This 64-arch neoclassical plaza seems to be typical of every Spanish city from San Sebastián to Salamanca to Seville. With its Sunday-morning flea market, its December 21 natural-produce Santo Tomás market, and its permanent tapas and restaurant offerings, Plaza Nueva is an easy place in which to spend a lot of time. It was finished in 1851 as part of an ambitious housing project designed to ease the pressure on limited mid-19th-century Bilbao space. Note the size of the houses' balconies: it was the measure—the bigger, the better—of the social clout of their inhabitants. The tiny windows near the top of the facades were servants' quarters. The building behind the powerful coat of arms at the head of the square was originally the Diputación, or provincial government office, but is now the Academia de la Lengua Vasca (Academy of the Basque Language). The coat of arms shows the tree of Guernica (the Basque spelling is Gernika), symbolic of Basque autonomy, with the two wolves
representing Don Diego López de Haro (López derives from lupus, meaning wolf). The bars and shops around the arcades include two Victor Montes establishments, one for tapas at Plaza Nueva 8 and the other for more serious sit-down dining at Plaza Nueva 2. The Café Bar Bilbao, at Plaza Nueva 6, also known as Casa Pedro, has photos of early Bilbao, while the Argoitia, at No. 15 across the square, has a nice angle on the midday sun and a coat of arms inside with the zatzpiakbat ("seven-one" in Basque), referring to the cultural unity of the three French and four Spanish Basque provinces.