Overview of San Cristóbal de La Laguna

The population of San Cristóbal de La Laguna is settled on the verdant hills of the Aguere valley.The city's altitude above sea level means it is usually four degrees cooler than in the city of Santa Cruz on the coast. This provides a refreshing atmosphere, sometimes with a mysterious mist covering the picturesque town.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is located in the Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the north of the island. With over 150,000 inhabitants, it is the third-most populous city of the Canary Islandsand second-most populous city of Tenerife. The city has an interesting grid layout, with old-fashioned streets, as well as some more modern developments. The cosy streets of the old town are lined with colourful, historic buildings that have been wonderfully preserved, and there are several peaceful green areas scattered throughout. The city prides itself on many good restaurants offering Canarian specialities and there are some decent shopping streets, particularly Calle Herradores.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is considered to be the cultural and religious capital of the Canary Islands and boasts eleven churches. Among these is the spectacular cathedral (Diocese of Tenerife) in the centre of town. There are also several extravagant palaces showing off a range of architectural styles. The city was declared World Heritage site by UNESCO in December 1999.

History

The city was founded in 1496 with the settlement of soldiers and civilians in the area surrounding Iglesia de la Concepción where the festival of Corpus Christi was celebrated for the first time.

Iglesia de la Concepción was the first church on the island, built in 1502. Inside the church is a large, glazed 16th century baptismal font, which was used to convert Guanche warriors to Christianity after the conquest by Alonso Fernández de Lugo and his men.

After the island’s conquest and up until the 19th century, San Cristóbal de La Laguna became the first capital and centre of politic and economic power. However, the 1706 volcanic eruption, which destroyed the harbour of Garachico, caused a slight decline in progress, and the ascending city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife began to take over.

The city centre displays typical examples of the type of urban structure that was developed in Latin America during the process of colonisation. In the late 16th century, during the reign of King Phillip II, engineer Torriani drew his plans of San Cristóbal de La Laguna with a structure consisting of 400 buildings. These have been listed with different degrees of monumental or environmental protection. The city has also maintained its grid layout.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is considered an ancient capital and remains the religious centre of the island with Augustans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Blemits and feminine orders all founded their convents there. In 1818-1819, however, the Nivariense Diócesis established its headquarters in the city.

The city is also known as ‘the city of the anticipated ones’, since it was in San Cristóbal de La Laguna that the first university of the archipelago was established in 1701. The University of La Laguna is situated a short walk away from the old town and accommodates 30,000 students.

The city is remembered for its outstanding military history and role in the conquest. In 1723 the General Captaincy of the Islands was transferred here.

Due to its historical and artistic value, the city was declared Humanity’s Patrimony in 1999, and was also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. From 2003 the municipality started a plan to renew the area and the city has since been raising its profile, and tourism has expanded considerably.

In recent years it has become clear that there exists a de facto union between La Laguna and the neighbouring capital city, Santa Cruz. This is due to rapid population growth and lack of empty space between the two, forming a merged metropolitan union. This large urban centre is in the process of consolidating its union with other populations. Transport ties between the two cities have improved, and a new tramline was installed between them in 2007.

The Tenerife North Airport at Los Rodeos was opened in the 1930s and is today expanding, with many low cost airlines flying from here.

The name La Laguna originates from a small lake that used to exist where the population settlement is today.

Culture

Being the cultural and religious centre of Tenerife, there are many festivals held in La Laguna throughout the year reflecting its history.

Festivities of deep-rooted tradition in Tenerife are the Corpus Christi festival and Holy Week. There is a special devotion to these festivals in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, given it was here that the first Corpus festivity took place.

On the last Friday of every month, a cultural, nocturnal walk of the historic old town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna is held by the Museo de Historia y Antropología de Tenerife. You will be told about the diverse cultural influences on this city and the rest of the island, starting from pre-colonisation. Traditional Guanche pastimes are said here to have included the Canarian wrestling and cock fighting.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is home to some of the best folklores in the Canary Islands. Amongst the 50 over folklore groups, the most famous group being Los Sabandeños. Traditional music and various other genres can be heard in bars throughout the town, and there are outdoor shows during the summer months.

The manufacture of traditional costumes is characteristic of this municipality and there are a variety of crafts activities including lace work, embroidery, metal works and wood work.

Contemporary culture can be found at El Kastillo Espacio de Arte y Creación Contemporánea de La Laguna, where Canarian artists display their work.

Economy

The economy of the city is business-oriented, with one of the main industries being manufacturing. The industrial area is made up of the main subdivisions of Majuelos, Las Torres de Taco, Las Mantecas and Las Chumberas.

Tourism in the area has grown over the years, specifically since 2003 when the municipality started a plan to renew the area. Agriculture dominates the north-eastern part of the city.

How to get there

By Bus:
From Puerto de la Cruz:

TITSA Bus 101 departs every half an hour (between 06:00- 21:30) to Santa Cruz de Tenerife via La Orotava, La Victoria, Tacoronte, Guamasa, Tacoronte, Guamasa and San Cristóbal de la Laguna.

TITSA Bus 102 (express) runs 24-hour and between 07:15 and 21:15, buses depart frequently, i.e. every half an hour. Most of these buses stop by the North Airport.

TITSA Bus 103 (express) departs hourly from 07:00 to 21:00 and do so every half an hour between 09:00 - 11:00 and 13:00- 19:00.

From San Cristóbal de la Laguna:

TITSA Bus 014 runs 24-hour (every hour or two) and with most frequencies between 06:00 and 21:45 (every 5 to 10 minutes).

TITSA Bus 015 (express) departs on 05:35, every 10 to 15 mins from 05:50 to 22:00, 22:20 and 22:40.

From the South (Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas):

TITSA Bus 110 (express) departs Playa de las Américas every half an hour from 06:15 to 18:45, 19:45, and 20:45. Departures reduced to 6 times a day in the weekends between 08:25 and 20:45.

TITSA Bus 111 (via Los Cristianos and South Airport) runs frequently from Playa de las Américas especially between 06:30 and 22:30 when you can expect departures on every half hour.

By Car:
From the north, Autopista del Norte is the fastest route to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. For example, it is about 38km (or 30 minutes drive) away from Puerto de la Cruz. From the South, take Autopista del Sur. Driving from Playa de las Américas will take around 50 minutes (77km).