Arrecife is the island’s capital, and offers a city break style holiday for visitors. It’s home to around one third of Lanzarote’s population, and is also the commercial and industrial centre of the island. The two key hotels suitable as tourist accommodation are the Gran Hotel, which is on the town beach, and Villa Vik, an adults only hotel in the suburb of El Cable.
The Gran Hotel is the only high rise building on Lanzarote, and is 17 floors high, with spectacular and uninterrupted views. Villa Vik is a new and super luxurious property – both have swimming pools, bars and restaurants and both are 5 star.
Arrecife means “reef” in Spanish, and the main beach at El Reducto is sheltered by a reef out to sea, and is always calm and safe for swimming. Arrecife is one of the few capital cities in the world to have a golden, sandy beach complete with palm trees!
It first appeared on maps in the 15th Century at which time it was a simple fishing village. It became the island’s capital in the 18th century, taking that mantle from Teguise when commercial trading become important to the island’s survival.
The town itself has a main shopping area known locally as “Calle Real” and this is the original main street which has been pedestrianized. As you’d expect, the shops here aren’t aimed at tourists and are more focused towards local’s needs, but venture into the side streets and you’ll find curious and interesting little furniture and clothes shops.
There is a tourist market in the centre of the capital on Saturday mornings, when small stalls are erected in the side streets between Calle Real and Charco de San Gines with a mixture of wares. The square just in front of the church has stalls selling local fresh produce including fruits, vegetables, baked goods and goats cheese.
Just to the north of this main street, you’ll find Charco San Gines, which is a tidal basin used to moor small boats. It’s surrounded by small bars and restaurants and is the area for much of the city’s night life.
A little beyond that is the port of Los Marmoles, which is a busy international fishing and shipping port, and also where the many cruise liners that come to the island dock for their visits.
There’s an excellent bus service, with a bus station and an interchange, with buses running to all parts of the island, and taxis are plentiful and inexpensive.
The cuisine in Arrecife is more Canarian than in the resorts, with tapas and 3 course fixed price “Menus del Dia” being the order of the day. You’ll also find unusual South American restaurants as a good percentage of the population there hail from Colombia and other South American countries.
There are two castles in Arrecife, originally built to protect the population from pirates. The Castillo San Gabriel is currently being turned into a museum of the history of Lanzarote, and Castillo San José has a restaurant with stunning views of the port, and is home to the International Museum of Contemporary Art.
Arrecife’s carnival procession in February, and the Three King’s Parade on 5th January are the two biggest events of their kind on the island, and well worth attending if you are here at those times.
The local football team is called U.D. Lanzarote or “Rojillos” for the reds, they play home games at the Ciudad Deportiva stadium, next to the bus station on the Via Medular. Entrance is only a few euros and there's an incredible atmosphere if there's a game on when you're visiting.
The beach front promenade extends in one direction all the way to Puerto Calero, via Playa Honda and Puerto del Carmen, and in the other (with some road sections) to Costa Teguise. Arrecife doesn’t offer a resort style holiday in the conventional sense, but it’s an unpretentious “working” city that will give you a real taste for Canarian life and lifestyle.