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Museum Pieces – Lanzarote´s Historic Castle Museums

Despite the fact that it is only a small island Lanzarote is home to a surprisingly large number of museums, which span all manner of subject matter from wine making through to the history of the Timple, a small string instrument much like a ukulele which is a common feature in island folklore recitals.

Two of the most popular museums on the island though are housed within the walls of historic castles, one of which is located in the current capital of Arrecife and the other in the former capital of Teguise. 

MIAC – Museum of International and Contemporary Art


Castillo San Jose, Arrecife, Lanzarote

Castillo San Jose.....home to MIAC


The Museum of International and Contemporary Art is located within the thick stone walls of the Castillo de San Jose on the outskirts of Arrecife.  The Castillo itself dates back to the 18th century and was constructed to both provide defence from pirate attacks and provide islanders with a means of feeding their families during a serious period of economic deprivation and hardship which followed after the volcanic eruptions of the 1730´s.

As a result the Castillo was referred to for centuries as the Castle of Hunger, a slightly ironic epithet given the fact that today this impressive squat fortress also houses a stylish restaurant in its basement.

For many years the Castillo de San Jose lay vacant and was restored by the islands favourite son César Manrique, opening to the public for the first time in 1976.  The Museum focuses primarily on the work of Canarian artists such as Manrique and Lasso and the atmospheric and relatively old backdrop of the castle provides a perfect juxtaposition with the unashamedly modern paintings and sculptures on display here.

The aforementioned basement restaurant is something of a work of art in its own right too, and is an ideal spot to drink in views of the nearby ferry harbour of Puerto Marmoles where cruise liners from around the world dock for a day or so whilst their passengers disembark to explore the island.  This is one of the best places to eat out in Lanzarote, focusing on modern interpretations of local and international classics served by liveried waiting staff.

The Museum is open from 11.00 to 20.00 daily and admission costs €2.50 for adults and €1.25 for kids.  The restaurant is open daily also from 13.00 to 16.00 and from 19.00 to 23.00, phone 0034 928 812321 for reservations.

The Pirate Museum – Castillo de Santa Barbara


Castillo de Santa Barbara, Teguise, Lanzarote

Explore the Pirate Museum at the Castillo de Santa Barbara


There has been a lookout point or fortress on Mount Guanapay, overlooking Teguise, since the 15th century.  As this high vantage point provided an early warning system for the townspeople living in what was then Lanzarote´s capital below as they were plagued by pirate raids throughout this period.

Indeed the Castillo de Santa Barbara was built in order to enhance defences during this tempestuous period, which even included a Berber raid in 1600 which left many locals dying in pools of blood.

Fitting indeed then that this impressive edifice should now be home to Lanzarote´s Pirate Museum, an exhibition space devoted to documenting these traumatic times.  With lots of displays and old maps on show, making it a real favourite with kids.

Legend has it that there is also a tunnel connecting the Castillo with the town of Teguise some 300m below, as this was used by locals as a hiding place during raids.  The Pirate Museum is open from 10.00 to 15.00 Sunday to Monday (closed Saturday) and admission costs €3 for adults and is free for kids under 12 years of age.

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