San Telmo Museum is in the heart of the Old Town, housed in a 16th-century Renaissance convent structured around a lovely cloister. For the second half of the 19th century, the convent was used as a barracks and slowly fell into disrepair. It was rescued from dereliction and in 1932 became the city’s municipal museum. The year 2011 saw the addition of a new gallery coated in aluminum, creating a seamless blend of Renaissance and contemporary design.
The museum examines the development of Basque culture from Neolithic times to present, helped along by the 11 murals in the chapel painted; these were painted by José María Sert in the 1930s and highlight the main events over the centuries. The fine-art collection contains lots of gloomy oil paintings, with a couple of standout masterpieces by El Greco as well as fine portraits by Spanish Impressionist Joaquín Sorolla. There’s special interest taken in the industrialization of the region—and its subsequent financial flowering—in the 19th century, illustrated with a rare collection of black-and-white images. Temporary art exhibitions are held on the ground floor.
San Telmo Museum is located at Plaza Zuloaga 1 on the edge of the Old Town (Parte Vieja) and opens Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission is €6 but €3 for students and free for everyone on Tuesdays. Prices may vary slightly according to the temporary exhibitions.