You won’t need to spend much time on Tenerife, before noticing the wooden balconies that hang of so many the island’s houses. These “Canarian Balconies” are a famous architectural trademark of the archipelago. To learn more about them, we visited the Casa de los Balcones in Orotava.
The Casa de los Balcones was originally constructed in 1632, and its finest features have survived the centuries in marvelous condition. The spiral staircase and the interior balconies, both intricately carved from wood, have never been refurbished or restored. Built for the wealthy Fonseca family, the house is today an ethnographic museum, with a focus on the traditional Canarian craft of lace-work.
Unfortunately, the Casa de los Balcones has become something of a tourist trap, and we almost turned around after seeing the busload of people waiting to get inside. But the house itself is so unique and beautiful, it’s worth putting up with the chintzy souvenir shops, the annoying blather of others, and the lame “museum” exhibits, just to get a chance to see the beautiful wooden architecture.
We started our tour in the courtyard, which offers the best view of the house’s impressive set of interior balconies, then made our way up the narrow spiral staircase. The supporting pillar of these stairs was taken from a single piece of pine wood. Above, the rooms were laid out in the style of the 18th century, and we were only allowed to peer inside. We saw the kitchen, and the store room, then continued back to the courtyard, where there’s an old winepress… and of course the gigantic gift shop.
Despite the size of the house, a visit is super quick, especially if you skip the non-essential exhibits, which include nothing you won’t see in better museums across Tenerife. The experiencing of visiting the Casa de los Balcones isn’t great, but if can you just concentrate on the “Casa” itself and the “Balcones”, it’s not a waste of time.