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Area Guide - Huelva

Flamingoes in Huelva

Huelva was called Onuba by the Phoenicians around 3000 years BC. Greeks, Romans and Moors found it favourably placed at the edge of fertile countryside, near mountains rich with mineral wealth, on an estuary at the mouth of two important rivers, making for easy access to the bountiful sea.  Huelva is a port – a working, fishing, mining, agricultural and industrial town, and it has always been so.  Its strategic position ensured that Huelva was used for centuries as the principal port for the transportation of minerals from the mines at nearby Rio Tinto.  Just 15 minutes from the beaches of El Portil, with a population of 150,000, it is a prosperous place, and like many towns in this region, it is being revitalised and taking on a bright new persona.  There are many rewarding discoveries to be made in Huelva.

The caravelles of Christopher Columbus at HuelvaDolmen in Huelva

There are some very good shops along palm-lined avenues, and tucked away in tiny squares.  There is a large Corte Inglés department store and Hipercor supermarket; fashion boutiques like Zara, Massimo Dutti, Zara Home; designer clothes and leather goods shops, decorating specialists, romantic Moroccan-style places and other stylish outlets both local and international.  There is an English book shop.  A particularly satisfying for shopping can be found around the dazzling fountains and pavement cafés of the Plaza de las Monjas.   There is a large weekly market, also a fresh food market and a gleaming fish market. You will find many restaurants from the sublime to the basic, all serving fresh local food.  There is a fine tea and cake shop, and then there are the bars – traditional, flamenco, or trendy bars; usually crowded, usually open late and always friendly.

There are three hospitals, dispensing not only first class health attention, but kindness too.
There is a traditional bullring in Huelva and a huge modern football stadium - as befits a city whose local team has reached the heights of La Liga, the premier league.  This seems justified, as the first football club in Spain was started here, by the British managers of the Rio Tinto Mines in the 19th century.  It is also home to the first golf course in Spain.  Huelva has its own orchestra and a popular theatre.  It has a marvellous museum and art gallery, with fascinating finds from pre-history, to modern times, including a huge Roman water wheel, worked by slaves to draw water out of the mines at Rio Tinto.

Huelva’s most famous moment in history was in the summer of 1492, when Christopher Columbus undertook his first voyage to the new world, from nearby Palos de la Frontera. In the Harbour of the Caravels, you can see exact replicas of the three vessels that braved the great unknown.  You can only begin to imagine what kind of courage such voyages must have required in the 15th Century.  You will want to learn more from the poignant exhibits at the monastery there, called La Rabida.  This is where the Franciscan friars introduced Columbus to influential sailors, the master mariners of Huelva, and finally to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

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