a visit even when the market is not set up.

And if we are talking about markets, we must go to one of the sides of the Casco Viajo to find a wonderful Mercado de la Ribera, where colours, smells and flavours come together to offer you an unparalleled spectacle. Enjoy the best local produce in a centuries-old atmosphere.


What to do in the Old Town

If you have already strolled through the Siete Calles, enjoyed its paintings, art and architecture, it's time to give your appetite and taste buds a treat.

The Casco Viejo is home to a large part of Bilbao's gastronomic offer and it is here that you can enjoy some of the best pintxo bars in Bilbao. And if you haven't yet taken your first steps into Basque gastronomy, we'll give you a little taste of the best pintxos in Bilbao.