Arrecife is Lanzarote's capital and a vibrant cosmopolitan city. With around 61,000 inhabitants (2019), it is by far the largest town on the island and an important commercial and administrative center. Most visitors to Lanzarote will only get to know Arrecife Airport; the city doesn't have many attractions to offer.
About 40% of Lanzarote's population lives in Arrecife, so it is more of a busy, functional city than a picturesque fantasy resort. Nevertheless it has a lovely beach and seafront, and with buses to everywhere on the island, makes a fine base for exploration.
Arrecife is on the southeast coast of the island. There was a small fishing settlement here as early as the 15th century, and their boats found shelter from pirates in the small bays behind rocks and reefs. The Castillo de San Gabriel was built at the end of the 16th century; it is on a small offshore island. The church of San Ginés was built around 1630 and the fortress of San José was built around 1770. In 1812 Arrecife received city rights. Arrecife became the island capital in 1852, when it replaced the inland city of Teguise.
- 1 Arrecife Airport (ACE IATA), Apartado de Correos 86 (5 km west, via LZ-2), ☏ , email@example.com. The island's only airport.
The city is a 10-min bus ride from the airport.
- 2 Arrecife. Trasmediterranea, Naviera Armas
- Arrecife buses. The island's bus network is centred on the capital. There are two main bus stations:
Arrecife is quite small and almost anywhere of tourist interest is within walking distance.
Beyond that, regular bus services exist; see info under "Get in", above.
If you like a bit of history, then Arrecife is the place.
A stroll along the promenade takes you to the city's main attractions. Start at the ocher-coloured building of the island government in the west. There are parking spaces and a large bus station nearby. In order from west to east along the coastal road:
- The Parque Temático with its statues is beautifully planted, there is a large children's playground and a skate ramp
- The Playa del Reducto is a large sandy bay whose light sand invites you to swim, but the water quality is not always the best.
- The Grand Hotel is the only high-rise building in Lanzarote. From the bar on the 17th floor you have a nice view over the city and can't see the concrete block of the building.
- The small Parque Islas Canarias was created based on designs by the artist César Manrique.
- Behind the Club Naútico then begins Parque Municipal or Parque José Ramirez Cerdá, here you can sometimes find market stalls in which otherwise expensive brands are sold at the lowest prices. Their authenticity is doubtful.
- 1 Castillo de San Gabriel. Historic fort guarding the harbour, now containing the local history museum. The Castillo de San Gabriel was built on a reef in 1573 to protect against pirates. It didn't do much good, as it was destroyed in 1586. The building visible today was built between 1590 and 1599. Access is via the Puente de las Bolas, a drawbridge with large stone balls.
- Further east is the port, Puerto de Naos.
- The Castillo San José was built between 1776 and 1779, it was remodelled by César Manrique and houses a museum of contemporary art. It is open daily from 11:00-21:00, entry is free
- The Calle León y Castillo is also often referred to as Calle Real . Near the Puente de las Bolas there are some interesting old houses, further into town you will find modern concrete buildings, in which shopping malls are housed, whose range of goods is tailored to the needs of the islanders.
- The Iglesia San Ginés is located between Calle Real and Charco de Ginés. The main church of Arrecife stands on the site of a 17th-century chapel; in its current form it was completed in the 19th century. It is open during the day from 09:00-13:00, and from 17:00-20:00.
- 2 El Charco de San Gines. A charming seawater lagoon in the middle of the city.
- 3 Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo, Castillo de San José. Contemporary art museum in another seafront castle.
- 4 Parque Jose Ramirez Cerda. Seafront park.
- 5 Parque Islas Canarias. Seafront park.
- 1 Playa del Reducto. An urban beach popular with families, which holds a Blue Flag tag. Sunloungers and shades available for rent and lined with bars, restaurants and hotels.
- 2 Playa del Cable. Another beach but a contrast from Playa del Reducto - this one is quiet, isolated and a great place to have a beach to yourself.
If you like shopping, then Arrecife is the place to buy designer wear at low prices. Arrecife Market is another place to bargain hunt.
In the shopping street Calle León y Castillo or Calle Real you will find a wide range of goods, mainly tailored to the needs of the locals. Cosmetics and cigarettes are particularly cheap, the price level corresponds to that of the airport duty-free shops, but the same quantity restrictions apply to duty-free goods when you return home. There are also numerous small shops along the promenade.
In the shopping centre Buganvillas are more likely to be found for everyday needs. If you are looking for Canarian specialties such as mojo sauce or almogrote, you will find it in normal supermarkets.