Aste Nagusia (The Great Week)

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Aste Nagusia

Aste Nagusia (Basque: Bilboko Aste Nagusia) is the main festival of Bilbao, which is celebrated annually over 9 days beginning on the first Saturday following 15 August.

Bilbao (map) is perhaps the best place in the world to experience the ancient culture and language of the Basque people, which has stubbornly held its own over thousands of years and is now completely unlike any modern-day culture in Europe.

The Great Week has been held annually since 1978, and the August celebrations already coincided with the visit of the circus to the city, the fairgrounds, the bullfights, the boxing matches and the traditional dance performances.

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The first event of the festival is the chupinazo (Basque: txupinazo), the release of a signal rocket, also known as the first bang, which has taken place since 2001 from the balcony of the Teatro Arriaga (map).

Since 1978, the Marijaia (“Mary-festival”) character is the official symbol of the holidays, and since 1997, she has her own song, known as Badator Marijaia.

During the festival, the Villa de Bilbao International Fireworks Competition is held; each night a pyrotechnic company shows a program. The festival is closed by an exhibition program.

Guggenheim Museum (map). Frank Gehry’s spectacular twisting titanium-clad modern art museum is perhaps the most celebrated building of the 1990s, even starting what would be called the ‘Bilbao-effect’.

Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art, map). The Museum of Fine Art’s remarkable collection boasts more than 6,000 works dating from the 12th century to the present day, and includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and decorative objects.

Basque Museum (Euskal Museoa, map). Established in 1921 to focus on the prehistory, archaeology, ethnography and history of Euskadi (Basque homeland). Not a particularly well laid out museum. It will be of passing interest to people who study Basque culture.

Cathedral of St. James (Santiago, map). Gothic-style 14th-century cathedral, named after Bilbao’s official patron saint.

Basílica de Begoña (map) Overlooking Bilbao, this is perhaps the most symbolic religious building in the city.

Mercado de la Ribera (map). Another emblem next to the Iglesia de San Antón is the Mercado de la Rivera. One of the biggest covered markets in Europe. It was built in 1929 on the site of the original Rivera Street market.

Plaza Nueva (map) There is a market of used books, stamps, coins, and other small items in the plaza every Sunday morning. The Plaza Nueva is surrounded by buildings and only has entrances on some sides.

Public transport

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Bizkaitik Mugitu ( – Basque Country Transport Route Planner. • BilbobusBizkaibus

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Always check whether the bus or the train is more convenient. The least expensive way to get around most parts of Spain is by bus.

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