The capital city of Santa Cruz is one of Tenerife’s best kept secrets; a bustling, vibrant port city set at the foot of the stunning Anaga Mountains. With its roots steeped in history and its outlook resolutely on the 21st Century, this is a city that has everything for the discerning traveller.
Santa Cruz offers beach, plazas, parks, museums, shopping, theatre, art, fine dining and a lively Tenerife nightlife. It’s large enough to provide an endless variety of things to do and see, yet compact enough to explore on foot and by tram and with all year sunshine and a balmy average annual temperature of 22° Celsius in the shade, Santa Cruz offers the perfect combination of city and sub-tropical island.
Santa Cruz as a Cruise destination – with over 4 million cruise passengers a year, Santa Cruz, Tenerife is rapidly becoming one of the world’s favourite stopovers for ocean liners. The city centre is a perfect size to explore in a day; get in some tax free shopping, discover a taste of Tenerife’s history and culture and round off your excursion with some traditional Tenerife dining.
Day excursions to Santa Cruz – Wherever you’re staying on Tenerife, Santa Cruz is easily accessible by car, or by bus and provides a complete contrast to your resort. Add another dimension to your holiday by spending a day in the city to discover some of the true culture of Tenerife and stock up on some bargains before you head home.
Taxis: from Tenerife North Airport (TFN) take approx. 10 minutes and cost €15 ; from Tenerife South Airport (TFS) take approx. 50 minutes and cost €65 - €80 depending on time of day/night.
Buses: from Puerto de la Cruz (102,103) run every 30 minutes and take 40 – 55 minutes; from Playa de las Américas (110, 111) run every 30 minutes and take 70 – 90 minutes; from Tenerife South Airport (341) runs every hour and takes 50 minutes; from Tenerife North Airport (102,107,108) runs every 30 minutes and takes 15 minutes. www.titsa.com
Getting around the City
Trams run quietly and efficiently throughout the city enabling easy access to all the main areas of interest. Buy your ticket at any tram stop and simply ‘punch’ it once you board. Single journeys of any length are a standard rate (€1.25) and you can purchase multiple journeys for even greater economy. Visit their website at www.tranviatenerife.com for routes and fares.
Military Museum: Packed to the gunwales with military artefacts and history including a scale model of Nelson’s failed attempt to storm the city in 1797 in which he lost his right arm. Just to rub salt into Nelson’s wound, the museum also houses the Tigre; the cannon that took the offending arm. Guns, models, uniforms, photographs, flags, medals, maps and ships; a fascinating treasure trove set in a working barracks.
(0034) 922 843 500; Calle San Isidro (on the small hill behind the fountain of ‘The Angel of Victory’); open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 2pm, closed Sunday & Monday; entrance free; passport required.
The Guimerá Theatre: An iconic theatre mask sculpture signals the site of one of Spain’s most beautiful theatres. Opened in 1851 to provide a suitable venue for some of the world’s greatest theatre and opera companies who would call into Santa Cruz en route to touring Central and South America, it now stages musicals, opera and plays.
Sculpture Trail – A legacy from the International Street Sculpture Exhibition of 1974, Santa Cruz is home to sculptures by artists such as Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Martin Chirino and Oscar Dominguez. Many of the works of art are along Rambla General Franco, the arterial walkway that runs the length of the city; Parque García Sanabria, the ‘lungs’ of the city and around Plaza de Toros (the Bull Ring).
Tours in English are available by arrangement with the Tourist Office
Municipal Museum of Fine Arts (Belles Artes) – has a permanent exhibition of paintings and sculptures from its own collections, with many Flemish and Canarian works of art, from 17th century to contemporary. Ground floor used for temporary exhibitions, again covering everything from Renaissance to Avant Garde.
Galería Leyendecker – on Las Ramblas exhibits in the coolest of contemporary surroundings and has a penchant for photographic images including Jeremy Blake and David LaChapelle.
The Auditorium – this magnificent icon of the city was designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2003. It’s home to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and stages a full and varied programme of music as diverse as The Chemical Brothers, Diana Krall, Van Morrison and Bebel Gilberto. www.auditoriodetenerife.com
Iglesia de la Concepción – the landmark grey and white six tier tower and belfry of the Concepción make it easy to locate. A church has been on this site since 1502 and marks the spot where a cross was placed in the ground by the conquering Spanish army in 1496 (and is still housed in the church today), thus giving the city its name, which means Holy Cross.
Iglesia de San Francisco – is one of the city’s most beautiful churches; 17th century Baroque.
African Market – very distinctive pink(ish) building with a statue of a woman with a basket on her head. Here you’ll find the very freshest and best fruit, vegetables, flowers, meat, dairy produce, herbs & spices. On Sunday mornings a huge rastro (market) takes place outside.
Calle Castillo – the city’s main commercial, pedestrianised shopping street which is crossed by other, smaller streets filled with shops too. Keep your purse occupied with this great selection of outlets selling clothes, jewellery, shoes, designer labels and high street names.
CC Meridiano – on the outskirts of the city near the CEPSA oil refinery, seven storeys of retail outlets to keep even the most hardened of shopaholics out of therapy for a while. Head to the top floor for fashion.
El Corte Inglés – by the bus station. Tenerife’s answer to Selfridges, they’ve used George Clooney, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron as the ‘face’ of El Corte Inglés in recent years; none of them English, but you get the ‘stylish, good looking, sophisticated’ message of how they see themselves.
Bars - If you’ve chosen to eat in the Noria District then you’re already in the city’s newest and coolest night zone. Start with a couple of liveners in the traditional lounge bar of JC Murphy’s where the blasting out rock, jazz or soul will set you up nicely and then head along towards the viaduct, sampling as many of the bars as you can find a seat in. On a Saturday or Sunday night when this area’s teeming with Santa Cruz’ coolest, that might not be many and you may be better advised to grab a seat and stay there!
Live music usually makes an entrance on the upper terrace of Bulán at weekends and in the newest and coolest ‘Arcos’ appropriately named for its position under the arches.
Clubs – if you’re still on your feet when the bars in Noria start to turf people out (around 3am Fridays and Saturdays) then head to the recently refurbished decking and candle light of the Jam Beach Club in the Parque Marítimo César Manrique on the portside, or to Dreams Tenerife next door and if you’re still awake when they close, you can pick up the fresh bread on your way home.
Restaurants – head for the grey stone tower of Iglesia de la Concepción to reach the lively, Bohemian old quarter of the Noria District where you’ll find a wide range of restaurants lining the trendy Calle Antonio Dominguez Alfonso. Try the chilled atmosphere of Bulán for mouth watering Mediterranean, the distinctly Castillian look and menu of La Tasca Sáffron y Porron or the creative cuisine of Los Reunidos. There are loads more to choose from in this small section of the city so if a menu doesn’t appeal, just try next door.
Tapas – in the heart of the city on Calle Imeldo Seris you can watch the trams swishing by from Bodeguita de Canarias. Try a ‘tabla’ of cheeses or jamon Serrano, or a selection of ‘montaditos’ (small slices of toasted bread with a variety of toppings) alongside your tortilla Español.
Beside Parque García Sanabria on Calle Dr José Naveíras are Tasca de Enfrente and Tasca Tagoror where you’ll find excellent tapas to while away the time while you watch the night joggers, strollers and romantics who use the park after dark.
Hotel Mencey – old fashioned opulence and first class service from this old world five star classic hotel on the Rambla, across the road from the magnificent ‘lungs of the city’; Parque García Sanabria. This is where the rich and famous stay when they visit Santa Cruz. www.sheraton.com
El Contemporáneo – across the road from the Mencey. in complete contrast to its opulent neighbour, this 3 star hotel, as its name suggests, is beautifully contemporary in style. Bright, sophisticated and generous on the floor space.
Hotel Plaza – right in the heart of the city in Plaza de la Candelaria so perfectly positioned for exploring. A typical, modern, city centre 3 star hotel; short on space and facilities, big on central location. www.hotelplazastil.com
You'll find more fascinating places and great things to do all over Tenerife in 'Island Drives'.
If when your holiday's over, you want to go home with more than just a tan, then let 'Island Drives' show you the real Tenerife and you'll also take back the sounds, sights, tastes and memories of a truly fascinating island.
Trying to find a parking space in Santa Cruz can be like trying to find a parking space in any city that you’re unfamiliar with…fraught. However, the car park at the revamped bus station is brightly lit, has loads of spaces and is very reasonable. It’s a few minutes walk to the city centre, but that’s a fraction of the time you’ll spend trying to find a space otherwise.