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American artist Jeff Koons’ “Tulips” exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao



by Rose Maramba

When in Spain at Christmastime you don’t normally think of the cold north as a place to be. Madrid could be terribly colourful and absolutely festive as only the Madrileños would know how to make it. So the capital city would make a perfect choice for the Holidays. Seville may not be as hot now as it is in summer but, hey, Lonely Planet says it’s the place to be in 2018. So why not steal a march on all those tourists who’ll predictably be flocking in in a few months and be there this Christmas?

Bilbao, the modernistic and the traditional

But northern Bilbao has been voted European City of the Year by the Academy of Urbanism in the UK “for having transformed itself from the post-industrial economic doldrums of the 1990s through investment in culture, bold leadership and clever use of economic policies.” And they weren’t even talking about pintxos!

Finger-lickin’ pintxos: The vascos regard them as a cornerstone of their culture and society

Chair of the Academy, David Rudlin, said: “Bilbao is a great example of the wholesale transformation of a former industrial city – not just physically, but socially, economically and culturally. The rejuvenation it has achieved over the past 30 years is nothing short of remarkable. All of this has been achieved through bold and effective leadership, the likes of which has seen the city run debt-free since 2010.”

Well, well, well.

If you’re already in Spain but not in that vasca city (Spain’s tenth biggest), the accolade might tempt you to spend Christmas there. Bilbao celebrates Navidad  just like any Spanish town would: the main avenues festooned with lights (millions of LED bulbs), free shows and cultural programs including pasacalles, ferias  and  mercadillos. . .  The Cabalgada de los Reyes for the grand finale. But, hey, this is the city of Europe. Currently.

The Guggenheim

Besides, you might also be tempted by the fact that Guggenheim is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. That makes for an extra reason to spend Christmas in that part of the Basque Country.

Here’s the complete program for the Holidays confectioned by the Bilbao municipal government. Sorry, it’s entirely in Spanish.



Something to look forward to in 2018: The Beatles’ legendary drummer, Ringo Star, is coming to Bilbao on 1 July as part of his European tour. He’ll be presenting his new album, “Give More Love,” at the Bizkaia Arena accompanied by the All Starr Band. And while he’s expected to play songs from his new album, fans will surely appreciate his doing Beatle classics like “Yellow Submarine,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

Ringo Starr and the All Starr Band performing in New Jersy last 16 November 2017

Not that he’s not gigging in Madrid too because he is (28 June, WiZnik Center) and in La Coruña (29 June, Coliseum). Barcelona is ahead of these two (26 June, Palau Sant Jordi).

Choose your city. And HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! Or shall we say it in the Basque language? Here it goes:  Eguberri on!




> Featured image (“Tulips” in chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating)/Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr, CC BY2.0
> Bilbao/Kamahele, CC BY-SA3.0  via Wikimeida Commons
> Pintxos/Thomas Angermann via Flickr, cropped, CC BY-SA2.0
> Guggenheim/Paolo via Flickr, CC BY-SA2.0

> Ringo Starr concert, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Newark, NJ, 16 November 2017/Rob Di Caterino via Flickr, CC BY2.0  (Left to right: Gregg Rolie, Steve Lukather, Warren Ham, Ringo Starr, Richard Page, Gregg Bissonette, and Todd Rundgren)