In the last decade, the city government of Bilbao took a century-old wine warehouse built in the Modernista style of the early 20th century and renovated it with the help of superstar French designer Philippe Starck. In 2010 it was reborn as La Alhóndiga Bilbao, a cultural centre including exhibition halls, a theatre, a cinema, eateries, even a gym.
Rechristened Azkuna Zentroa earlier this year, this space will leave you speechless, with details such as 43 interior columns (symbolising mankind’s myriad cultures, architecture, wars, and religions throughout history); a mediatheque (a cool reimagining of a library); and a spectacular swimming pool, floating in midair with a glass bottom (surreal to stand below it and see the shadows of swimmers above your head). The place is popular with locals, too, who keep its terrace bar positively buzzing.
Best of all, you can check this all out for free! So if you’re an Erasmus student or otherwise studying in Bilbao (lucky you!), Azkuna Zentroa is a must… and by the way, if you want to learn where to eat and party for a pittance, don’t miss the areas around Calle Diputación, the Abando neighbourhood, or the bars of San Mamés and Indautxu (details here). Enjoy!
Azkuna Zentroa, Plaza Arriquibar 4 – open daily, no admission charge.
Photo | Dr Zito