Far away from the slick beach resorts of southern Spain, the splendid city of Santa Cruz retains its links to Spanish culture with a pride so fierce it burns almost as brightly as the sun. There is a reason this fantastic place is capital of Tenerife, and joint-capital of the Canary Islands themselves. Its charms are undeniable, and its offerings – whether historical or nightlife – are simply entrancing.
Venture along its gorgeous streets and you’ll encounter a fusion of old and new that is so charming you won’t ever want to leave. But if this gratuitously complementary introduction isn’t enough to have you booking a flight to Tenerife, we’ve prepared some other more specific reasons below.
The extraordinary history that lies within Santa Cruz is reason enough to visit on its own. This is where Spanish conquistador Alonso Fernandez de Lugo first landed in 1494, armed with nothing but a sword, his wits and a fully fledged invasion force. Upon setting foot on Tenerife, he erected a wooden cross on the future site of the city, establishing its beginnings and giving it a name (Santa Cruz means Holy Cross).
There are many opportunities to experience this heritage while you’re on the island – from the museums and historic venues that offer an insight into the origins of the metropolis to walking tours that visit key locations in the island’s past. Visit the Plaza de Espana, centre of Santa Cruz and home to the majority of its oldest buildings.
Spanish culture is thriving in Santa Cruz, with a plethora of art galleries, traditional restaurants and cafes that are perfect for sampling the Mediterranean way of life. Starting with the artistic venues, the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes (or Municipal Art Gallery) is a particular highlight, housing exhibits that date back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It has an extensive permanent collection and often displays temporary exhibitions that are equally as fascinating and comprehensive.
While it is undoubtedly the most prominent attraction of its kind, there are several smaller competitors to the Municipal Art Gallery such as the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes that offer an equally good experience. Featuring a collection that boasts surrealist artist Oscar Dominguez – often compared to Dali and Picasso – it’s a great spot for the arts enthusiast to grab some quiet time amid great artistic beauties.
It’s not all about being historical and cultured in Santa Cruz though – this is a city that knows full well how to let its hair down and enjoy itself. Tenerife’s Carnival is known as the second largest in the world, beaten only by Rio de Janeiro. For this, residents and tourists alike take to the streets and enjoy the parade, excellent food and great music. Bright colours, great tunes and celebrations aplenty.
Even if you’re not lucky enough to be in Santa Cruz for this special time, there is a fantastic nightlife to take advantage of, allowing you to experience that extraordinary Spanish attitude to life that makes the city feel so alive.
Hasta pronto, Santa Cruz. See you soon.