|The Guggenheim museum, Bilbao|
Before the arrival of the world-famous Guggenheim museum, Bilbao was definitely not considered a pretty city. Once commonly dubbed industrial, the Basque Country's biggest city had something of a makeover when the glamorous Frank Gehry-designed gallery swept into town.
One of the main areas to benefit from the Guggenheim-sparked regeneration was the city stretch of the once-polluted Nervion River. Bilbao was once a shipping hub, from which locally-mined iron was despatched around the world. By the time the museum was constructed, the glory days of iron exportation were over, but the legacy (and the smell) remained. As the Guggenheim sits on the riverbank around 15 minutes' walk from the city centre, the surrounding area understandably needed sprucing up.
Nowadays, it's a different story. With wide, flat paths suitable for pedestrians and cyclists, modern bridges spanning the river and landscaped borders, a stroll along the banks of the Nervion is decidedly appealing. Views of the undeniably photogenic Guggenheim dominate one bank, while the opposite side features grassy hills stretching away beyond the city. It may be an urban walk, but the tree-lined banks and vistas of the mountain backdrop make a walk by the river feel like an escape.