Arrecife, Capital of Lanzarote
The History of Arrecife
Arrecife or Rocky Reef in translation - got its name over 400 years ago, inspired from the reefs existing at the mouth of the lagoon at the time. It was nothing more than a fishing village that flourished and shaped around the banks of El Charco de Ginés. It became the capital of Lanzarote in the 19th century, replacing the old capital - Teguise, as its deep water harbour Los Marmoles was becoming a more popular spot for ships and containers.
As most of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote’s capital was attacked by pirates, seeking riches and slaves, on a regular basis throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The footprint of their raids is imprinted in history and specifically in the two imposing castles that safeguard the Los Marmoles dock.
Castillo de San José
Finalised in 1779, Castillo de San José is situated on a cliff above Puerto Naos and served as a fortress for many years. On one side it faces the ocean, while the other is protected by two bartizans and a ditch traversed by a drawbridge. In its time, it was known as Fortaleza del hambre (Fortress of Hunger), as famine was an ever-present danger on the island which was constantly struck by volcanic eruptions. It is currently the home of the Contemporary Art Museum, open to the public daily from 10AM to 9PM, free of charge.
Castillo de San Gabriel
Castillo de San Gabriel lies on the Islote de los Ingleses (Island of the English), part of the municipality of Arrecife. Although originally a wooden fortress, the castle was rebuilt in the 16th century from volcanic stone and is now an ethnographic museum, as well as a National Historic Monument. The castle can be visited Tuesday to Friday from 10AM to 1PM and 4PM to 7PM. It’s also open on Saturdays from 10AM to 1PM. There is an entrance fee.
The Church of San Ginés
The church of San Ginés is a popular tourist spot and the largest Catholic church in Arrecife. Dedicated to the patron saint, who lived there as an eremite, the church was (re)built in the early 19th century. It is also one of the reasons the population of Arrecife rose to around 5000 in the 1800s.
El Charco de San Ginés
Another interesting place to visit is the man-made tidal lake, known as El Charco de San Ginés. El Charco translates to ‘the puddle’ and it can be found between Puerto Naos and Calle Real. Going for a walk around its shores is a great way to relax and enjoy the views. There are also restaurants and bars surrounding the lake.
Beaches in Arrecife
Arrecife is home to one of the few “inner city” beaches – Playa del Reducto – a beautiful half-kilometre beach with golden sand and clean, serene water. It is very easily accessible, being centrally situated and it’s very proudly waving the European ‘Blue Flag’ for outstanding amenities, good swimming and cleanliness. Said by most to be the best beach in Lanzarote, El Reducto is definitely the perfect family place as it is well served by restaurants, hotels, refreshment stands, restrooms and showers, changing areas and phones.
A more ‘wild’ beach can be found 2 kilometres away – Playa del Cable – and as it is currently unmanaged and not serviced, this natural beach is less popular and more prone to pollution. The waves here are moderate, the wind can get quite strong, but the golden sand is omnipresent. There is also a charming promenade linking the two beaches.
La Concha is a 250m long semi urban beach with fine white sand, found in Arrecife as well. Although not as popular as El Reducto, this beach has plenty of facilities too (guaguas, restaurants, parking, boardwalk) and calm waters.
If you want to do some shopping while on holiday, then we recommend Calle Real or Calle Leon Y Castillo – the key shopping street in Arrecife. Closed to traffic, this pedestrian street is full of shops for all tastes and budgets.
There are plenty of high-street shops such as Zara, Jack & Jones, Vera Moda, Mothercare, Animal, Benetton, boutique shops, designer sunglasses shops, shoe shops, Casa- a great home and gift store, jewelry boutiques and sport accessory shops.
You will also find an abundance of cafes, bookstores, hair salons and banks (including Barclays) on Spinola Boulevard.
Activities in Arrecife
If sunbathing or long walks across Arrecife’s promenade is not what floats your boat, then there’s plenty other activities to keep you on your toes.
Surfing is one of those activities. Although you won’t be surfing in Arrecife as the waves are not feisty enough, the Kaboti Surf School will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to the surf spots.
There is also a skate park near El Reducto and many play areas for children all across Arrecife.
Private tours and excursions can be organised as well through local excursion centres. Go on camel tours, mountain tracking, bike-riding, fishing, visit volcanos, caves, markets or go jet skiing – the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!
Nightlife is said to be various and interesting, mirroring the cultural diversity of the city. Among the most recommended clubs/ bars are Cerveceria Heinek or Agora Club, but there’s plenty of places to chose from. Likewise, the restaurants are varied too – from traditional Spanish dishes to Japanese restaurants, Tapas bars or pizzerias, it’s just a matter of preference, as there is a wide selection available.