Poor old Huelva, it does have a rep as an unlovely town as everyone, including some of its inhabitants, were keen to tell me. My first impressions weren’t great but it did grow on me during the five days in December 2015 that I was there. By all appearances it seems to be a completely modern town however there is a lot of history if you scratch the surface.
Google map here.
Since ancient times the area has been a source of metals for just about every major Mediterranean civilisation from the Phoenicians and Greeks, through to the Romans and Arabs. Artefacts from these civilisations can be seen at the small but interesting Museo De Huelva at 13 Avenida Alameda Sondheim www.museosdeandalucia.es Entrance is free.
The museum has a small collection of Pagan idols.
Some original Arabic ceramic tiles can also be seen.
I’m not sure about the origins of this jug but I love the two animals incorporated into the design.
The metal deposits and mining activity are the reasons the Rio Tinto (one of two rivers that meet at Huelva, the Odiel is the other) got its name. The reddish colour of its water is due to copper and other heavy metals being washed into it.
In 1873 the British arrived and formed the Rio Tinto mining company to exploit these resources. The company is now a huge multinational, one of the biggest in the world, although it no longer operates in its birthplace. However the company’s influence can still be seen all over the city.
Naturally the railway was hugely important for this industry and the Neomudéjar train station, the Estación de Sevilla, was built by the British.
Down on the river front (in this case the bank of the Odiel River) a long pier was built by Rio Tinto in 1874 for loading ore onto ocean going ships.
The Muelle del Tinto is still standing and is enjoyed by joggers, dog walkers and romantic couples.
From the pier you can walk along the River Odiel which has a nature reserve along its banks. You’ll definitely see a lot of curlews, herons, egrets and fish, and if you’re lucky, otters and sea eagles.
Along the way one of the first things you’ll come across is the Estadio Nuevo Colombino. This is the home of Recreativo de Huelva, the oldest football club in Spain, which was founded by British mine workers in 1889.
After this you’ll encounter a swathe of oil refineries and factories built courtesy of Franco in the 50s.
Next you’ll come to the marina and boating club where you can stop for refreshments. A short distance further on and you get to Punta del Sebo, the confluence of the Odiel and the Tinto rivers, which is marked by a towering Cubist statue, the Monumento a Colón.
The statue commemorates Columbus who in 1492 first set sail for the New World from nearby Palos de la Frontera with crews made up of local sailors. It was a present from donors in the US to mark this historical voyage. Many people think the statue is of Columbus himself but it actually depicts a navigator looking towards the West.
The walk from the Muelle del Tinto to Punta del Sebo takes one hour each way, if you don’t dawdle.
Back in town, a couple of doors down from the museum, is Casa Colon, a British built hotel that now houses the city archives. It’s one of the older buildings in town but not particularly photogenic. However it would make a good starting point for the ‘Ruta Ingles’, a heritage route set up by the local council, as you can upload a guide to the route onto your mobile by scanning the barcode on a sign in front of the building.
A bronze statue of the Virgin del Rocio being paraded in the street stands opposite Casa Colon.
The procession draws around a million people each year.
Just up the road is the incongruous Barrio de Reina Victoria, also called the Barrio Obrero (Workers’ District), an estate of British-style semi-detached houses that Rio Tinto built for its workers.
In terms of architecture there’s very little else to see. Another old station, Antigua Estación de Zafra , can be seen at on Avenida Alemania near the bus station.
There are a couple of nice buildings along Calle Vásquez López. Next to Portichuelo (see my restaurant post) is the Gran Teatro de Huelva at 13 Calle López www.festicinehuelva.com which has a nice neo-classical façade.
And opposite the theatre is the Casa de los Conchas which has some beautiful ceramic tiles above the windows and doors.
I quite liked the iridescent tiles on this house at 40 Calle López although my photos don’t show them to their full effect.
The baroque Catedral de la Merced in Plaza de la Merced www.diocesisdehuelva.es has a distinctive brick façade.
The oldest church in the city is the Parroquia Mayor de San Pedro Apóstol in Plaza San Pedro, The pretty pink bell tower is a symbol of the city.
There are various other bits and pieces of architecture to be seen but I think these are the highlights. Much of the town was wiped out in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (Portugal is only 50km away) and so there is nothing truly old remaining.