Playing in the water jets outside the Guggenheim.
Playing in the water jets outside the Guggenheim.
Museum pirate flags marking the spot of child-friendly games in the Maritime Museum.
Museum pirate flags marking the spot of child-friendly games in the Maritime Museum.
Trying to tie the knots.
Trying to tie the knots.
One of the dioramas in the Basque Museum, the very earliest times.
One of the dioramas in the Basque Museum, the very earliest times.

Museums in Bilbao, Spain

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Kids in Museums workshop development manager Kim Biddulph took a holiday to northern Spain with her husband and daughter. Both parents being museum buffs meant trips to see how Spanish museums measure up to their UK counterparts.

We spent a couple of days in Bilbao over Easter and visited the Maritime Museum, Archaeology Museum and the Basque Museum, as well as marvelling at the architecture of the famous Guggenheim Museum and city in general. It’s a relatively compact city and you can walk between the different areas quite easily, either along the river, which has a pedestrianised bank, or through the many parks and squares.

The Guggenheim has amazing architecture and collections, but our daughter really enjoyed spending time outside it! There were water fountains sending jets up in varying patterns much to the giggling delight of several children dodging in and out of the water. The playground nearby also encouraged children to explore movement and space with a number of objects to climb on or go through or under.

The Maritime Museum was slightly hard to find but is on the old docks of Bilbao’s important port. Straight away there are items to engage children and you are taught to look out for museum pirate flags for more activities, like rowing a boat, tying knots and much more. You could even climb into a replica of an old river cruise boat and choose a simulated journey on the screen. This was definitely the museum our daughter enjoyed the most.

The archaeology and Basque museums were on the same square in the old town. Luckily there was another playground to break the walk from the docks to the original settlement of Bilbao, but it wasn’t too far in reality. The Archaeology Museum had an ingenious way of showing the purpose of obscure objects using no written language at all, by pairing an ancient object with an equivalent modern one. Seeing as we didn’t understand much Spanish and no Basque, this was a great way to make some connections.

The Basque Museum was in an old Baroque palace on the other side of the square and celebrated the people and character of the Basque town and region. Our daughter particularly liked seeing the pictures of people from the past wearing their regional costumes, and the little dioramas of life at various points and places in the region.

I was surprised by how family friendly the museums were and that even if we couldn’t understand much of the text we all got so much out of the way things were displayed and enjoyed the ingenious touches that helped bring this region to life. The whole city was family friendly, in fact, so we’ll definitely visit again.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao costs 11 per adult and under-12s go free. See http://www.guggenheim-bilbao.es/ for more information.  

The Maritime Museum is €6 per adult and under-6s go free. See http://www.museomaritimobilbao.eus/ for more information.  

The Archaeology and Basque museums are run by the regional government. See http://bizkaikoa.bizkaia.net/entrada.asp for more information.

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