The first big period of growth of Huelva as a city took place in the 16th century. It was aided by the founding of the Convent of Saint Mary of Grace in 1510.
The Hermitage of Solitude, The Church of a Thousand Stories
This 18th century church is deeply rooted in the city due to being the first parish of Huelva, and for being the place where the poet Miguel Hernández was captured during the civil war, whilst he attempted to escape to Portugal.
La Rábida College
Built in the 1920s it is notable for its grandness and combination of styles. The Nobel prize winner Juan Ramón Jiménez studied here.
Conception Street (La Calle Concepción), Tradition & Trade
This has always been the traditional place for a stroll for the people of Huelva. As early as 1880 rules were put in place limiting the movement of carriages and wagons. Central and densely populated, this is the pinnacle of commercial activity in Huelva and has been since the 17th century.
Moret Park, The City's Lung
A large acreage of 72 hectares formed from patches of forest and bushes on the hills, along with areas of vegetable patches and fruit trees. It is an ideal place for youngsters to play and run around.
The New Stadium “Colombino”, The Seat of “The Dean”
When the English bought the province's mines at the end of the 19th century they brought with them their passion for sports such as football, tennis, golf... The football club “Recreativo de Huelva” was founded on the 23rd December, 1889, “The Dean” of Spanish football. Since 2001 this has been its home.
The Nuns' Square, Heart of the City
Taking its name from the convent of the Augustine nuns, which, if constructed at the beginning of the 16th century leads us to assume that this square formed in front of its facade was built during the first years of the same century.
Casa Colón. A homage to discovery
In the middle of the 19th century, when Huelva was going through the biggest period of growth in its history it was decided to hold an extravagant celebration to mark the 4th centenary of America's discovery. This complex, formed of four buildings inspired and built in the British style enclose a square garden, notable for its harmony. The “Gran Hotel Colón” was inaugurated in 1883 and between the 3rd of August and the 12th October 1892, during the “Centenary Season”, housed ministers and representatives from invited South American countries, amongst them the President of the Council of Ministers, Cánovas del Castillo.
The Cathedral of my Neighbourhood, “La Merced”
With a distinct sea-feel, the neighbourhood of “La Merced” (Mercy) is one of the most distinctive of the city. Housed in its centenary square we find the church of La Merced, which you see before you. Huelva's cathedral since 1953, this church forms part of the old convent of “Los Mercedarios”, founded in the 17th Century. Today it is one of the sites of the University of Huelva. It is composed of three naves. Take a moment to appreciate the size of the “Virgin de La Cinta” by Martínez Montañés.
Queen Victoria. An English Neighbourhood in Huelva
A walk through these streets feels like going back in time to the 19th century, a time when the dominant themes in Huelva were industry, mines and the British. Here the Riotinto Company Ltd. built a neighbourhood to house its workers. Currently, the area (declared a historic zone) presents a great esthetic variety, a result of its construction in stages which planned for the laying out of the neighbourhood along the lines of a “garden city”.
With the old chugging of a steam locomotive, the “nostalgic steam funnels” the construction of Huelva's “Seville Station” was finished before the 19th century was, at the height of the city's period of progress.
The investor, German businessman Guillermo Sundheim, was at the time one of the main architects and motivators behind the economic, social and cultural activity of the city, he chose a building in the neomudéjar style, that aimed to incorporate arquitectural traces of another time, with recognisably islamic decorations and details.
El Gran Teatro, The Traditional Theatre-goer
The creation of foreign captial in Huelva, as a result of the mining activity under the direction of the English population in the province, brought with it in the 19th century a big development of the cultural life of the Huelvan capital. The Grand Theatre of Huelva is an obvious example of the dynamism of that time.
Las Cocheras del Puerto
The industrial revolution arrived late in Huelva, but its impact on the city was enormous. Along with it came the introduction of new technologies, ushered in during the last third of the 19th century by the mining activity of the English. At the same time this lead to the introduction of railways and a push to improve the port. Dating from the beginning of the 20th century, these garages were used for the reparing of machines and locomotives used in the port. Today it is the reception and documentation centre for the port.
Church of the Conception
This church is considered to be one of the first dedicated to the immaculate conception in the whole of Spain, given that its construction began at the start of the 16th century, in the year 1515. The church has experienced many changes and reconstructions throughout its history, meaning that today one can no longer observe the gothic-mudéjar style in which it was originally conceived, although some elements from this epoch do remain, such as the vaulted ceiling of the main chapel.
Church of the Miracle, Highlight of Coastal Huelva
During a period of little religious building activity, José María Pérez Carasa planned in 1923 the only church to be built in the city at the start of the 20th century. It was raised in a fever of construction activity that swept through the old Onuba area during this time.
Church of St. Peter, an old mosque
Here in front of the oldest religious building in the city, we find a parish church built, in the 15th & 16th centuries, upon the remains of what was the centre of a medieval fortress, next to an old castle. Originally located on the remains of a mosque, one can still make out from this first period the three naves separated by arches and the mudejar stonework of the central nave. But it's current appearance is the result of later construction and reshaping work (such as that done to repair earthquake damage in 1755).
A sanctuary dreamt up in the Atlantic
It was the 3rd March, 1493. The admiral and his sailors had arrived in America and were returning across a rough Atlantic ocean that made them fear for their lives. During those moments, Christopher Columbus vowed to the Virgen de La Cinta to build a temple to her, if he and his crew survived the terrible journey, hence this sanctuary that bears his name. In Huelva the Virgen de la Cinta is linked to Christopher Columbus. Devotion to her image, the creation of her Sisterhood, the construction of this sanctuary in her honour all date from the 15th century and their origins can all be traced back to that voyage of discovery.
On the banks of Huelva, the city of discovery
The Monument to the Faith of the Explorer appears to represent a homage to the figure of Columbus and was a gift from the people of the USA to Spain, inaugurated in 1929. The sculpture was planned by the American artist Gertrude V. Whitney and is a cubist work made up of geometric forms, reaching 37m high. The Monument, which is now the unmistakable image of the city, represents a man, Colombus leaning against a cross, and symbolises the consistency and defence of ideas.
Riotinto's Dock, The Mining Aspect
Where Huelva and its estuary coincide, magnificient and mining related, we find this dock/wharf belonging to Riotinto. In 1876 the company had just acquired the right to mine various sites in the plains of Huelva. A railway track parallel to the river arrived at the port of Huelva, where the unloading dock designed by the British engineers George Barclay Bruce and Thomas Gibson signified the end of the journey.
The English presence in Huelva lasted nearly one hundred years, and from this wharf more than 130 million tonnes of minerals where shipped. The wharf was built on the soft subsoil of the swamp and transformed the city's skyline.
A walk through Mora Claros Palace
Where today we find a building which houses a day centre for elderly people, the structure built by the architects Serrano and Pérez Carasa was a true palace at the end of the 19th century. Walk through it and discover its beautiful modernist decoration, take in the sight of the iron banister rails with flowers sculpted in copper, of the glass cabinets and stained glass, some of which evoque the spirit of Huelva's past, of its history of discovery and of Columbus.
Coso de La Merced, witness of glorious bullfighting
The old “La Merced” bullring was inaugurated to a full house in the afternoon of the 5th September, 1902. During the celebrations of the “Fiestas de la Cinta” both the cuadrilla known as “Machaquito” and the famous Huelvan bullfighter Miguel Báez “Litri I” took on bulls. Today only the main door and some vaulted celiings remain of this historic and artistic bullring which had been based on Madrid's bullring. The new Plaza, inaugurated in 1984 was constructed upon the old foundations. The La Merced Bullring has the honour of being one of the biggest in Spain, with a capacity of 7000 spectators.
Huelva's Port, The Levante Dock
Since ancient times the Huelvan capital has always had a significant part of its population dedicated to sea trade, and so the sea has been key in its subsequent history. From these shores departed the boats that carried Columbus and the best sailors to the Americas, and those that exported the mineral wealth brought from the mines of Riotinto. Today the port continues to permit Huelva to maintain an imporant maritime component. In it, a large fleet transport yearly thousands of tonnes of goods, from industrial products to fish, the last of these represented marvellously by the regions internationally acclaimed seafood.
HUELVA, DOOR TO THE ATLANTIC
Door to the Atlantic
Huelva offers visitors a wide variety and richness of tourist activities and heritage. Over many centuries, Huelva has born witness to the passing of various civilizations, all of whom have left important marks on the archeological and industrial heritage of the city: from the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Muslims...up until the English prescence towards the end of the 19th century. All this activity has made our city the open place it is today, characterised by the coming and going of civilizations and peoples throughout its history, leading it to say “Huelva, Door to the Atlantic”.
Between two inlets
10,000 years ago, when man started to learn how to grow crops and the climate began to take its current form, the bay defined by the space between the estuaries of the rivers Tinto and Odiel filled with sediment, forming the marshes, an environment that defined the border between land and sea, a swing door between the ocean and the continent.
The Ocean's senses
Huelva has always been closely linked to the Atlantic, in every sense, transforming the richess that the ocean affords it, preparing seafood and strengthening, via the construction of small piers and jetties, the possibilities for maritime and commerical transport along its coast.
Like the tiles of a mosaic of history, the hundreds of archeologically significant objects found in Huelva bear testament to the importance of this enclave since time inmemorial. The close links between these shores with trading and seafaring activity combined with the mining wealth of the interior region nearby meant that Huelva was in contact with the advanzed civilizations of Europe.
The Door to the New World
The atlantic tradition of Huelva's sailors was thoroughly proved when preparing the boats destined to discover America in 1492. Spanish society fully recognised this historic fact in the 19th century during the 400th anniversary celebrations of the event. Since then and up until the current day the link between Huelva and South America has been strengthened through the raising of monuments and various events and has come to be one of the most recognised images in the city.
The English Legacy in Huelva
Here in the land of Andalucia that served as the door to various mediterranean civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans, and then passing through its period as the point of disembarkment for Christopher Columbus's ships on his atlantic crossing, we find ourselves in the last quarter of the 19th century in a small English territory.
A trip to another world
Huelva has always been recognised for its mineral reserves situated in the plains in the north of the province. Mined since time immemorial they have determined the areas appearance, the economy and the people that make up the area. The importance of the mines is even mentioned in biblical texts gifting the area with a certain millenium mystical quality, not forgetting the enigmas of the strangeness of the river Tinto that reached its pinnacle in the 21st century when NASA carried out experiments in the area.
Not on Quenn Victoria´s Birthday
In 1873 the Spanish Government decreed that the Mines of Rio Tinto should be sold. This event lead opened the door to British investment in the mines of the province. Previously French and other European countries had converted Huelva overnight from a rural area to an area of the Industrial Revolution, with all its associated advantages and social upheaval. The most comprehensive book about Rio Tinto has the same title as this section “Not on Queen Victoria's Birthday” and was writen by David Avery in 1974.
Huelva signs up to the Industrial Revolution
The impact of the acquistion of them mines by the English was felt immediately. The first of the necescesities to be dealt with was the need to transport minerals from the north of the province, creating for this purpose significant and modern infrastructure which subsituted the traditional animal-drawn vehicles. Railways sprung up, steam trains, bridges and viaducts, and at the end point of this chain, docks for loading and unloading the products, such as that which you can see a stones throw from this centre.
The dock of the Rio Tinto Company: Heritage Saved
Just a few metres from this centre you can see something which, without doubt, is one of the heritage highlights of the city of Huelva. An engineering masterpiece from the last quarter of the 19th century, the mineral unloading dock, property of the Rio Tinto Mining company, was restored in 2006 for the use and enjoyment of citizens, and which allows us to get well inside the mouth of the Odiel River in a pleasant walk. When night falls, with the sea breeze and the sunsetting, the Huelva estuary offers up a beautiful canvass of mauve, lilac and golden colours, creating an extraordinary climax to a visit to this centre.
Time of lights and shadows
The arrival of the English brought along with it the arrival of the customs and way of life of the English. This clash of cultures was reflected in the organisation, by the English directors of the mining companies of celebrations and soirees in the building known today as Casa Colón (an old hotel) at which the aristoctratic elite of Huelva did not waste any time in joining. In contrast to this there was the tough working life focused in the area of the mineral loading/unloading docks, but at the same time an improvement in living conditions in the area at the beginning of the 20th century with the building of homes in the Workers' neighbourhood.
Sport is born
The English prescence in the city affected all areas of Huelva's social scene, with a couple of the local elites setting up literary and cultural circles, whilst others created sporting associations which became pioneers in Spain. In this manner were born the Royal Footbal Club and the Royal Tennis Club, and the playing of other traditionally English sports such as golf or cricket.
A legacy to conserve
After a period under threat of dissappearance during the 80's of the last century the building heritage inherited from the British period has been conserved in good condition and has even been preserved and restored for citizens' use and enjoyment, examples include the Casa Colón, the Rio Tinto Mining company Dock and the Workers' Neighbourhood.
A night in the Hotel Gran Colón
We end our visit with a look at how the fireplace area of the rooms of the old Hotel Colón, known today as Casa Colón, may have appeared back in the day. A VIP area in its time, and headquarters of the Rio Tinto Mining Company, its facilities bore witness to the celebrations of the 4th Centenary of the discovery of America and to the birth of football in Spain with the founding of the Huelva Recreation Club, known today as "Real Club Recreativo de Huelva", the doyen of Spanish football.
Bluehertz Audio guides has developed for Huelva´s town hall an audio guide service avaliable in Spanish, English, German, Portuguese and French languages.
Huelva Puerta del Atlántico visitor Center: Avda. presidente Adolfo Suárez, 1 21001 - Huelva.
- Tel.: +34 959 541 817