Located in Spain’s Basque region (near the French border), the port city of Bilbao is a great cultural alternative to major tourist cities like Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona, and offers some great activities for kids. Here are my top recommendations:
Semana Grande/Aste Nagusia Festival
The Semana Grande festival takes place during the third week of August and lasts for nine fun-filled days. Although it is celebrated throughout the Basque region, Bilbao has an especially large and kid-friendly Aste Nagusia celebration. Semana Grande (Aste Nagusia in Basque, which is spoken in Bilbao) means “big week.” Some of the events for kids include competitions, parades, fair booths, circus performances, and fireworks. It’s sure to be a memorable experience for your family.
Christmas in Bilbao
Christmas is a particularly magical time for kids in Bilbao. During the month of December, the Christmas Children’s Park opens up on the grounds of of the Bilbao International Fair. Spanish cartoon characters roam around, delighting the youngsters. There are rides and activities for kids, as well as traditional Basque treats.
Bilbao’s main tourist attraction is the Guggenheim museum. Kids of all ages are sure to be delighted by the large floral sculpture entitled “Puppy” (by pop artist Jeff Koons) that greets visitors near the museum entrance. The Guggenheim also offers a variety of children’s programing year-round, including theater performances, puppet shows, movies screenings, classes and art activities. Take a look at their website to find out what will be going on when you are in Bilbao: http://www.guggenheim.org/guggenheim-foundation/architecture/bilbao
Euskal Museoa/ Basque Museum
Located in the Casco Viejo (older quarter), Bilbao’s Basque Museum is a great destination for older children (however, kids under the age of 10 do get in free). This wonderful history museum, which opened in 1921, features exhibits on archaeology, ethnography, and prehistory of Euskadi (the Basque homeland). See the museum website for more information: http://www.euskal-museoa.org/eng/presentacion.html
Karpin Abentura Ecological Theme Park
Karpin Abentura is located in in the municipality of Karrantza (about a 50-minute drive from Bilbao). This enchanting ecological theme park features myriad European animals and animated re-creations of dinosaurs amidst the fantastic flora. Let the kids run around in the recreation areas, take in the exhibitions, and enjoy the theme restaurants in this unique park.
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