Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain, some 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) south of the Bay of Biscay, where the estuary of Bilbao is formed. Its main urban core is surrounded by two small mountain ranges with an average elevation of 400 metres.
Since its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de Haro, head of the powerful Haro family, Bilbao was a commercial hub that enjoyed significant importance in the Green Spain, mainly thanks to its port activity based on the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries.
Throughout the nineteenth century and beginnings of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialization that made it the centre of the second industrialized region of Spain, behind Barcelona. Nowadays, Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalization process, started by the symbolic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum.