Seville City - Plaza de España

Plaza de España, Seville © Michelle Chaplow
Plaza de España is a semi-circular brick building, Renaissance/neo-Moorish in style, with a tower at each end. © Michelle Chaplow (Click to enlarge photos).

Plaza de España

 © Michelle Chaplow Fountains errupting at Plaza España
Fountains errupting at Plaza España

This massive building is Seville's most impressive after the cathedral, for its sheer scale and grandeur. Love it or hate it - fabulous or fussy, magnificent or overblown, depending on your point of view - you shouldn't miss it when visiting the city. Plaza de España was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929 (Expo 29), along with many of the pavilions you can see in and around the Parque Maria Luisa.

What and where is it?

Plaza de España is a semi-circular brick building, Renaissance/neo-Moorish in style, with a tower at either end (tall enough to be visible around the city, these towers - north and south - are major landmarks). In front of the building, following the curve of its façade, is a 500-metre canal crossed by four bridges, and in the centre of it all is the Plaza itself. You can rent small boats to row in the canal - the Plaza is known as "the Venice of Seville". A major tourist attraction, it is the finishing point of horse-and-carriage rides.

The Plaza is situated inside Maria Luisa Park, next to Avenida Isabella La Catolica, a pedestriansed avenue with ice-cream sellers and bike rental stands - this is the best way to reach the park, entering near the Teatro Lope de Vega and Fabrica de Tabaco. You also can reach the park from the Prado de San Sebastián (served by metro, bus and tram) on one side, or the river on the other.

© Michelle Chaplow Beautiful ceramics visible at the Plaza de Espana
Beautiful ceramics visible at the Plaza de Espana

Measuring 50,000 square metres, the Plaza is the size of five football pitches. The building has a ground level portico and first-floor balustrade with balconies stretching along its length. For taking photos, the balconies are a prime spot, reached by staircases, as you can get the whole sweep of the building. The magnificent central balcony is especially impressive.

All along the wall by the canal are 48 alcoves with benches, one for each province of Spain, each with a relevant tableau and map, all designed on colourful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles). Spanish tourists have photographs taken of themselves with family and friends on their home province's bench. In a further regional reference, the four bridges represent the four ancient kingdoms of Spain: Castille, Aragon, Navarre and Leon.

Why was it built?

The Plaza was built as the centrepiece of the Expo 29, which took place in Maria Luisa park, as the Pabellon de Andalucia. The architect Anibal Gonzalez designed the Plaza to wow the Expo's other exhibitors, and visitors, from around Spain and Latin America, and to show Seville's talents in industry and crafts. Other pavilions are now museums and offices, including the Pabellon de Bellas Artes, now the Archaeological Museum, and the Pabellon Mudejar, which houses the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares - both at the far end of the park.

 © Michelle Chaplow Brightly coloured ceramics showcased at the Plaza de Espana
Brightly coloured ceramics showcased at the Plaza de España

Coloured ceramics feature heavily around Plaza de España - as well as the provincial alcoves, the walls, ornate bridges and balustrades are also covered in azulejos.

Rowing boats on the canal cost 5 euros for 45 minutes' hire, and Enriqueta, the motor boat, costs 9 euros.

Today the building houses various government offices, including the one (near the North Tower, closer to Sevilla's centre) where you go to get - apply for, and months later collect - your crucial ID document, the NIE (Numero de Identificacion de Extranjero), when you first arrive in Spain.

Interesting facts

* The Plaza has been used over the decades as a location for filming several movies, such as Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia), and the more recently, for the latest Sasha Baron-Cohen film.

Plaza de Espana is a vast and beautiful work of architecture. © Sophie Carefull
Plaza de Espana is a vast and beautiful work of architecture.

* The Plaza reopened in 2010 after a refurbishment costing 14 million euros. This included 20 period-style ceramic street lamps, 22 new benches and nearly 500 metres of balustrade.

* The refurbished canal has 900m of pipes; the water-related part of the project cost five million euro.

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