Huelva, the capital city of the province, has been an important port since the Phoenicians settlement. Severely damaged by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 much of its historic buildings were lost. Nevertheless once away from the industrial zones it’s a pleasant city to explore.
Huelva, the capital city of the region, is situated between two river estuaries the Tinto and the Odiel. Consequently it has been an important port since the Phoenician settlement.
After the Phoenicians the Romans settled here as did the Muslims who named the city Welba. Alfonso X El Sabio (The wise) then conquered it in 1257.
During World War II the city was a hub of espionage activities led by the large British and German communities. German activity centred on reporting British shipping moving in and out of the Atlantic. Most famously, across the estuary Punta Umbria was the location where Operation Mincemeat planted the body of a dead soldier which was washed ashore carrying false information. The false papers he carried named him as Major William Martin of Royal Marines.
Operation Mincemeat helped to convince the German high command that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia in 1943 instead of Sicily, the actual objective
The body of Glyndwr Michael, the fictional Major William Martin, is buried in the San Marco section of the cemetery of Nuestra Señora in Huelva under a headstone that reads "William Martin, born 29 March 1907, died 24 April 1943, beloved son of John Glyndwr and the late Antonia Martin of Cardiff, Wales."
Mainly due the devastating damage caused by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 Huelva lacks much of the splendid architecture of other Andalucían cities such as Seville, Córdoba or Granada nevertheless it has quite a lot to offer.
Away from the industrial sprawl of the outskirts the centre of Huelva is a pleasant place to explore with attractive plazas interesting buildings and a bustling pedestrian shopping precinct.
Let’s take a stroll.
At the heart of the city is the palm lined Plaza de las Monjas with a selection of cafés, bars and restaurants ideal for a little people watching. In the square there is a wooden tourist booth where you can take the opportunity to pick up a free map.
Off the plaza is the Avda. Martin Alonso Pinzón a lovely avenue to wander down where you can see the rather grand Ayuntamiento (town hall) and at the end of the avenue you’ll find Casa Colón (House of Columbus). It was built in 1883 for the celebrations of the 4th century of the discovery of the new world and today it’s an exhibition and conference centre and home of the Iberian-American film festival.
At the end of Avda. Martin Alonso Pinzón if you turn right and right again you will be in Calle Berdigón walking back parallel with Avda Martin Alonso Pinzón toward the plaza. This street changes to Calle Palacíos Pérez Carasa and then to Calle Concepción. It’s all pedestrianised and there are lots of shops on the street and those that adjoin.
However, if you’re in the mood for walking at Casa Colón you have a choice. If you bear left into Alameda Sundeim and past the Museo Provincial you will be heading for the Plaza de España. As you approach the brow of the hill several small streets on the left and in particular Calle Concha Espina, cut through to the famous store Corte Inglés within the commercial centre Costa Luz.
At this point across the busy street over to your right is the entrance to Barrio Reina Victoria (Neighbourhood of Queen Victoria). This small estate of typically English Victorian homes which were built in 1916 commissioned by the British firm the Rio Tinto Company Ltd. for its employees.
Continuing on you will reach the Plaza de España where the main entrance of the Commercial centre and Corte Inglés is situated.
Back to Casa Colón: If you had turned right into the Avenida Italia after a few minutes of a slightly unattractive walk following the railway line, you come to the Huelva railway station (Estación de Sevilla) on your left.
If you continue on along the Avenida Italia after a few minutes you’ll come to the new indoor, meat, fish and veg. market, the Mercado del Carmen, its on the corner of Avenida de la Ría and Avenida Italia. It really is worth a wander around.
If you want to take in a land mark on your way to the market you can follow a longer route and instead of continuing along the Avenida Italia at the station turn left into a small road following the railway line which leads to a roundabout. Here you’ll see the football stadium Estadio Nuevo Colombino. This is now the home of the football club, Recreativo de Huelva which is the oldest football club in Spain and was founded in 1889.
Just over the roundabout you’ll pass the Ayuntamiento de Huelva Concejalía Turismo (department of tourism) follow your nose along the minor road in front of you and you’ll come to a small roundabout. Cross over and straight along you come to Muelle del Tinto, an iron and wooden moveable railway and pier construction about 1,165 metres long and built between 1873 and 1876 by Sir George Bruce. It stands on the bank of the river Odiel and consists of two platforms; the upper one was for loading ore and the lower one for merchandise.
About 4 kilometres to the left of here at a place called Punta del Sebo and where the rivers Odiel and Tinto meet is the site of the famous Monumento a la Fe Descubridora (Monument to the Discovery Faith).This huge statue of a Franciscan friar of the monastery of La Rabida is said to have played a crucial role in Columbus’s discovery of America. The statue was designed by the American sculptress Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
But that’s too far to walk so turning right keeping the river on your left for a couple of hundred metres on your left you will see a 10 metre tall sculpture of giant chrome marine knot. This is the Wharf of the Canoes and is where you can catch the ferry to Punta Umbria.
Opposite the sculpture is a kiddies play park which you can stroll through and after crossing a main road off slightly to your right you are back at the Avenida Italia and the Mercado del Carmen, the market mentioned earlier.
That’s the end of our stroll but here are some other places of interest to visit in Huelva which you’ll find on the tourist map you picked up from the booth in Plaza de las Monjas.
Inglesia de la Concepción
A church with a gothic interior and baroque facades. The church was built in 1515 but was remodeled after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. There are also modern refurbishments.
A neo-classical building decorated in the French style. Inaugurated in 1923 it still plays a key roll in Huelva’s cultural activities with programmes of opera, dance, theatre,, music and cinema.
Opened in 1973 the museum contains important archaeological and fine art exhibitions. The most valuable exhibits are those of the Cabezo de la Joya Tartessic remaims.
Iglesia de San Pedro
This is the oldest church in the city and was built on the ruins of a mosque in the 15th and 16th centuries following the Gothic Mudejar style. Its elegant tower is decorated with glazed ceramic tiles.
Catedral de la Merced
This is the finest example of the period when Huelva was under the jurisdiction of the House of Medina-Sidonia. It was built over the ancient chapel of San Roque at the beginning of the 17th century. It was then reconstructed in an austere baroque style after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It was declared a cathedral in 1953. It has an interesting sculpture of Christ and the Virgen de Cinta by Martínez Montañés and its main doorway is made up of differing styles.
Palacio Mora Claros
This building was constructed at the end of the 19th century in style of Castilian civic buildings. It is now used as a day centre for the ederly.
Plaza de Toros
The bull ring was built at the beginning of the last century and is the second widest in Spain.
Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Cinta:
Situated at the end of the Paseo del Conquero on the top of a hill, in the centre of the city is this 15th century Gothic-Mudejar temple. It shows its Mudejar origins with its white simplicity, graceful bell-gable and horseshoe arched door. The most interesting aspects are the cloisters and tiled walls which commemorate the visit of Columbus on his return from the Indies. The scene of sea, rivers, the city and countryside, with the outline of the Sierra Morena in the background is quite magnificent This is also the home of the effigy of the patron saint of Huelva the Virgen of La Cinta.
Huelva city has this marvelous park which covers some 72 hectares. Here you’ll find a variety of trees typical of the area, orchards of fruit trees, clay hills and two man made lakes. Within the park there are also four Tartessic burial chambers dating back to the Bronze Age.
So now you know there’s plenty to see in Huelva. Enjoy!
Oficina de turismo de la Junta de Andalucía
Plaza Alcalde Coto Mora,2
959 650 200 - 959 650 202
Punto de Información Turística de Huelva
Plaza de las Monjas,
959 251 218
Punto de Información Turística de Huelva
Avda. Federico Molina,
959 251 218
Town Hall Address
Ayuntamiento de Huelva
Plaza de la Constitución, 1
Tel: 959 210 101
© 2012 John Powell DiscoverHuelva.com