Santa Cruz de Tenerife and San Cristóbal de La Laguna together form the Island's most densely populated area. More than 400,000 people live and work in these two cities, where the pace and lifestyle are very much European, but the essence is quite unique, with a strong link to the South American continent with which the Canarians feel such an emotional bond
It is hard to tell where Santa Cruz, the capital, ends and the university and ecclesiastical city of La Laguna begins. And yet there are very distinct features that set them apart, which the locals are particularly proud of.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a port city. As such, it was founded and grew up around its port, which today is a huge hub for tourist cruise lines. A stroll from the outskirts leads us into the historic and commercial centre. There are a great many squares, pedestrianised areas and enticing outdoor terraces where you can have lunch or dinner. But above all, there are all kinds of shops, from major international brands to the famous Indian-run establishments selling the very latest in electronic gadgets. The specific VAT-free tax system on the Canary Islands means you will find fantastic deals on all sorts of products.
Not far from the shopping area is the neighbourhood of La Concepción, which owes its name to its beautiful temple and gives you yet another taste of Santa Cruz's oldest, most traditional side. From here, a small bridge will take you to the Museum of Nature and Mankind. Among its many exhibitions, the museum provides you with some fascinating insight into the Guanche culture and their mummies. The Guanche people were the Island's ancient inhabitants until it was finally conquered by the Europeans.
From the neighbourhood of La Concepción, we encourage you to follow the coastline until you come to the striking view of Tenerife's Auditorium, a very impressive building designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. But what we truly recommend is that you book in to see one of its exceptional musical shows. Beside the Auditorium is César Manrique's Maritime Park, with its unique salt-water pools and all kinds of amenities. Another stop that comes highly recommended is the city's popular marketplace, named Nuestra Señora de África in honour of its African colonial air.
A taste of history.
In San Cristóbal de La Laguna's historic quarter, just 9 km (5.6 miles) from the Santa Cruz harbour on the motorway, the traditional spirit of Tenerife lives on to this day. It was the Island's first capital city and is listed among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. This title ensures the protection of its original urban layout, with its harmonious radial arrangement which would later become the model for designing many of the cities that were founded in America by Spanish colonisers.
The rich historic heritage of La Laguna is concentrated in a relatively small urban area comprised of religious buildings, old palaces and beautiful mansions. You will find a tour around the Plaza del Adelantado peaceful but fascinating, as it houses the former Nava Palace, the Santa Catalina de Siena convent, the San Miguel chapel, the city hall and the marketplace.
You can continue exploring around the Cathedral, the Leal theatre or the La Concepción church, whose tower is one of the city's icons. Other sites of interest include the former Cabrera Pinto Canary Islands Institute, home to the finest Renaissance cloister in the Canary Islands, the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores hospital, the Casa Salazar, which houses the Episcopal palace, and the Casa Lercaro, containing the Tenerife History Museum. If you are keen not to miss any of this rich heritage, there are guided tours organised by San Cristóbal de La Laguna city council.
A little further from the city centre you will find the Science and Cosmos Museum, belonging to the prestigious Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics, which makes for a very entertaining experience, particularly for the little ones. The municipality of La Laguna also encompasses the tourist areas of Bajamar and Punta del Hidalgo, located on the north coast. If you plan on going there, make sure you take your swimming gear to have a dip in their fabulous natural pools, followed by a stroll along the promenade and a delicious meal at one of their many restaurants.