When the city of Bilbao was founded over 700 years ago, its inhabitants made a living from farming irrigated land and fishing, and the estuary was already taking shape as the best route for communicating with the outside.
Back then there were two very different populated areas. One was on the left bank of the river, or Old Bilbao, which was a mining area where iron was worked in foundries. And the other was the town on the right bank, called the Old Town, dedicated to trade and port traffic.
The heart of this Old Town was surrounded by walls and consisted of three parallel streets. Some time later it became necessary to tear down the walls and lay out four streets that were more perpendicular to the estuary and that, along with the first three, make up what is today known as the Seven Streets.
Since 1979, this has been a pedestrian zone, becoming an open-air shopping centre with an area of 240,000 square metres and hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants.
The greatest catastrophe in memory to strike the city of Bilbao, the floods of 1983, devastated the old town, destroying it completely. Despite the devastation, the Old Town rose from the ruins to become one of the city’s premier tourist and business areas. Source: http://www.bilbaoturismo.net