Exploring La Laguna – Highlights From Tenerife’s Historical City

rooftops and houses on a hill - a photo of the skyline of La Laguna, Tenerife

San Cristobal de La Laguna, or just plain old La Laguna for those short of breath, is an absolute gem waiting to be appreciated. As the island’s former capital city, and a UNESCO heritage site at that, La Laguna, Tenerife, is just oozing with charm and a fascinating history demanding to be explored.

But what’s all of the fuss about? Why has the ancient capital city of Tenerife been awarded UNESCO status? Why should it go on your Tenerife Bucket List? And, what are the highlights of La Laguna if you choose to visit this beautiful colonial town?

Let us introduce you to San Cristóbal de la Laguna, Tenerife…

Discover La Laguna, Tenerife

Located in the north-western corner of Tenerife, La Laguna is often seen as the gateway to the Anaga Rural Park for popular mountain hikes and remote beaches. And, in our opinion, would make a great base for visitors wanting to explore this stunning landscape – but more on hotel recommendations later.

Still, even if dizzying mountain hikes and remote cloud-forest walks aren’t your thing, La Laguna is worlds away from the tourist-filled resorts on the south-east coast of Tenerife. It’s a smart colonial town with a local atmosphere and a colourful heritage – no Irish bars here pal.

La Laguna things to do - visit nearby Anaga Park

So what is the history of Tenerife’s oldest city?

La Laguna has a rich history that dates back to the late 15th century. It was founded in 1496, just a few years after the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands, making it one of the oldest towns not just in Tenerife but in all of the Canaries. San Cristobal de la Laguna served as the capital of Tenerife until 1723 when it was surpassed by Santa Cruz. But don’t be thinking La Laguna fell out of favour, it was purely a strategic move by the Spanish Crown to create a coastal hub in Santa Cruz, for trade and administration in the newly colonized territory.

One of the most significant aspects of La Laguna’s history is its urban design, which was influenced by Renaissance principles. The town was meticulously planned with a grid system, making it one of the earliest examples of urban planning in the Americas and Europe. This layout, characterized by straight streets intersecting at right angles, facilitated trade and governance and provided a framework for the town’s growth. The grid system also reflects the influence of Spanish colonial urban planning, which aimed to impose order and control over newly established settlements. It’s for this reason it gained UNESCO recognition for its contribution to the development of colonial towns in the Americas and Europe. So next time you’re flying over a gridded city, be reminded of where it all began!

La Laguna’s architectural heritage is another key aspect of its significance. The town boasts a wealth of historic buildings, including churches, palaces, and mansions, many of which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The architectural styles across the town serve as tangible reminders of La Laguna’s historical importance as a centre of trade, culture, and governance in the Canary Islands.

In addition to its architectural and urban heritage, La Laguna is also known for its cultural and educational significance. The town is home to the University of La Laguna, founded in 1792, making it one of the oldest universities in Spain. The university has played a crucial role in shaping the cultural and intellectual life of the Canary Islands and has produced many notable scholars and artists.

La Laguna is well and truly rooted in Tenerife’s heritage!

La Laguna Highlights

There are plenty of things to do in La Laguna for a day-trip visitor, here are some of the highlights you will not want to miss. But first off, a really cool hotel recommendation…

Where To Stay In La Laguna

We would recommend staying at the Gran Hotel La Laguna. You can take advantage of its rooftop pool on those days you just want to chill, and the views from the terrace bar are fantastic. The Canarian style runs throughout the hotel and the lounge area is a gorgeous place to hang out.

For the best deals at Gran Hotel La Laguna, click here. We use affiliate links which means that every time you make a booking through our blog we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Stroll Around The Historic Center (Casco Histórico)

Wander through the charming streets of La Laguna’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire the well-preserved colonial architecture, including colourful buildings, elegant mansions, and quaint squares. And don’t worry about getting lost – it’s a grid system remember!

Don’t miss Obispo Rey Redondo, the main street lined with shops, cafes, and historic landmarks such as the Leal Theatre and Hotel Aguere – once the house of the Marquises of Torrehermossa, a wealthy notable family of Tenerife. You can have a coffee in Hotel Aguere’s atrium, under the glass canopy – it’s a really pretty place to stop.

Sit a While In Plaza de la Concepcion (Conception Square)

Surrounded by colourful colonial-style buildings, Plaza de la Concepcion is the perfect spot to grab a glass of local wine and watch people go about their business.

As one of the city’s most important squares, this vibrant Plaza is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike. Energetic teens spill out from the local high schools and hang out at the base of Dragon Trees for shade. The late afternoon turns into early evening and terraces fill up with cheery punters. Oh what it must be like to have balmy temperatures like the Canaries all year round, and this square is the epitome of a local Tenerife social scene.

If you visited La Laguna and only dropped into Conception Square you will have captured its heart at least!

Visit Casa Museo Cayetano

A little bit hidden, just off Concepcion Square, is this little museum celebrating life in a traditional Canarian home. Of course, you could forgo the museum altogether and just have a speciality coffee in the beautiful inner courtyard. However, for only €4.50, you can enjoy a glimpse into the world of a wealthy middle class family in the 19th century. It’s a charming collection of artefacts and displays, and a pleasant way to learn more about the local heritage.

This place feels like a bit of a secret to be honest!

Visit The Church of the Immaculate Conception (Iglesia de la Concepción)

Admire the architectural beauty of this historic church, a beautiful backdrop to Conception Square. Built in the 16th century, highlights include its Mudejar-style tower, Baroque altarpieces, and a stunning collection of religious art.

The tower can be climbed and the surrounding views are worth the €2 entrance fee, especially on a clear day when Teide can be seen in the distance.

See The Cathedral of La Laguna (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios)

This stunning cathedral, built in the 16th century, is a masterpiece of Canarian Baroque architecture and a definite La Laguna highlight. It features a striking façade, intricate stonework, and impressive interior decorations, including altarpieces and religious artwork.

Tickets are €7 and include an audio guide, but even if you’re not wanting to spend the money a walk-by is still well worth it.

Iglesia de la Concepción & La Laguna’s Cathedral

Take In The Sights & Smells of Mercado Municipal

It’s not a day trip if you don’t visit a market, right!? Experience the vibrant atmosphere of La Laguna’s traditional market, where locals and a smattering of tourists come to shop for fresh produce, artisanal goods, and Canarian delicacies. It’s nothing to look at per se, but it’s a vibe nonetheless.

There’s sample produce on offer at a few stalls, and it’s a great place to pick up some local goat’s cheese, Tenerifan wine and a caffe barraquito (a ‘special’ coffee) at the market’s corner bar. Stood up and nose to elbow with the locals of course.

The market sits on Plaza del Cristo, a large square, where there are often local events going on.

Hang Out In Plaza del Adelantado

Relax in this picturesque square, named after the island’s first governor. Surrounding the plaza are historic buildings, cafes, and shops, making it the perfect place to soak in the local atmosphere of La Laguna.

Across the way is the city town hall, so if you’re lucky you could catch a La Laguna wedding and some photographs by the fountain. At the very least there’ll be an old man and his dog just enjoying the sunshine.

Check Out Castillo de La Laguna & Avenue La Universidad

Not too far from the Mercado Municipal is a palm-tree-lined walkway leading to a sweet place for coffee. Market stalls full of artisanal goods and beautiful souvenirs line your journey to finish at Castillo de La Laguna. This amazing building, an old castle, is a fancy-pants wedding venue with all the flair! However, you don’t need an invite because they welcome anyone in for a drink on their stunning terrace, or even inside if you please.

A little hidden gem we were pleased to get off the beaten track for.

Visit Casa de los Capitanes (House of the Captains)

Calle Obispo Rey Redondo, as we mentioned earlier, is a worthy stroll for the sightseer, and a spot where many of San Cristobal de La Laguna’s oldest buildings live. One of those is the most impressive Casa de los Capitanes, also known as Casa Alvarado Bracamonte, dating from the 17th century. It just so happens to now be the Office of Tourist Information and is completely free to enter.

It once served as the residence of the island’s military commanders and is an architectural gem. The inner courtyard, featuring in most of my dreams, is a collaboration of ornate wooden cloisters, some red volcanic columns and the obligatory fountain. The hallways are tiled to perfection and the shrubbery just adds to the aesthetic. Check me out in dreamland…

As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in San Cristobal de la Laguna. Add to this the fact that this town has some amazing Guachinches (traditional Tenerifan restaurants) and plenty of cool bars, we think this town would be great as a base for a holiday in Tenerife.

San Cristobal is the gateway to Anaga Park, it’s only a stone’s throw to the capital city Santa Cruz for shopping, and Mount Teide is only an hour’s drive. And whilst La Laguna has no beaches to boast of, Tenerife’s prettiest beach, Playa de Las Teresitas is less than half an hour away. You will probably want to add Bocacangrejo to your Tenerife bucket list too, a rainbow village with more than just colourful houses to see. We wrote about Bocacangrejo here.

For the best deals at our recommended hotel, Gran Hotel La Laguna, click here. We use affiliate links which means that every time you make a booking through our blog we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

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