Believe the hype


Only a 75-minute plane ride from Paris, the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain more than lives up to the effusive praise that's been heaped on it for the past 15 years.  It soars, swoops, swirls and shimmers like no other structure in the world in what was once an industrial section of Bilbao on the banks of the Nervión River in Spain's Basque region. The interior, with 11,000 square meters of exhibition space, is expansive, bright and easy to navigate. The monumental exterior is downright stunning; with its brilliant reflective titanium panels, it seems to change constantly before your eyes and cries out to be seen from every possible angle. Oh yes, there's art, too. Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer make up just part of the museum's permanent collection. Serra's massive series of eight sculptures called The Matter of Time is permanently installed in a special wing on the first floor, and Jeff Koons's Puppy, looking like an oversized Chia pet, greets you at the entrance. Currently the second floor is housing a show dedicated to Serra and Constantin Brancusi while the third floor is showing "The Inverted Mirror," with works by 52 artists from two of the largest contemporary art collections in Europe. Simply put, don't miss it. And at the end of the day, take a 15-minute stroll along the river into the old town for dinner at a Basque restaurant (recommendation: Casa Victor Montés).