Santa Cruz is the capital of Tenerife, and since 1982, has been the joint capital of the Canary Islands. We spent a very pleasant morning in this lovely city.
It took us about 1.5 hours to drive to Santa Cruz from our base in Alcala on the south-west of the island. It is quite a long journey, but mostly motorway - the motorway is well-maintained and driving on it is pleasant and easy.
The first thing we saw as we drove into the city was the unmistakeable Auditorio de Tenerife. This huge and impressive building looks a bit like the Sydney Opera House. It opened in 2003 and is known as the Tsunami Wave or the Trojan Helmet, depending on which angle you view it from. I couldn't understand this - when I saw the building I got it! It was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is home to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. They have different performances of all types here - ballet, rock, opera etc..
We found a little car-park with an attendant near the auditorium and left our car there. The attendant told us it wasn't far to the centre, it took us about 10 minutes of easy walking. The cost was very reasonable - 2 Euros per hour. He pointed out the black and white church tower in the city centre, which we used as our landmark. The church is the Iglesia de la Concepcion - the original "holy cross" of the name Santa Cruz is apparently held here.
We found the Plaza Espana very easily - this is the main square in Santa Cruz. It is lined with restaurants and cafes, in the centre is a stone watch tower and a huge sculpture. The sculpture has very impressive 9 feet high bronze swordsmen around it. It is dedicated to the victims of the Spanish Civil War. There is a little lake behind, framed by the mountains and is a beautiful scene. You should have a view across to the port as well - unfortunately when we were there, major construction work was going on and there was scaffolding everywhere. We couldn't walk along the harbour or see anything that side.
Santa Cruz has plenty of historical significance. Francisco Franco, Captain General of the Canary Islands rose up from his position in Santa Cruz in the 20th century to overcome the Spanish government and start the Spanish Civil War.
When we had explored the Plaza Espana, near the sculpture, we saw a sign pointing underground to the old city walls. We went down the steps, expecting to see old walls but found the most interesting little museum. It was free to go inside, they had bits of the old walls on display but so much more too. The display information was in a number of different languages, they had information about Santa Cruz and its formation, a display about the castle that originally stood here and El Tigre - the cannon which supposedly fired the shot that injured Nelson and cost him his arm. In 1497, the British fleet, led by Admiral Lord Nelson attacked Santa Cruz. It was a stop-over on sea routes for trade with the New World so was of great strategic importance. The British were defeated, Nelson took shrapnel in his left arm from El Tigre, his arm was later amputated.
On leaving Santa Cruz, we drove along the harbour and saw some more interesting statues and sculptures. El Muro is a sculpture of 6 male figures which look as if they are holding up a section of wall. Look out too for the winged angel statue - this is a monument to General Franco.
Santa Cruz is a major stop for international cruise ships. They are moored off the outer wall - we only saw 2 medium sized ships during our visit. Apparently 4 million cruise passengers come here every year and the Queen Mary II berthed here on her maiden voyage in 2004.
We spent a lovely morning in Santa Cruz. You don't need a map, it is easy to find your way around and is the type of place where I think it is best to just stroll, enjoy the lovely architecture and stop in one of the many plazas for a drink and a rest. The views everywhere of the Anaga Mountain range are stunning - geologically this is the oldest land in Tenerife, they frame this lovely city perfectly and are a gorgeous backdrop.