Plaza de España: Seville’s plan to charge entry fee for iconic square sparks backlash

The flamboyant plaza was originally built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition and designed to showcase the best of Spain in its architecture and ceramics.
The flamboyant plaza was originally built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition and designed to showcase the best of Spain in its architecture and ceramics. Copyright Taisia Karaseva
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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The flamboyant plaza was originally built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition and designed to showcase the best of Spain in its architecture and ceramics.

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Visitors to the southern Spanish city of Seville will soon have to pay to visit one of its most popular attractions.

The lavishly decorated Plaza de España has always been a highlight of the city and was used as a filming location for Star Wars films.

The city hall says the entry fee will go towards protecting the historic square.

However, the announcement, made on X, has been met with criticism from residents and politicians.

Seville to charge visitors to enter Plaza de España

“We are planning to close the Plaza de España and charge tourists to finance its conservation and ensure its safety,” Seville’s mayor, José Luis Sanz, wrote on X earlier this week.

He accompanied the news with a video showing broken tiles and balustrades, rubbish discarded on the ground and souvenir sellers with wares displayed on staircases.

The flamboyant plaza was originally built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition and designed to showcase the best of Spain through its architecture and ceramics.

The wide space is dominated on one side by a sweeping semicircular arcade in red stone with two opulent corner towers in neo-Moorish style.

Four bridges with balustrades clad in eye-popping ceramic tiles cross over a moat running in front of the building.

The spectacular space doubled as the set for the Palace of Theed on the planet of Naboo in the 2002 film Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Thousands of international visitors now flock to the square daily, either wandering around on foot or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride.

The plaza is also at the heart of city life, hosting concerts, fashion shows and plays for the residents of Seville.

Seville entry fee to famous square sparks outrage

Mayor Sanz clarified on social media that residents of Seville, those who live in the province and those born in the Andalusian city, would still be able to visit the plaza “freely and cost-free” - but his announcement drew criticism nonetheless.

“A tourism tax for ALL visitors provokes less debate and generates more income. Listen to the people, not the hoteliers,” wrote one X user.

“What people want from you is a tourism tax and general regulation of mass tourism which is destroying our city,” responded another.

Opposition leader Antonio Muñoz described Sanz's proposal as “stealing public space,” adding that "nobody would even think of closing off San Marco Square in Venice or the Plaza de Mayor in Madrid."

Sanz did not disclose how much the fee would cost but said the revenue would help pay for 24-hour surveillance in the square.

Seville is the third most visited city in Spain and welcomed more than three million tourists in 2023.

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It is not the first hotspot city to impose fees on its most visited monuments.

Rome now charges €5 to visit the ancient Pantheon while Venice will begin a trial fee for entry to the historic island on some days this spring.

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