Arrecife is Lanzarote's main town and I read somewhere that almost 50% of the island’s people live here. It’s the administrative centre and overall it dates back to the 15th Century when it was a small fishing harbour and trading centre. Certainly in and around Arrecife are the reminders of its fishing heritage.
Caesar Manrique obviously missed out here with his height restriction on buildings as dominating the Arrecife skyline, and seen for miles away, is the tallest building on the island – the prestigious Grand Hotel. Arrecife seems a bit of an odd place with no obvious centre to it (not that we found anyway) and a very laid back feel to the town. To its credit there’s a magnificent sea front promenade, which sweeps its way across the bay. From a recent visit I remembered our futile attempt to park the car and I reckon the only way to see the town is to park up out of the centre and walk. We didn’t suffer the problem this time as we were on foot as were the rest of the visitors who were pounding the marathon route.
Its name comes from the multitude of reefs and islets along the coast, which now has a superb promenade on which to walk and from where you can enjoy the fine coastal landscape. It was not lanzarote's original capital, taking over from the inland town of Teguise in the mid-18th Century. So what to see in Arrecife?
At the Puerto end of the promenade is the remains of an ancient ship. I actually couldn’t determine whether or not this was a real wreck or a piece of art. It’s well placed near to a local park filled with modern sculptures and an impressive new building which resembles a town hall. A skate-boarding course at the edge of the park provided a little entertainment as we wandered through the greenery. The Charco area is perhaps Arrecife’s most scenic with Palm trees, bridges, and restored fishermen’s cottages, cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops. It’s a bustling area with loads of action, ideal to people watch and just to enjoy the ambience created by Caesar Manrique. Apparently there’s a market on the promenade every Saturday – next time we’ll check it out.
The San Gines region allegedly played host to the hermit saint Gines and together with the church (becoming a parish church in 1778) but originally the hermitage of Gines and the impressive square looking out over the tidal lagoon provide a great focus. Fishermen’s houses are cluttered around the saltwater land enclosing the seawater.
A couple of castles house the interesting museums of Modern Art (the Castles of San Jose) and the Archaeological Museum in the castle of San Gabriel. And of course Arrecife is Lanzarote's centre of commerce with shops and cafés lining the main street of Castillo y Leon.