Discover Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote

Situated to the east of Lanzarote, Arrecife is the island's largest town and capital, with a population of around 60,000. It's a beautiful, peaceful port town with a thriving cultural life, as evidenced by the many museums and historic buildings lining the city's winding white streets. These include the Castillos de San Gabriel and San José, two fortresses built in the eighteenth century and home to the Museum of the History of Arrecife and the International Museum of Contemporary Art (MIAC) respectively. A stroll along the seafront or through the town's narrow streets will give you a feel for the gentle atmosphere that reigns here. It's a relatively non-touristy place, where you can discover the real Canarian way of life. Arrecife's beaches are also superb, with excellent water sports facilities.

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What to see in Arrecife

Urban walk in Arrecife

The tour begins in the west of Arrecife, skirting the beach before reaching the marina, which has been designed as a seafront promenade lined with restaurants and shops. We pass the Castillo de San Gabriel and a statue of César Manrique, then land on Arrecife Bay, home to the Charco de San Ginés, a large basin filled with multicoloured boats that dance to the rhythm of the tides: at low tide, they lie on the ground! There are plenty of bars where you can enjoy a drink or a snack in the sunshine while admiring the spectacle.

Arrecife's seafront promenade.

- © Werner Spremberg / Shutterstock

Leaving the Charco de San Ginés behind, we make our way through the winding streets of Arrecife. Authenticity reigns supreme in this maze of white houses with blue or green shutters and incredible charm. In the Plaza de Las Palmas, locals chat in the shade of the seventeenth-century church of San Ginés, a fine example of religious architecture in the Canary Islands. We end our stroll on Calle Léon y Castillo, a long pedestrian street that will delight all shopaholics. If you're there in the morning, don't miss the typically Lanzaroteño La Recova market, where you can discoverlocal crafts or stock up on fresh produce.

San Ginés church in Arrecife.

- © Sopotnicki / Shutterstock

The International Museum of Contemporary Art (MIAC) in the Castillo San José

The International Museum of Contemporary Art, or MIAC for short, is housed in the former military fortress of Castillo San José. Built in the 18th century, it was used as a fortress to defend against privateers and then as a gunpowder storehouse before being abandoned for almost a century. The museum was finally inaugurated in 1975 with the aim of promoting, collecting and exhibiting the most significant works of modern art. Created on theinitiative of local artist César Manrique, it houses a fine collection ofcontemporary art, and as is often the case with César Manrique, there is also a panoramic restaurant. It overlooks the port of Naos.

San José Castle in Arrecife.

- © nito / Shutterstock

Practical information for MIAC

⏰ Opening times

MIAC is open every day from 11am to 6pm.

👛 Admission

  • Full price: £3.45
  • Under 13s: £1.70
  • Under 7s: free
  • CACT tourist pass: free

The Arrecife History Museum at Castillo San Gabriel

Like San José Castle, San Gabriel Castle was built in the 18th century to defend Lanzarote from pirate attacks. Linked to the mainland by two stone bridges (one of which is period), it has become one of Arrecife's most emblematic monuments. Today, the Castillo San Gabriel is home to the Museo de Historia de Arrecife (Arrecife History Museum), which tells the story not only of the town, through models and documents, but also of the island as a whole: among other things, the visit allows us to learn more about the aborigines of Lanzarote and their culture.

San Gabriel Castle in Arrecife

- © Sopotnicki / Shutterstock

Practical information for the Arrecife History Museum

⏰ Opening times

The Arrecife History Museum is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm. It is generally closed on Sundays but exceptionally opens from 10am to 2pm if there are cruises.

👛 Prices

  • Full price: £2.50

The beaches of Arrecife

You don't usually come to Arrecife with the first intention of going to the beach. But while we're here, we might as well make the most of it! The capital has a number of pretty town beaches that are sure to please those who prefer to relax and swim. In the heart of Arrecife, the main beach, playa del Reducto, is a long stretch of fine golden sand dotted with palm trees and caressed by warm, shallow water. The other beaches are much smaller, a little less heavenly but more intimate: playa de la Arena to the east and playa de la Concha to the west.

Arrecife beach.

- © svsumin / Shutterstock

Our favourite hotel in Arrecife

Arrecife Gran Hotel & Spa 5

Located right on the beach in Arrecife, the 5* Gran Hotel & Spa is the only tower in Lanzarote. This luxurious hotel offers pretty sea-view rooms and even has a swimming pool on the floors! If you're not sleeping here, at least go and have a drink on the rooftop for a fantastic view.

Arrecife Gran 5* Hotel & Spa Arrecife
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Arrecife Gran 5* Hotel & Spa

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Practical information for Arrecife

Many tourists skip Arrecife on their trip to Lanzarote, as the island's capital is not always mentioned in the guidebooks. However, this pretty port city is well worth spending half a day in!

🍴 Our favourite restaurant in Arrecife:

Just a few steps from the beach, the Niño Salvaje restaurant is well worth a visit! It serves tapas and tasty dishes at a reasonable price, enjoyed in a modern, Instagrammable setting. The cocktails are simply delicious, and we recommend you give them a try...

📍 How do I get to Arrecife?

Arrecife is the capital of Lanzarote, so there are several roads leading to it: the main ones are the LZ-1 and LZ-3 but also the LZ-301, LZ-20 and LZ-18. Arrecife is a 10-minute drive from the airport, 15 minutes from Costa Teguise and Puerto del Carmen and 35 minutes from Playa Blanca. Several free car parks are available in the town.

A few tips for your visit

  • Arrecife is also sure to please night owls, with its lively nightlife!
  • Given its central location on the island, staying in Arrecife may be a good idea for exploring Lanzarote.
by Editorial Team
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