Meanwhile, with the arrival of the railway in Bilbao, the city strengthened its importance as an economic and financial centre. During this time, the Banco de Bilbao and the Banco de Bizkaia were founded. The Stock Exchange would be founded at the end of the century.
The city and its surroundings changed radically. Economic growth was followed by urban expansion. Some of the town's biggest projects were undertaken, bringing into life many of Bilbao's most characteristic buildings. The town spread out towards Abando and widened. Promenades, straight roads and walks were made and this new architecture transformed Bilbao into a modern city. The Plaza Nueva, the present City Hall and the Arriaga Theatre, inspired by the Opéra de Paris, are some of its new symbols.
At the beginning of the 20 th century, Bilbao was the great economic icon of the Basque Country and amongst the most important cities in the State. Its outstanding expansion and significant cultural development would only be interrupted by the Civil War (1936-1939), but the city would soon recover its capacity to generate wealth, becoming an attractive area for immigrants searching for a job in its flourishing industry. The urban and industrial landscapes would change to face rapid expansion, growing beyond the city's boundaries and reaching neighbouring towns on both sides of the ría del Nervión, thus forming today's Great Bilbao.
However, after Bilbao's economic boom, the iron and steel industry fell into a deep crisis at the end of the 20 th century that forced the city to think the foundations of its economic development over. Within a few years, the city and its outskirts were obliged to face the challenge of industrial restructuring and to deal with its negative consequences.
After years of financial uncertainty, Bilbao has once again become a dynamic city, full of amenities and focused on environmental and urban regeneration. With its lands freed from the old industrial settlements, the city is now undergoing a new physical transformation, becoming more and more appealing to visitors. The impressive Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Palace, a conference and music centre, have become the icons of the new Bilbao, a city that is gradually regaining space and handing it back to the people.