The district of Arrecife Centre, traditionally known by the islanders as El Puerto, runs along the privileged maritime front from where the Lanzarote capital emerged approximately five hundred years ago. It is surrounded by the neighbourhoods of Las Salinas, La Vega, Valterra and Puerto Naos, and currently hosts approximately 9,000 island, mainland and foreign neighbours in its white houses and blue waters. The neighbourhood of Arrecife has its roots in the emblematic Charco de San Ginés, a natural harbour that was seen by ancient sailors as one of the best port refuges in the Canary Islands because of the shelter its coral barriers provide. It is surrounded by the charming cottages of the fishing district of La Puntilla, whose bygone construction takes us back to the times those first travellers—who, at the beginning of the 16th century, decided to try their luck in the newly discovered Americas—began to arrive.
If we take off on a virtual trip along the promenade that starts from El Charco, we can better understand the idiosyncrasy of the capital of Lanzarote, halfway between life on the port and the always present threat posed by pirates. Looking towards the sea, the visitor can contemplate the horizon and outline of the San Gabriel Castle, whose construction dates back to 1571, on one of the islets that protect the port. Moving along we come across the castle’s indivisible companion, the cobblestoned Puente de las Bolas bridge, built two centuries later to join the castle with the mainland. In 1972 there was an addition to this set, the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum; its content teaches visitors about the different periods of this region, especially the aboriginal one.
From here the road forks into two, and it is up to the traveller to decide which path to follow. If they continue along the promenade, they will reach the charming Playa del Reducto, an urban beach protected by a reef that comes into view at low tide. In its calm waters lies the Islote de la Fermina, the work of the ubiquitous Canarian artist César Manrique, who since the 1970s has housed a paradisiacal seaside plaza comprising several pools and lagoons on the edge of the sea.
The second path leads to the commercial Calle León y Castillo—or Calle Real de Arrecife if it is crossed in its entirety—an avenue that in former times was the road connecting the town to the neighbouring Teguise, originally the island capital until in 1852 when Arrecife stole that title. Visitors must walk on both the left and right sides of this pedestrian path to really understand the evolution of the neighbourhood of Arrecife until its current, modern times. The Iglesia de San Ginés (Clermont) church, almost at the foot of the Charco, is the perfect example of typical Canarian architectural: the coexistence between Baroque elements with Mudejar details and neoclassical façades. Nearby, the very popular traditional Arrecife Market is held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Back on Calle Real, we find other examples of regional architecture which have been declared buildings of Cultural Interest over the last two decades. The Casa Amarilla building, the former headquarters of the Cabildo of Lanzarote, currently displays temporary exhibitions throughout the year; and the Casa Segarra building, a little further along, is undoubtedly the best example of 19th century Canarian eclecticism.
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Lanzarote is host to a wide range of markets, especially on weekends. Below are the ones that you must visit before leaving the island.
The Castillo de San Gabriel, a tribute to the history of Arrecife
The iconic Lanzarote fortress, in the tranquil bay of Arrecife, has been home to the Museum of the History of the City since 1972.
The best restaurants in Lanzarote
In terms of food the island offers everything from traditional establishments to cutting-edge restaurants. Discover the best restaurants in Lanzarote!