Old industrial cities have made broad use of new strategies as the means to overcome the difficulties created by the restructuring of their former economic basis. Although usually based on physical practices, these strategies have attempted to ease the transformation towards a services‐based economy, which has been presented as the essential means to solve the cities’ economic problems. Even if it has been of widespread currency, the effectiveness of this formula is not clear, as its impact on the city of Glasgow illustrates. Yet, at present, Bilbao, a Basque variant of one of those old industrial cities, is making use of the same ideas to legitimate its own current renewal, through focusing upon the misleading message that comes from Glasgow’s apparent success in urban regeneration. The article underlines the poor scope of the success achieved by such a strategy in old industrial contexts facing serious unemployment problems.