Santa Cruz de Tenerife – the capital of Tenerife and sometimes the Canary Islands
Regarding the capital status of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the Canaries have not been able to resolve this issue for centuries. The dispute is between Gran Canaria and Tenerife, the two largest islands of the archipelago. Santa Cruz de Tenerife was founded in 1494 and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria a little earlier, in 1478. As a result, the two cities are the capitals of their islands, and the capital of the entire archipelago is transferred every two years from one to the other, can you imagine? In 2016, Santa Cruz rules the ball, and the next year it’s La Palma.
In Santa Cruz de Tenerife will be a pleasant place to live for residents of big cities who are used to comfortable apartments, the noise of cars, boulevards and sidewalks. The city has a population of about 220 thousand people, by Russian standards, it’s not a very big city, but here it is the largest. On Tenerife, it’s easy to get tired of the provinciality of the many villages, so if you’re looking for a holiday in a mild climate, but with a familiar urban landscape, the presence of museums and shopping centers, cinemas and a large selection of cafes and restaurants, stay in Santa Cruz. Tenerife is famous for its natural attractions, such as the active volcano Teide, eerie, but beautiful gorges Masca and Inferno, it is easy to get there from the capital. Today we will tell you more about what to fill your vacation without leaving Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
History of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
When you land in Tenerife, you get to one of the oldest islands in the world and immediately feel: this place is special. It is believed that the Canary Islands “grew” from the depths of the ocean during the sinking of Atlantis. Nobody knows exactly when it happened and whether Atlantis really existed, but it is known for certain that 2,000 years ago the place of Santa Cruz was inhabited by the Guanches, the legendary pioneers of the land. The silver Holy Cross (Santa Cruz) was erected here by the Spanish conquistadors in 1494, which is considered the year of the foundation of the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This cross can now be seen in the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción museum. The capital of the island was originally the port city of Garachico in the northwest, which died in the eruption of the volcano Teide in 1706. None of Garachico’s inhabitants were harmed, but the administrative center had to be moved to Santa Cruz, and this changed the pace of development on the eastern tip of the island.
After Spanish colonization, Tenerife was repeatedly encroached upon by the British, Danes and other Europeans. Many battles were fought in Santa Cruz, but the city was never taken by the enemy.
Peaceful today Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a city of military glory, with three leopards on its coat of arms signifying three victories over the British invaders in the local port – in 1657, 1706 and 1797.
Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is an attraction for the whole of Spain. It is the second largest in the world after the famous carnival in Rio. This tradition was brought here by the Spaniards from the continent, more precisely, from Cadiz. Annual festivities are held throughout the island, but it is in the capital costume show is organized at the highest level. All of the events that thrill the first week of February are completely free. The election of the Carnival Queen of Santa Cruz de Tenerife from the local beauties, the first procession of the queen, the main procession along the promenade (Gran Coso Apoteosis) and the mock “sardine funeral” in the finale are the main themes of the carnival. All residents and tourists, in costume and without, take to the streets, walking and dancing until morning, watching competitions of street musicians and dancers, orchestras, concerts and performances throughout the city.
The Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival necessarily includes a children’s costume parade, a vintage car parade, and a temporary amusement park set up on the waterfront. At this time, cafes and restaurants have special menus at very attractive prices.
Shopping in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
So what to do in Santa Cruz for the rest of the year, with the exception of Easter week? There are two other important dates to know! The seasonal sale periods, when discounts reach 70% on everything, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife are the same as on the continent: from January 6 to February 30 and from July 1 to August 30, the prices will pleasantly surprise you. Not far from the city center there is a large commercial center El Corte Ingles. This Spanish chain of stores is notable for the quality selection of goods and manufacturers. There is a convenient parking lot, bars and restaurants, grocery store, souvenirs and 7 floors of stores selling clothes and shoes, perfumes, sportswear and equipment, in general, the shopping for every taste.
If you go shopping in Corte Ingles in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you will find not very popular in Russia Spanish clothing brands of excellent quality, but not too expensive: Adolfo Domingues, Carolina Hererra, Roberto Verino, Purficacion Garcia. There is also a huge selection of basic brands like Zara, Mango, Desigual, Jack&Jones, Pimkie, Guess, a few floors are occupied by Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, Escada, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, Fendi and others at prices slightly below the continental.
Typical Spanish products at good prices are sold in Carrefour, household goods and gifts – in Alcampo, home appliances (such as cameras and lenses) should be purchased only in large stores with an international warranty. Prices for electronics are slightly cheaper than in Russia. The choice is about the same as in our similar stores, it is convenient to navigate.
Other attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Fans of thoughtful wandering through ancient streets will like the local Rambla, that is, the main street (Rambla de Santa Cruz). It’s similar to Barcelona’s Rambla, but with far fewer tourists, pickpockets, noise, and pushy peddlers.
For parents with children and nature lovers, there are two interesting and informative places to visit: the Space Museum and Palmetum.
The Museum of Science and Space (Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos) opened in 1993 at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands. It is one of the main attractions of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and is a huge room filled with interactive exhibits on how gravity works, the principle of communicating vessels, how the human body works, optical illusions that will interest children from 6 to 16 years and an educational play area for the youngest. You can find out your weight on Jupiter or Mars, lift a real car with one hand, control electricity and much more. There is also a small planetarium open, which is included in the price (lecture in Spanish). From the Plaza de España 10 minutes by car on the TF-5. The museum is open from 9:00 to 20:00 Tuesday to Saturday, Monday and Sunday closed at 17:00. Admission is 5 euros.
The Palmetum is another important attraction in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is a botanical garden consisting only of palm trees! It is the best botanical collection in Europe and the most extensive plant collection in the world. The park is divided into several zones: Cuba, the Caribbean, Madagascar – in one day you can visit different parts of the world and see more than 400 species of plants, many of which are endangered or just very rare. Palmetum opened only recently, in 2013, and occupies 12 hectares. It is noteworthy that this park and botanical garden are located in the heart of the capital, on the site of a former garbage dump, which greatly spoiled the picture of the city. The park is open from 11:00 to 13:15 and from 16:00 to 17:15, Monday – day off. Admission is 4 euros.
Mature visitors to Santa Cruz will be interested in eating Canarian cuisine in local restaurants and going to the opera. Auditorio de Tenerife is one of the most recognizable buildings in Spain, along with the futuristic structures of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. It is the work of the same author, Santiago Calatrava, who built the Auditorio Opera House in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 2003, the Monjuïc TV Tower in Barcelona and the Alamillo Bridge in Seville in 1992, as well as many bridges and museums in various European countries and the USA. The expressive airy construction resembling a sail or a bent plant leaf is an excellent example of so-called “neo-organic architecture” or “bio-tek”, the opposite of the technological and monumental “high-tech”.
The Auditorio de Tenerife is located in the heart of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, near the port, and is impossible to miss. The main hall seats 1,616, the chamber hall 424, and the acoustics in these rooms are considered to be among the best in the world. From the lobby of the theater opens up an enchanting view of the ocean.
This theater is truly unique, with nothing like it in design and beauty, technology and versatility in the world. This Santa Cruz de Tenerife attraction hosts a wide variety of shows for every taste – opera, symphonic concerts by Spanish and international musicians, amazing circus performances, colorful musicals in Spanish and English, pop-star concerts, and dramatic productions. The nice thing is that tickets are not too expensive – from 15 to 80 euros.
The beach of Las Teresitas, which has also made Santa Cruz de Tenerife famous to some extent, is located outside the city limits. It is an idyllic paradise beach, like from a Bounty commercial, 1,200 meters long. Of course, it is artificial, because the volcanic sand is very different. But here you will feel as if you are in Africa, without leaving the island, the sand is brought here from the Sahara to please the eyes of tourists. It takes 20 minutes to get to the beach by bus number 910 from the Plaza España, or 15 minutes by car on the highway TF-11. The beach has a large and free parking lot, many panoramic cafes and restaurants where you can meet the sunset. But the water here is not considered the cleanest. To find the best place for swimming and diving, use our author’s guide to the beaches of Tenerife.
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Tags: canary islands, tenerife, botanical garden, sights in spain, volcanoes, vacation with children, museums in spain, capitals, santa cruz de tenerife shopping
Santa Cruz de Tenerife: sights, beaches, weather
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the capital of the island of Tenerife, which is also one of the two capitals of the Canary Islands. The area of the city is 150 km² and its population as of 2019 does not exceed 208 thousand inhabitants. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the seat of government of Tenerife, and once every four years the city serves as the site for the Parliament.
In Spanish, the name “Santa Cruz” is interpreted as “Holy Cross”. The European history of Santa Cruz de Tenerife began in 1494, when the Andalusian warlord A. F. De Lugo landed on the northeast coast of Tenerife. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the local fishing village began to be built up rapidly and by the 16th century had become a valuable port town. By the beginning of the 18th century, Santa Cruz de Tenerife was recognized as the main administrative point of Tenerife, and a century later as the capital of all the Canary Islands. Since 1927, the archipelago has had a second capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, located on the neighboring island of Gran Canaria.
Despite the huge popularity of the Canary Islands among tourists, it would be wrong to call Santa Cruz in Tenerife a thriving resort, because most visitors choose to vacation in the more southern and western destinations of the island. Nevertheless, the city is popular with travelers as a historical site with a number of attractive sights. Many people come here for shopping: not for nothing is the core of the city’s economy. There are also a couple of picturesque beaches and nice hotels around Santa Cruz de Tenerife, so it deserves its share of tourism attention.
Attractions and entertainment
The sights of the capital of Tenerife include both urban historical sites and natural locations. Some will take at least an hour to explore, while others will only take a couple of dozen minutes. What are the places worth seeing first?
The historic light pink building houses one of the most visited attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife: its Central Market. The structure was erected in the 1940s in the classic colonial architectural style. At the entrance you can notice two curious sculptures: a boat launched by fishermen and a woman carrying jugs on her head. Then you are welcomed by a spacious archway inside the market, where you will find a lot of stalls with different kinds of products.
Fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers are sold at very low prices. The butcher’s stalls are also a sight to behold, offering a wide variety of delicacies, including the famous jamon. The fish market deserves special attention, with fresh seafood that you can sample right there for a small fee. Cheese shops, spices and sweets also offer a fairly wide range of products. Many tourists initially visit the central market in Santa Cruz de Tenerife just for sightseeing purposes, but end up leaving this colorful corner full of shopping bags.
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 06:00 to 14:00, Sundays from 07:00 to 14:00.
- Address: Av. de San Sebastián, 51, 38003 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
- Official website: https://la-recova.com/en/home/
In photos of Santa Cruz de Tenerife you can often see another important landmark – Plaza España. It is the main not only in Tenerife itself, but also in the entire Canary archipelago. The object was built in 1929, and today its size reaches just over 5 thousand square meters. The main attraction of the square is the Monument to the Fallen, erected here in 1944 after the Civil War. The memorial is a massive tower, built in the shape of a cross and set on a pedestal, decorated with bas-reliefs depicting military figures.
In addition, the center of the square is decorated with an artificial pond with a blue bottom. Every year the landscaping and decoration works are carried out here, so the place will please you with its colorful flowerbeds and lush verdant trees. The main avenues of Santa Cruz de Tenerife start from Plaza España. There are several cozy cafes, and a small market with souvenirs is located in the immediate vicinity. There are also double-decker buses departing from the square for sightseeing tours of the city.
One of the most recognizable sights on Tenerife in Santa Cruz is the Auditorium. It is an inconceivable architectural project by engineer Santiago Calatrava, the realization of which began in 1997 and was completed in 2003. As a result the world was presented with an ingenious structure with an incredible interweaving of lines and textures. Subsequently the building was recognized as a great representative of postmodernist architecture. To grasp the grandeur of the construction, one only has to appreciate the roof, which is 100 meters long and weighs 350 tons.
The Auditorium in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is located by the coast on Constitution Avenue, and is visible from almost everywhere, even from the observation deck in San Andrés, 9 km away. Inside the unique landmark is a theater with two concert halls, an opera house and a chamber theatre. There is also a restaurant with picturesque views of the ocean coast.
The Botanical Garden is also a highlight of Tenerife’s capital city. The complex is spread over an area of 12 hectares and is primarily specialized in the maintenance and cultivation of plants of the palm family. The surprising fact is that there used to be a garbage dump on the territory of the park, which was cleared and transformed into a botanical garden only thanks to the joint efforts of numerous international organizations. Today the collection of the institution is the best in Europe.
Once you are on the territory of the complex, you realize how rich the world of palm trees is. Here you will be greeted by subtropical plants from different countries and continents – South America, Africa, Asia, etc. This is a very beautiful and well-kept garden with a lot of viewing platforms, which offer picturesque panoramas of the city and coast. Benches are placed throughout the territory, there are signs in several languages, functioning restrooms. At the ticket office you can buy a diagram of the complex, but you can also download a free guide app.
- Every day from 10:00 to 18:00 (the last entrance is at 17:00).
- Cost of visit: adult ticket – 6 €, children – 2,80 €.
- Address: Av la Constitución, 5, 38005 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
- Official website: https://palmetumtenerife.es/
10 km west of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the tiny town of San Cristobal de la Laguna, which attracts tourists primarily with its historical center. Founded in 1496 by the conquistador A. F. de Lugo, it became the first capital of Tenerife, due to which many interesting architectural structures were built on its territory. The historic center of the city retains its original appearance to this day, which, of course, attracts the attention of tourists.
This small town of Tenerife is a combination of old churches and neat parks, paved streets and ancient residential buildings. Visit the Cathedral, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the Cristo de la Laguna Royal Temple. In the center, it’s nice to take a leisurely stroll and relax in one of the squares, enjoying the view of the local fountains and sculptures. It is noteworthy that the most valuable structures here are marked with signs with their names and date of construction. In the old town you will find several cozy cafes and patisseries, as well as rows of shops.
The Canary Islands War and History Museum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is one of the highlights of Tenerife. The institution is spread on the territory of the former fort and its main exhibits are devoted to the military history of the archipelago. The main exhibition of the museum tells about the famous battle of 1797, in which the Spaniards defeated the British Admiral Nelson. Several of the gallery’s dioramas are devoted to this event, but many of them also depict other important historical episodes, such as Columbus’ passage through the Canary Islands on his way to India.
Among the valuable exhibits of the museum in Tenerife you can see military equipment, weapons, armor, uniforms, orders, swords, etc. One of the most curious items in the collection is the cannon “Tiger”: it is believed that it was used to fire the fateful shot that wounded Admiral Nelson. There are a lot of replicas of various ships in the complex. An audio guide is available (English and Spanish only).
- Opening hours: Tuesday through Friday the site is open from 09:00 to 15:00, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 14:00.
- Cost of admission: free of charge.
- Address: Calle San Isidro, 2, 38001 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.
- Official website: http://www.ejercito.mde.es/unidades/Madrid/ihycm/Museos/canarias.html
Among the religious sites of Santa Cruz on Tenerife, the Church of the Immaculate Conception has a special place. It is an important historical monument that played an important role in spreading the Catholic faith in the Canary archipelago. The building was erected in 1500, so the church is considered one of the oldest in Tenerife. The church was originally called Santa Cruz, after which, in fact, the future capital of the island was named. In the early 17th century, however, the shrine was renamed the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
From the outside, the church looks quite ordinary: the only thing that draws attention here is its bell tower. But the deceptive simplicity of the exterior decoration is replaced by luxurious elements of the Baroque interior. The main place in the church is occupied by the carved wood altar and the biblical sculptures adorning it. Inside, it is also interesting to see the organ, brought to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the middle of the 19th century from London. The church is located not far from the Plaza de España, and it is completely free to enter.
If you are interested in the natural attractions of the capital of Tenerife, then you can visit the mountain range of Anaga. This is a great place both for driving and hiking. On the way to the mountain you will have to overcome a picturesque wooded area with rare flora and fauna. There are several hiking trails to choose from, but each has numerous viewpoints that offer vivid views of the valleys, hills, and ocean.
If you plan to hike, keep in mind that even the easiest route involves an hour-long uphill climb. Be sure to prepare comfortable shoes and bring a warm sweater, as the top can be quite chilly. It’s important to keep in mind that Anaga National Park is divided into 3 protected areas, and you must get permission in advance to visit one of them (the El Pijaral trail) at https://centralreservas.tenerife.es. The other trails (Ijuana and Roques-de-Anaga) can be walked without prior approval.
To call Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain a beach resort would be a mistake. After all, the city is a port, and logically, much of the coast here is taken up by the port. And if you want to arrange a beach holiday, you will need to travel outside the capital. There are only two beaches in the vicinity of the city – Las Teresitas and Las Gaviotas.
The beach is located 9 km north-east of the city, next to the village of San Andrés. The coast is characterized by its golden sandy surface, smooth entrance to the water, absence of strong waves. At Las Teresitas you will find all the necessary infrastructure: showers, toilets, changing rooms. It is possible to rent umbrellas and sun loungers. In the immediate vicinity of the shore are various restaurants, there is free parking.
The place is located in the northeastern part of Tenerife, 14 km from the capital and 5 km from the beach of Las Teresitas. The local beach, lurking among the rocks, is above all characterized by black volcanic sand and strong waves. This is a wild beach, any kind of infrastructure is missing. Among the vacationers here are often nudists. Las Gaviotas has not a very good location, and you can get here only by car.
Where to stay
In and around Santa Cruz de Tenerife more than 80 hotels open their doors to tourists. But it is important to clarify that most of them are apartments and apartments, and 30% are different hotels (mostly two- and three-star). The city has only one hotel category 5 * – Iberostar Heritage Grand Mencey. Staying there in the summer will cost 113 € per night for two people.
Almost twice as cheap can be rented a room in a three-star hotel. The cost of a double room in such establishments starts from 60 € per night and does not exceed 90 €. Some options include free breakfast.
But you will find the best choice of accommodation in the “Apartments” category. Santa Cruz de Tenerife offers about fifty apartments of different quality and location. Prices for two-person rentals during the high season start at 37 € and range from 50-100 €.
All prices on this page are for January 2020.
Weather and climate
The months of August, September and October are considered ideal for visiting Tenerife. This is the warmest month with average temperatures of around 25°C and minimal rainfall. At this time you’ll find the ocean water is the most comfortable for swimming (23-24°C).
Holidays in this part of Tenerife is quite acceptable and in the period from May to July: during the day the air warms up to 21-25 ° C, and the water in the sea is not so cold – 21-23 ° C. But from January to March is not recommended to come here for a beach holiday. These are the coldest months, often accompanied by rain and strong gusts of wind.
- If you want to get to the main city festivities (Founder’s Day), we advise you to plan your visit to Tenerife in early May. The festivities are held on the night of May 2 to 3, when the locals set up tables in the streets, organize extravagant processions in costumes, dancing, singing, and having fun.
- If one of the main part of your holiday is shopping, then a visit to Santa Cruz de Tenerife is best scheduled for July and August. During these months, the capital of boutiques and stores arrange grand sales, when you can buy goods at a discount of 50-70%.
- If you’re short of time, a day is more or less enough to fully explore Santa Cruz de Tenerife. You can devote the morning to architectural reviews, the afternoon to the Military Museum, and the afternoon to the Botanical Gardens.
A review of Las Teresitas Beach and a walk through the Old Town:
Author: Catherine Unal
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