Travel Report: Plaza de Espana, Seville.
Plaza de Espana, Seville.
April 2017. I’ve seen some truly impressive city squares during my years of global travel. However, I can categorically state that none of them felt quite as dramatic as Plaza de España in the Spanish city of Seville. Wonderboy and I had been enjoying a leisurely stroll around María Luisa Park when, quite suddenly, the square came into view. You couldn’t miss it if you tried, just look out for the humongous, semicircular castle seemingly imported from another planet.
Moreover, the square’s backstory is equally unusual. It all dates back to the mid 1920s when Seville was announced as the host city of the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair. In order to put Seville on the map and showcase Spain as a leader in industry and technology, local authorities began redeveloping the entire southern end of the city.
Plaza de Espana, Seville.
The project saw nearly half a mile of new gardens and boulevards built. Famed artists arrived to create elegant fountains and statues, while landscapers laid down ponds, benches, orange trees and immaculate flower beds. Leaving nothing to chance, the noted French architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier was appointed to oversee everything.
At the very heart of the project stood an ambitious plan for a city square monument unlike any other. The Spanish architect Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossorio got the nod to design it and he certainly shot for the moon. Combining Art Deco, Renaissance Revival, Baroque and Neo-Mudéjar styles, he gave birth to a sweeping semicircular structure that quite literally embraces visitors as they enter the square.
In the centre of the square, right in front of the monument’s main entrance, stands a grand fountain by Vicente Traver. In fact, it was Traver who replaced González in 1927 and saw the project through to completion. González had fallen out with the exhibition’s Royal Commissioner, José Cruz Conde, and was suffering from increasingly poor health. He eventually died in 1929, just a few weeks after the exhibition opened.
A beautiful, five hundred meter moat spans the building. For many, a key part of the experience is to take in the exterior from the comfort of a rowboat. Very cute, but a touch too touristy for my taste. Hence I made do with crossing one of the square’s four bridges, which represent the ancient Spanish kingdoms Castile, Navarre, Aragón and León.
Speaking of touristy, visitors can also enjoy horse and carriage rides around María Luisa Park. No matter who you go with, the circuit always includes a trot through Plaza de Espana.
My favourite part of the square are these exquisitely illustrated ceramic alcoves, dedicated to Spain’s provinces. Each alcove has a pair of covered bookshelves containing texts related to the province in question. Furthermore, people often donate novels, biographies, dictionaries and comics.
As a result, this has become one of the city’s most popular reading spots. Students also come here to study against the soothing backdrop of the fountain. Every single alcove is a gorgeous work of art, though Wonderboy had a particular affinity for Tarragona.
The alcoves are so beautiful I could’ve easily taken the time to photograph them all, one by one. Unfortunately, it was just too damn hot. Plus, I guessed the people inhabiting them wouldn’t have been impressed. Nevertheless, I did take the time to seek out Malaga, my adopted Spanish city.
Plaza de Espana, Seville.
I’m always a sucker for a place that enjoys a bit of Hollywood history. On this front, Plaza de Espana delivers handsomely. In 1962 director David Lean came to the square to shoot a scene for his epic historical drama Lawrence of Arabia. The square also appeared in the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Dictator and, weirdly, the music video for Simply Red’s 1991 hit single Something Got Me Started.
And yet the square is probably best recognisable in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. While I’m certainly no fan of the movie, it was still cool to retread Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Queen Padmé’s (Natalie Portman) steps along the inner balcony terrace. Meanwhile, exterior shots of the square served as the city of Theed on the planet Naboo.
Today, the square is home to a number of government agencies. This includes the offices where foreign residents come to process their residential papers and apply for ID cards. There’s also an archaeological museum, while the square is pretty much Seville’s definitive meeting point for locals and tourists alike. All in all, I’d say this is an essential city sight. And one that doesn’t cost you a penny.
For more on this incredible city, have a read through my other articles from Seville.
Wanna read more about the region? Check out more pieces from around Andalusia.
Why not also take a look at many more of my pieces from across Spain.
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