Arrecife is located on Lanzarote’s eastern coast. It is accessible from most parts of the island by public transport.
Arrecife is the Spanish word for a reef. This refers to a number of volcanic rock formations that lie just out to sea and which now form part of the harbour.
The capital of Lanzarote is only small and the main places of interest are easy to explore on foot. Most of these are located close to the seafront, which makes for a pleasant walk, along the Mediterranean style promenade. Arrecife is home to just over 50,000 people, about half of the Island’s population.
The city has a golden, sandy beach with warm, tranquil water which is perfect for swimming. The town is a jumble of architectural styles and buildings, busy shopping streets and a wide variety of restaurants. It also has a couple of castles, an art gallery, a saltwater lagoon, parks, nightlife, several artworks by Cesar Manrique as well as the usual urban bustle.
Boutiques and shops selling designer labels and bargains line the busy shopping areas. Many people visit Arrecife for its shopping. If you plan on making a shopping trip note that many of the shops close for siesta between 1:00 pm and 5.00 pm.
Originally back in the 15th Century, Arrecife was a small fishing village. The village grew in size and in 1852 Teguise reluctantly passed the role of capital over to Arrecife.
Historically Arrecife was the main port and gateway to the island because of its closeness to the old capital Teguise. It also has a natural deep-water harbour at Los Marmoles. Today this is home to the city’s container and ferry ports as well as the largest fishing fleet in the Canaries.
In the past, the port was subject to numerous raids by pirates. The two castles which stand guard over the harbour are reminders of this part of Arrecife’s history. The Castillo San Gabriel dates from 1590 and is now home to a museum dedicated to the history of Arrecife. Close to the Puerto Marmoles is the other castle, the Castillo San Jose, which is now a restaurant and art gallery.
The famous artist and architect Cesar Manrique helped develop much of Lanzarote with the exception of Arrecife. Much of the city was developed before his time. As a result, Arrecife is the only place on the island where you’ll find buildings over the height of a palm tree.
Arrecife’s Waterfront Walk
This is an easy walk, most of it by the coast, which takes in different aspects of the capital including shopping, history, architecture and culture.
The car park at the end of Av. Fred Olsen is a good starting point, it has plenty of room and is reasonably priced. Alternatively, there are plenty of buses which stop at the Playa del Reducto which is close by.
Parque Tematico to Avenida La Marina
Leave the car park via the Paseo de los Cactus, the seafront promenade, and head towards Arrecife. On the left-hand side is the Parque Tematico. This large area has a skate park, children’s play area, exercise equipment, gardens and a number of sculptures. The large boat sculpture is particularly impressive.
Walk around the Playa del Reducto. This is a man made beach, sheltered by a reef just offshore.
The Gran Hotel at the far end of the beach is impossible to miss as it’s the only tall building on the seafront. This was built despite opposition from people such as Cesar Manrique. The five-star hotel is set in landscaped gardens and it’s possible to take the lift to the 17th floor where there is a restaurant and bar. This is a great place to admire the views of the city.
Pass the hotel and walk through the Parque Islas Canarias which sits between the Gran Hotel and the Casino Club Nautico. This open space has planted areas, sculptures, wooden decking and stone steps which go down to the sea. The building on the reef out at sea is the open air swimming pool.
Pass the Club Nautico and enter the Avenida La Marina. The Parque Municipal stretches along the street and is home to a number of sculptures and tropical plants. You’ll find lots of different architectural styles along the street as well as a restored bandstand. Opposite the bandstand is 19th Century Casa del la Cultura Agustin de la Hoz. This was Arrecife’s town hall until the 1980s and is now an exhibition space. There are cafe’s at either end of the park, shady seating areas and a children’s play area.
Castillo de San Gabriel
Just offshore at the end of the Avenida La Marina is the tiny island of Islote de los Ingleses. This is where the Castillo de San Gabriel is located. Two causeways, one for pedestrians and one for vehicles, link the island to the mainland. There is a small beach Playa del Castillo which offers views of the seafront you have just walked along.
The Castillo was originally built of wood, however, Berber pirates set it alight and it was destroyed. The current stone building replaced this in the 16th Century. The castle played a vital role in the protection of the harbour and town. In 1972 it was declared a national monument and it is now home to a small history museum.
Return back over the causeway, cross the Avenida La Marina and enter the pedestrianised street, Calle de Leon y Castillo.
Arrecife – Picture Gallery
Calle de Leon y Castillo, Charco de San Gines and Marina
The Calle de Leon y Castillo is the main shopping street in Arrecife and it has a mixture of architectural styles. It is full of boutiques, parfumiers, show shops, jewellers and a number of international brands. Some of the shops have beautiful old interiors. Once you reach the Centro Comercial Atlantida and you’ve had enough shopping, turn right to find the Charco de San Gines or just El Charco (the puddle).
This is a large natural harbour full of small boats. Many of the small traditional fisherman’s houses that surround the harbour have been renovated. In addition, a number of cafes and restaurants line the harbour and it’s been planted out with trees. This picturesque place is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon or evening.
Walk around in a clockwise direction and at the end of the harbour turn right and almost immediately left towards the promenade which crosses the main harbour towards the marina.
Lanzarote’s marina has lots of yachts moored as well as shops, bars and restaurants. The opposite side of the harbour is mooring for the commercial fishing fleet if it is in port. Walk to the end of the marina and you can see across to the deepwater port of Peurto los Marmoles. This is where the cargo and cruise ships dock. Over on the other side of the harbour is the 18th Century Castillo de San Jose. This was restored by Cesar Manrique and is now home to a collection of modern art and a restaurant.
Hopefully you have enjoyed your walk. This is a linear walk and so the same route in reverse will take you back to where you parked your car.
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