Traditional and contemporary Canarian culture in Tenerife

November 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Tenerife has much to offer its visitors in terms of traditional and contemporary Canarian culture that can be found throughout the island from its sophisticated capital, Santa Cruz, to the unspoilt towns of Garachico and San Cristóbal De La Laguna. From art galleries to historical buildings, museums to UNESCO World Heritage sites, the island’s history and culture is best uncovered by hiring a car and exploring at leisure the many towns and villages that show another side to this popular holiday isle. The following are some of the highlights that shouldn’t be missed:

Religious Procession

Religious Procession

Santa Cruz de Tenerife – The charming capital of the island is one of its best kept secrets and is a sophisticated and lively town. The historic quarter is located in the area of the city closest to the sea next to its important commercial port. Here, among the pedestrian streets lined with shops, restaurants and other establishments are various buildings, which show the historical origins of the city. One example is the church ‘Iglesia de la Concepcion’ first built in 1500, and rebuilt in 1653. The church was the centre of the original town of Santa Cruz, which until 1859 was just the port for the nearby town of La Laguna. Nowadays, close to the church is the street called ‘La Noria’. It has a great nightlife with its traditional houses converted into bars and ‘tascas’. The church Iglesia de San Francisco, squares such as the Plaza Príncipe de Asturias and the Plaza de La Candelaria or the municipal market Nuestra Señora de África are just some of the essential stops on your route round this area where the old and the new intermingle.

A connection between the monumental old quarter and the contemporary side of the city is TEA, Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Tenerife Arts Space). TEA opened its doors in October 2008 and is primarily used as a cultural meeting point where exhibitions, photography and works of art are displayed. The geometrical construction was designed by Swiss architects, Herzog and Meuron (who have worked on projects such as the Tate Modern in London) along with Spanish architect, Virgilio Gutierrez.

The main museums in Santa Cruz are Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) that contains fourteen exhibition rooms, with works dating from the 16th to the 20th century and the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (Museum of Man and Nature) that gives an insight into the natural resources of the Canary Islands and the pre-Hispanic ‘guanches’ that once lived on the islands.

In addition to the historical treasures are several avant-garde and contemporary constructions that have converted Santa Cruz into a modern and stylish city break.One example is the Auditorio de Tenerife, an Opera House built in 2003 and designed by the world-known architect, Santiago Calatrava. The shining sculpture, just by the sea, features a colossal overhanging wing and is entirely covered in trencadis, a mosaic of tiny ceramic fragments.

Just nine kilometres from Santa Cruz is San Cristóbal de La Laguna, a wonderfully preserved UNESCO World Heritage site that once used to be the capital of Tenerife. It is a great location to see fine examples of Canarian architecture and to savour local cuisine and varied wines. There are also many art galleries to potter around, as well as good shopping in the designer boutiques and traditional shops, some of the oldest on the island. The Teatro Leal, built in 1915 was refurbished and opened in October 2008, after being closed for a sum of 18 years. With over 600 seats, the renewed theatre has been carefully decorated with murals and oil paintings of beautiful landscapes, nymphs and ancient Greek scenes. A significantly large, hand-picked piano is one of the one of the most important acquisitions in the theatre. The interior also features velvet hand-made seating as well as an elegant Paris- style café.

Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava and Los Realejos form a small cultural triangle in the north where visitors can see the best examples of Canarian-style balconies and patios:

Puerto de la Cruz – the historic quarter of the district of Puerto de la Cruz combines a long history with a nautical flavour, as up to the 18th century it was the port of the town of La Orotava. It is now a lively tourist resort and has been since the 19thcentury, when it was one of the pioneering tourist resorts in Spain and Europe. From the central Plaza del Charco, the pedestrian streets lead passers-by to buildings of great historical value, such as the Chapel of San Telmo, the Casa Miranda, the old Hotel Marquesa, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia and the Casa de la Aduana. Next to the harbour is the equally charming fishing neighbourhood of La Ranilla. A little further away are the Botanical Gardens founded in the 17th century to acclimatise plant species brought from South America, Africa and Asia.

La Orotava – Nine kilometres from Puerto De La Cruz, the town of La Orotava retains a perfectly defined historic centre that is packed with many interesting buildings, including the Ermita del Calvario hermitage, the church of San Agustín, Constitución Square, the street Carrera del Escultor Estévez, the church of Santo Domingo and the former convent of San Benito Abad.

Los Realejos – has a great farming culture and many traditions remain, being the most festive municipality in Spain, with over 70 different festivals. Locals and visitors often head to the volcanic- sand coves and beaches such as La Fajana – great for a quiet dip in the sea – and El Socorro beach for surfers. Surrounding protected areas are frequented for walking or paragliding. The first Christian church in Tenerife is located in the historical quarter of the town, where many works of art from the 15th and 16th century are still present.

Garachico – the idyllic and sleepy town and port of Garachico was founded in 1496 and has plenty of evidence left of its brilliant past with stately homes, convents and churches that are all architecturally important in their own right. Garachico, declared a site of cultural interest in the Historic Group category, has the following buildings of great interest dotted around beautiful cobbled streets: Ermita de San Roque hermitage, former convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, El Lamero hacienda, houses of the Marquis of Quinta Roja, Casa de Piedra stately home, Antigua Puerta de Tierra park, Matriz de Santa Ana church and San Miguel Castle.

Candelaria – located on the east of the island, just south of Santa Cruz, is Candelaria, a developing town on the coast. The Basilica de la ‘Virgen de Candelaria’ is the most important construction where locals head to every summer to celebrate the most important religious festivities in the area. A contrast of green mountains and dark sand beaches best describe this town known for its delicious seafood dishes.

Adeje – the main town of the Costa Adeje district, where the resorts of Playa de Fañabe and Playa del Duque are located, has preserved its historic quarter well and visitors will find traces of its long history throughout. The town was the residence of the last of the great Guanche kings of Tenerife, and after the Spanish conquest, was influenced by the colonial style of architecture that can be seen in its stately homes and catholic churches. Among the many religious buildings, the most outstanding are the church of Santa Ursula and the Convent de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, as well as the church of San Pablo, which contains an interesting museum of religious art, with pieces dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Important historical civil buildings include the ‘Casa Fuerte’, next to which is an old 16th century fort, from where the footpath that leads to the nature area ‘Barranco del Infierno’ (Hell Ravine), one of the most popular excursions on the Island.

Arona – the historic quarter of the southern district of Arona spreads out around the church of San Antonio Abad, dating back from the end of the 18th century, though the original chapel is from the century before. Inside the church the most venerated statue is the one of Cristo de la Salud, a work from the well-known Canarian school. The old aristocratic houses in the typical local architectural style and the cobbled streets still have their old-world charm.

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