The humble city of Huelva doesn´t reach the magnificence of monumental Seville, Cordoba or Granada, but it boasts the charm of the small Southern towns, full of cozy squares and corners where people still tell buenos dias to each other and bartenders and small business owners remember your name. The surroundings of the city are defined by the historical Columbian sites and the natural spaces around the Odiel river marshes.
Churches, museums and archaeological sites talk about Huelva's rich history, and the Odiel river carries the city to the limits of the Atlantic ocean, depicting her maritime vocation and setting the background for Christopher Columbus' adventure.
La Rábida is the heart of the Columbian Sites, the group of monuments and venues related to the planning and execution of Christopher Columbus trips. Berfore it was founded, more than five hundred years ago, this Franciscan (yes, like the current Pope) Monastery –on the top of a hill overlooking the confluence of the Odiel and Tinto rivers–, was a Phoenician sacrificial altar, a Roman temple and a Muslim mosque-fortress. These Muslim constructions were called “rapitas”, hence the name.
The site incorporates a recreation of the harbor of Palos in the XV century –originally located a couple of miles north– which includes an exact replica of the three caravels. A botanic garden, an open air auditorium and the headquarters of the Universidad Iberoamericana de la Rabida complete the historic scene.
Across the Tinto River, the impressive shape of the monument to Christopher Columbus remind us of historical friendship between Spain and the US. The colossal 121-feet sculpture, designed by Gertrude Whitney, was donated by the United Statesin 1929.
Nestled in the peninsula shaped by the Tinto and Odiel rivers, the city of Huelvakeeps transforming into a modern capital while maintaining intact its traditions, history and grace of the small Andalusian towns.
You can walk the cozy downtown and discover its lively streets, squares, stores and bars full flavor and huelvanos socializing. Ample avenues and modern shopping mallsdistinguish the newer neighborhoods and characterize the future Huelva, more eclectic and cosmopolitan.
Apart from museums, churches and historic buildings, Huelva´s cultural scene is best represented by the impressive boom of its gastronomy and the prestigious Iberoamerican Film Festival, the most important of its kind, reflection of the city´s bonds with the Americas.
Established in 1917 by the Rio Tinto Mining Company to house its employees, the Queen Victoria Worker’s Quarters (El Barrio Obrero) is a group of terraced houses built in English style, a little British town in the very heart of the city.
The British heritage, present in other parts of the province, has its most symbolic image in the city in the Muelle del Tinto, the old railway pier used to carry the mineral to the ships that would take it to the UK. Built in 1876 by disciples of Eiffel, it was declared historical monument in 2003 and restored in 2007.
Very closely linked to the history of Christopher Columbus’s first trip, Palos de la Frontera and Moguer are two bright villages very close to the capital and full of their own essence.
Palos provided the men and the money necessary for that first trip. Some of the key places where History took place remain very much as they were, like the Gothic-Mudejar church of San Jorge or La Fontanilla, a charming XIII century brick pavilion where ships would fill their water tanks before setting sail.
La Casa de los Pinzón (Pinzón Family´s Homestead) is a little museum and research center depicting the relationship between the family and Columbus, whom they provided with money, ships and even sailors, the Pinzón brothers.
Prosperous Moguer provided Columbus with ship La Niña, and preserves today beautiful buildings from the time, like the Convento de Santa Clara, a national monument containing numerous works of arts from different periods. The village is also known around the world for being the birthplace of Literature Nobel Prize winner Juan Ramón Jiménez. His house was turned museum and the city is full of references to his poetic masterpiece, “Platero y yo”. Perhaps not so universally acknowledged, Moguer pastries are for many reason enough to visit.