With around 200,000 inhabitants, there is only half has as many people living in the capital of Tenerife than in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The city may only be half the size, but in no way it is less charming or even impressive. Santa Cruz is located in a really fascinating environment, at the foothills of the rugged cliffs of the Anaga Mountains and at the border of a long bay that forms the gateway to the Atlantic.
In contrast to Las Palmas, where the big city character clearly prevails, the flair of Santa Cruz is rather relaxingly unhurried. You can easily explore the entire city center on foot. Depending on what time you come and the shops, for example, have their siesta or – as on Sundays – are completely closed, you will find the otherwise lively shopping streets almost empty. Why is this city in the south so special? Find the 10 most important sights of Santa Cruz de Tenerife here.
1. The Tenerife Auditorium – Auditorio de Tenerife
The architecturally extraordinary auditorium looks like a frozen white wave and stands out from the rest of the city’s facades. The resemblance to the opera in Sydney is obvious and probably intended. It was designed by the internationally renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and has world-class acoustics. Multilingual guided tours (reserve in advance on the website!) allow you a glimpse behind the scenes of this remarkable building. If you don’t have time for a tour or performance, you should at least have a drink in the café in the main entrance area.
2. The Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The port of the capital of Tenerife has several superlatives to offer. Its three moles reach a total length of 3.7 kilometers. Up to 100,000 cruise ship passengers from huge ships land here every month. And in 2016 the Puerto de Santa Cruz was nominated by the Seatrade Cruise Med for the title of the three most important passenger ports in the world. Due to the close proximity of the passenger port to the city center, the port is the ideal starting point for day visitors of cruises or from other Canary Islands who come here with by ferry. In addition, many shipping companies consider this port to be an important hub that connects the world’s most important ports for goods traffic. For this reason, it is headed for by cargo, container and tanker ships from almost 280 different international ports. In addition to passenger and goods traffic, the port is also home to the local fishing fleet and offers numerous mooring possibilities to yachts and other private boats in its marina.
3. The Palmetum – Botanical Garden
This 12 hectare botanical garden was created in 2013 on a former landfill and now has the largest collection of palm trees in Europe. Palm trees were brought in from all over the world. There are even more sensitive species like the Yucatan climbing palms. Detailed information boards help visitors identify the trees and show them the peculiarities and origins of each palm tree. The park is a quiet place to have a stroll and invites you to linger with benches from which you can enjoy the sea view unhindered. The area is centrally located and laid out in an octagon. In the shady park there are waterfalls that flow down from volcanic rocks.
4. Plaza de España
The fortress Castillo San Cristóbal, which was formerly built to defend the city against pirates and other armed forces, was located on today’s Plaza de España (Square of Spain) up to the end of the 1920s. Unfortunately, it then had to move when no longer needed to serve this purpose, although it still was completely intact, as it blocked the city’s access to the port. Today there is an outdoor recreation room here that sums up the nature of the Canary Islands: water, plants, tropical trees and black lava rock. Its central component is the “Lago”, an artificial, circular salt water lake with a diameter of almost 80 meters and a huge fountain in the middle which sometimes shoots up water. At the southern end of the park there is the Monumento de los Caidos, a monument about 25 meters high, built in honor of the people who died in the civil war.
5. The Water Park „Parque Maritimo César Marique“
You will find this sea water outdoor pool in the Los Llanos district next to Castillo San Juan. The famous artist and architect César Manrique designed this park, but was unfortunately not able to witness its opening. The volcanic nature of the Canary Islands and their flora are reflected everywhere in this beautiful complex. There are several planted islands in the swimming pools and you will encounter volcanic rocks and rippling waterfalls everywhere. On this 22,000 square meters you will find both: fun and action as well as rest and relaxation.
6. Parque García Sanabria
The impressive park in the northern part of Santa Cruz center is also known as the green lung of the city due to the partly jungle-like vegetation. The breathtaking atmosphere of this uniquely beautiful park is created by its very different landscapes. As a visitor, you have the feeling of walking from one world to another. You walk from a dense stock of typical Canarian deciduous trees and palm trees, via a bamboo or cassowary path, to a cactus or rose garden and finally stroll along a lotus flower pond with goldfish.
7. Castillo de San Juan Bautista
This fortress was built in the middle of the 16th century and also used to be called the Black Fortress (Castillo Negro) due to the dark color of the volcanic rock. The massive, circular structure has a diameter of 30 meters and a wall thickness of 2.5 meters. In 1948, a military museum was initially established here. Unfortunately, the Castillo has been closed to the public since 1982, but it still offers the visitors of the city a unique photo opportunity.
8. Mercado Municipal Nuestra Señora África
The building is located near the Plaza de España and when viewed from above it resembles a triangle. The building, which was built in the 1940s in a neoclassical colonial style, is now a mixture of department store and market hall. When you have passed through the archway, you will find yourself in its central courtyard, from which two other smaller courtyards lead off to the left and right. There is a lot going on here every day. In its shops and stalls you will find everything related to Canarian life. Hand-painted wooden utensils, homemade chocolate, fruit, vegetables, spices, lots of handicrafts and of course all sorts of souvenirs. There is a fish market in the basement where you can get the local fishermen’s yield literally just gotten out of the sea. In addition to the Mercado, there is also a flea market every day.
9. Tenerife Espacio de las Arte (TEA) – Art Gallery
The art and culture center presents itself in an exceptional architectural style and is therefore worth a visit in itself. The building was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The building, which appears very heavy and massive from the outside due to its concrete walls and mirrored windows, will surprise you. Inside, there are large rooms flooded with light. On three levels and more than 20,000 square meters of activity space awaits you. Among others there is a permanent exhibition by the Spanish surrealist Oscar Dominguez and many temporary projects and exhibits by international artists. In addition to paintings, sculptures, installations and film projects, photo lovers will also be thrilled here, because a large area of the TEA is dedicated to this art.
10. Shopping in Calle Castillo
The pedestrian area of the city center is located around Calle Castillo. It is best to start from the lower area, the Plaza de la Candelaria. Shopping lovers and obsessed will absolutely love it here. In addition to the usual fashion chains, there are also smaller shops where you can find all kinds of souvenirs. Even shopping haters don’t have to grieve here. In addition to bars, cafes and restaurants where you can have a cool drink under the Canary sun, there are also hairdressers and tattoo studios where you can work on your appearance.