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Bilbao

La Gran Vía, Bourgeoisie Elegance

The Gran Via of Don Diego Lopez de Haro is the principal artery of Bilbao, built in the mid-nineteenth century it quickly became the new economic center of the city and many financial institutions and offices opened up headquarters here. Luxury residences were also built to support a growing wealthy class in Bilbao who profited from industries such as banking, metal, mining and ship building. The elegant tree-lined boulevard is littered with stores, office buildings and upscale residences.

Measuring one and a half kilometers, the Gran Via begins in the Plaza Circular, near the Arenal bridge and runs through the city until Plaza del Sagrado Corazon. In the Plaza Circular, the monument in the middle of the rotunda stands Don Diego Lopez de Haro, "founder" of the city of Bilbao. Step inside the Abando train station for a glimpse of the stained glass windows that depict typical scenes of traditional Basque country life. You can also have a coffee or the local talo con chorizo at La Granja, opened in 1926 the restaurant and coffee shop is reminiscent of a French café and is a popular meeting spot for groups.

Continuing down the boulevard, passing mammoth department store El Corte Ingles, banks and shops you will find at street number 25, the Palacio de la Diputacion, the government headquarters of the province of Vizcaya. The majestic building, designed by Luis Aldaren reflects nineteenth century eclectic style.

A little further you will find Plaza Moyua, a circular plaza surrounded by important buildings including the Hotel Carlton, which once served as the headquarters of the Basque Government during the Spanish Civil War. The pink and green Palace of Chavarri which has been the head quarters of the Spanish Government and Guardia Civil since 1943 and famous residences like the Sota building or Casa Lezama Leguizamón from 1920s, present day examples of Bilbao's bourgeoisie residents. Towards the end of this portion of la Gran Via lies Doña Casilda park, designed by Ricardo Bastido after classic English parks at the beginning of the twentieth century, this green space is a popular place for locals to enjoy  during weekends for relaxing walks through the park.

See Museum Guggenheim Bilbao next.