Plaza de España is one of those sights that is simply gorgeous. It has everything from striking architecture, to beautiful hand-painted tiles, to massive fountains that make it look like the perfect backdrop for a Hollywood film.
While so much in the Spanish city of Seville is on the older side (and by older I mean 15th, 16th centuries), the Plaza de España is much, much newer. It’s actually only 86 years old. It was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 specifically to highlight Spain’s industry and technology exhibits.The hope was that it would attract scores of visitors to the city that ‘Carmen’ got her fiery groove in. Unfortunately for the people of Seville, with the infamous stock market collapse of 1929, things didn’t go quite according to plan. Fast forward 85 years later and it’s one of the city’s premier attractions, even if it’s not “quite” as old as the Cathedral which is turning 507 this year.
When I hear the name Spain, I think of so many things-tapas, blazing sunsets, pitchers of sangria, toreadors-and yet Plaza de España is the one place I feel is “quintessentially” Spanish. That’s not too surprising since it’s almost always featured on Spanish guidebooks and in promotional tourism materials.
It was designed by Anibal Gonzalez who combined a mix of 1920s Art Deco and ‘mock Mudejar’ and Neo-Mudejar styles (here’s information on Mudejar in case you’re not familiar). Plaza de España is massive-it consists of a half-circle of buildings continually running around the edge that is accessible over the moat by numerous bridges representing the ancient kingdoms of Spain. And in the center of it all is the Vicente Traver fountain.
I first visited Plaza de España at the start of my semester abroad in Seville. I had the afternoon free and wanted to spend some time as tourist in my new city. While I found it easily (it’s pretty hard to miss), visiting on my own in “winter” was not quite what I had expected. (Yes, winter in Seville is somewhat comical, seeing as how the highs each day are a frigid 50 degrees.) It was somewhat deserted (I did visit on a week day) and sadly, the fountain wasn’t running. I was also alone and while I never had problems with traveling on my own (sometimes I think it’s probably preferred) it just seemed like the type of place you want to share with someone. The whole time I was walking around it I felt like I was getting sick. Jet lag, paired with the start of new classes in a foreign country in a different language, coupled with the enormity of temporarily moving to a new country all contributed to my getting a nasty head cold (the first of many I might add).
Fast forward roughly two months and I would visit Plaza de España again, this time with someone. My dad had come to Spain to visit me. During the madness of Palm Sunday (the start of Semana Santa), we literally fought our way through the mobs of people to escape to Plaza de España. If you know anything about Seville, you know that the historic neighborhoods that comprise the city center are made up of ridiculously narrow and winding streets. However, once you leave behind the city center modernity happens and you get streets and avenues where you can actually breathe and even flail your arms about if you want to.
Plaza de España in April was just stunning. The weather was warmer (once again, irony speaking here), flowers were in bloom, and the fountain was running. It’s a place you can go and take beautiful pictures in the span of only five minutes or spend five hours “whiling away the hours.” It’s THAT kind of place.
Fun fact-Plaza de España has been seen in numerous Hollywood movies including the Star Wars movies The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones as well as Lawrence of Arabia.