With its industrial and seaside satellites, Bilbao, Spain, extends 10 mi/16 km along the banks of the Nervion River.

The city is the largest in the Basque region, an unbroken metropolis hemmed in by steep hills. Located 200 mi/325 km north of Madrid, Bilbao used to be primarily an industrial center, with looks to match, but that has changed.

It owes its name to the original Basque "Bi albo" meaning "two sides" (as it's located on both sides of the River Nervion) and today its urban population of 350,000 is spread throughout the city's three basic areas: the historic narrow-alleyed center, the surrounding ensanche or wider-avenued newer zones, and semirural residences that climb the hills. Add to that the nearby beachside suburbs—and popular summer retreats—such as Getxo that face the open sea just beyond the mouth of the Nervion, and you have a bustling, multifaceted city. It's renowned today for its art and cuisine rather than its former mainly industrial activities and remains the economic pulse of the Basque Country.

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