The Plaza de España and Santa Cruz’s Old Town

Any exploration of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is likely to begin in the Plaza de España, an expansive open square near the ocean. At least, that’s the first place we headed. We spent a wonderful Saturday morning hanging out in the plaza, and getting a feel for the capital city, which is in turns beautiful, garish, charming, and strange… and definitely has an atmosphere all its own.

With a massive pool as its centerpiece, and framed by some of the city’s most emblematic buildings, the Plaza de España is impossible to miss. This is the zero point of Santa Cruz, where all the roads seem to lead, and all the people seem to end up.

The plaza dates back to 1929, when it was built on the remains of the 16th-century Castillo de San Cristóbal (you can still see some of the old castle walls in an exhibition under the ground). However, it wasn’t until 2006 that the plaza took its current form, when it was completely remodeled by the Swiss architecture firm of Herzog & de Meuron. The large, shallow pool was added in the center, along with raised slopes covered in grass and cacti.

Besides the pool, there’s plenty more to admire in the Plaza, including the grand Palacio Insular, which is home to the governing body of the island. This monumental building was constructed in the 1930s, and is recognizable for its large clock tower. You’ll also find the main post office, as well as a striking monument to those who have given their lives for Spain in conflict. But the best part of the Plaza de España is the happy confluence of people; this is a place where tourists and locals all come to hang out, and grab a seat in the sun, whether on a bench or the side of the pool.

Starting from here, we wandered into the nearby Plaza de Candelaria, and then continued up Calle del Castillo. This street is pedestrian-only, as is most of the old town, vastly improving the experience of visiting. There was a fun mix of shops, from classic general stores to modern clothing chains, and they were all busy. This was a couple weeks before Christmas, so perhaps it’s not always this happening, but our initial impression of Santa Cruz was that it’s truly alive.

We stopped for lunch at Bodegón el Puntero, a wonderful little restaurant specializing in both fish, and riotous local atmosphere. This place was packed, and insanely loud — the noise means it’s packed with Spaniards, and the fact it’s packed with Spaniards means it’s probably excellent. We had a beer while waiting for a table, then enjoyed an incredible meal of grilled cherne.

Enjoy our initial photographic impressions of Santa Cruz… a city which we’ll be getting to know much better over the next few months!

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