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Exploring Arrecife – Lanzarote´s Cool Capital

Arrecife is the only city on the island of Lanzarote and is currently home to around 45,000 inhabitants – equivalent to about 30% of the total population.  It was awarded the mantle in 1852, assuming the role from Teguise in the interior of the island, a switch that reflected Arrecife´s growing importance as a maritime trading port and economic hub.  A role that is still strongly in evidence today in and around areas such as Porto Naos, home to what is left of Lanzarote´s fishing fleet and Puerto Marmoles – the main ferry and container port.


Castillo San Jose, Arrecife

Castillo San Jose, Arrecife


El Charco – The Capital´s Historic Heart

The historic heart of Arrecife is located in and around the El Charco area, which is an inland lagoon in the heart of the city known locally as The Puddle.  The church of San Gines is located here as are a few blocks of older more historic buildings – as well as the La Recova market – but the bulk of the architecture in the city is drawn straight from the Spanish brutalist school of the 1940´s and 50´s – so don’t expect to stumble across too many gems.

That being said though Arrecife is still home to two historic castles – both of which now house museums and are located right on the waterfront, where they formerly stood guard against pirate attacks and raids. 

Castles and Pirates

The Castillo de San Jose was built during the 18th century and was once known locally as The Fortress of Hunger, as it was partly created as a public works scheme to alleviate chronic poverty on the island at that time.  Today it is home to Lanzarote´s Museum of International and Contemporary Art, where visitors can view a small but interesting selection of works from leading Canarian artists, including the ubiquitous César Manrique.

Whilst the Castillo San Gabriel is a much older fortification, dating from the 16th century and located at the foot of the main shopping thoroughfare Calle Castillo Y Leon (also known locally as Calle Real).  For many years San Gabriel housed an exhibition of Guanche artefacts but a recent facelift has transformed the space into a museum that explores the cultural and social history of Arrecife.

Arrecife Gran Hotel – A Tall Story


Arrecife Gran Hotel, Arrecife

Arrecife Gran Hotel, Arrecife


Lanzarote’s other main landmark, perhaps rather strangely, is a hotel.  However this is not just any old establishment but the only high rise building on the island and one with quite a story attached.  As before it was built César Manrique had helped to force through a law prohibiting the construction of edifices taller than a Canarian Palm tree in a bid to stave off over development. 

Somehow however this 17 storey monster slipped through the net – and once constructed was deemed too big to demolish.  So after years of lying vacant behind corrugated iron hoardings the island government gave the go ahead for it to be transformed into a hotel and today this is the home of the Arrecife Gran, one of just six 5 star hotels on the island.

Playa del Reducto – Urban Beach

The Arrecife Gran is located right next to the city centre beach of Playa del Reducto – a beautiful palm fringed playa that is wildly popular with local city residents.  And just beyond the beach lies a park and the start of the coastal promenade that now runs all the way along the south eastern shoreline to Puerto del Carmen.

Getting Around

There are regular bus services into the capital from all of the main resorts on the island and the service is cheap and reliable.  Driving in the capital can be a bit daunting for tourists as there are lots of one way systems and few parking spaces.  So if you are planning to take the hire car the easiest thing to do is to head for the Arrecife Gran Hotel, which is easy to find and which also offers an underground car park that is open to the public (hourly fees apply).

Places To Stay

The closest tourist resort to Arrecife is Costa Teguise, which is just a ten minute drive to the capital, where we offer villas for rent such as the Beach House from as little as £668 per week.

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