Portugalete is a municipality on the south–west bank of the River Nervión downstream from Bilbao, where the river is best known as the Ria de Bilbao. It is best known for the transporter bridge constructed in 1890-93 by the Vizcayan engineer Alberto Palacio Elisagüe (1856-1931).
The industrial museum RIALIA (which takes its name from the river) occupies a building begun in 1993 which was intended for various projects that did not materialise. The museum opened there in 2006 and is concerned with the themes of man, the river and the iron industry. It traces the history of the municipality of Portugalete and of its celebrated bridge, and shows that the river valley was a landscape of innovation. It tells the stories of some of the principal industrial firms in the region, of the Eskalduna shipyards, SEC Babcock &Wilcox, and above all of the Altos Hornos de Vizcaya (The Biscayan blast furnaces), which were situated a short distance upstream from Portugalete. It portrays something of the history of the labour movement in Vizcaya, which influenced similar movements all over Europe. The museum holds a substantial collection of paintings on industrial themes, the majority of them watercolours, including works by Nicolás Martinex Ortiz de Zárate (1907-91), Ignacio Garciá Ergüin (b 1934) and Ricardo Gómez Gimeno (1892-1954), as well as examples of sculpture on similar themes.