Seville City - Expo 29

Plaza de Espana was built as the Pabellon de Andalucia for Expo 29. © Sophie Carefull
Plaza de Espana was built as the Pabellon de Andalucia for Expo 29.

EXPOSICION IBERO-AMERICANA DE SEVILLA 1929 - EXPO 29

Seville held two Exposiciones Universales (known as Expos for short) in the 20th century: one in 1929 - Expo 29; and one in 1992, the same year as the Barcelona Olympics - Expo 92 (note the numerical inversion).

Both of these Expos were intended to promote the city and encourage tourism, while displaying the city's industrial and cultural heritage, and its technical prowess too. Expo 29 and Expo 92 were also opportunities to modernise the city.

When and where was it held? 

 © Michelle Chaplow Fountains errupting at Plaza España
Fountain at Plaza de España, the centrepiece of Expo 29.

Expo 29 was held in and around the Parque Maria Luisa – the site was adapted from gardens donated to the city by a former royal resident of Palacio San Telmo, Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda, Duchess of Montpensier. Over 20 years in the planning - it was originally supposed to be held in 1914 - this Expo lasted for just over a year: 9 May 1929 to 21 June 1930.

This Expo was called the Exposicion Ibero-Americano - it focused on Latin-American countries, particularly the larger ex-colonies in South America, with 23 countries taking part in total. Each country built its own pavilion, to show off the best it had to offer in terms of technology and culture, which was intended to be used as a consulate after the Expo.

What is there still to see?

The grandest and most impressive national pavilions which you can still see include Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru, which are located outside the park itself, mostly near the University.

These pavilions are fascinating for the microcosm of their countries' architecture and culture which they represent. The Pabellon de Argentina, now a dance conservatory, looks like a cross between a traditional white and yellow colonial finca and a church, complete with tower and domed chapel. The Peruvian pavilion is modelled on the Archbishop's Palace in Lima, with its carved wooden balconies; inside is the Casa de Ciencias, with science exhibitions - go in to see all the animals sculptured and painted on the ceilings, walls and even the furniture - part of traditional Incan beliefs. The Pabellon de Chile is a more forbidding structure, with art deco and historical details - it now houses the School of Art. While being one of the smallest due to late inscription, the Pabellon de Guatemala is still stunning - covered in blue and white tiles, with depiction of its colourful, exotic bird, it's an Art Deco gem. It is located next to the Argentinian pavilion, by the river, and is also part of the dance school.

Closer to home, Pabellon de Portugal is a beautiful building with a typical curved, almost oriental roof - now the Portuguese consulate, it takes pride of place opposite the University. The Pabellon de Estados Unidos, in a Californian-colonial style, near the Teatro Lope de Vega, is now home to an art foundation.

Spain itself built a number of pavilions, many of which mixed Mudejar style, very fashionable at the time, with Art Deco and Regionalism. The most famous one of these is the massive Plaza de España, designed as the Pabellon de Andalucia, inside the park itself, and the masterpiece of the Expo. With its red bricks, towers and ceramics, it is a typically Spanish building, though on a far grander scale than other monuments of the time. Each region of Spain also had its own pavilion, as did the other seven provinces of Andalucia, but these are long since gone.

Other notable buildings include the Pabellon de Bellas Artes (now the Museo de Arqueologia) and the exquisite Pabellon Mudejar (now the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares), with its tiles and horseshoe arches. These two are located opposite each other in the Plaza de la Americas, situated at the far end of the Maria Luisa Park from the city centre.

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By far the most impressive of the Spanish buildings is the Hotel Alfonso XIII, next to the university. This was built as a palace to accommodate that king's family and important guests at the Expo. Refurbished in 2011/2012, the five-star hotel has grand salons with beautiful tiles, classic-contemporary furniture, and all mod cons. Look out for Edificio Ciudad de Londres off Calle Sierpes, and La Adriatica, on Avenida de la Constitucion, which were both designed by the same architect around that period.

The pride and splendour of Seville were encapsulated by the unusual circular baroque Casino de la Exposicion, with its dome, and the opulent white-and-gold Teatro Lope de Vega next door. Together, these buildings formed the Pabellon de Sevilla.

Expo 29 Tours

You can take a bus tour of all the pavilions (with Sevirama, called La Sevilla Romantica), which takes you through the park and along Avenida de las Palmeras, parallel to the river, where many of the private villas built for the Expo are, as well as more country pavilions:, Mexico Argentina, Guatemala, Brazil, Morocco, Columbia, Cuba. Note that this bus tour doesn't include Chile, Peru or Uruguay, so visit those ones on foot.

Some companies offer dramatised guided tours of the Expo 29 site – see our tours page for details, and the Ayuntamiento often organises events in the park.