There are many things to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is the city where we stayed while we explored northern Tenerife. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you’ll find just about everything: historical monuments, beautiful beaches, and various recreational activities.
Also, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the island’s capital city, so don’t worry if you’ll be here without a car. Some of the best excursions in Tenerife depart from here, so you can see the entire island without having to drive.
As soon as we arrived, we did this free tour, which I recommend if you want to get to know the city quickly before touring it on your own. Once you’re ready to explore, here is a list of the 15 top attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
1. Adán Martín Tenerife Auditorium, a popular attraction in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Also known as the Tenerife Auditorium, this is one of the top places to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The modern building is one of the most iconic structures in Tenerife and all the Canary Islands.
Its avant-garde architecture makes it one of my favorite attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Designed by the well-known (and controversial) architect Santiago Calatrava, the auditorium’s suggestive structure is instantly recognizable and one of the main points of interest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The auditorium serves as the headquarters for the prestigious Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and hosts events such as Tenerife Dance, Atlantic Jazz, World Music, and Great Interpreters. You can check out the program listings here to see if something interesting coincides with your visit.
2. Palmetum, another place to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Visiting the Palmetum is among the best things to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It has the most pristine palm tree collection in Europe, and maybe even the world. It’s hard to believe that this 30-acre botanical garden was once a garbage dump, especially since this unique place is one of the top attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Here, you’ll find over 200 tropical and subtropical plant species. Also, if you like ornithology, you should know that the park serves as a habitat for the blackbird, blue tit, hoopoe, and other aviary species. Plus, admission is super cheap if you book it online!
3. Castle of San Cristóbal, one of the places of interest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The Castle of San Cristóbal Interpretation Center is a historical attraction in Santa Cruz de Tenerife that you should see. Here, you can explore the remains of the castle wall and learn more about the defensive structures and systems on the island. Best of all, admission is free!
Once inside, you’ll see the legendary bronze cannon, El Tigre. This 18th-century artillery piece measures nearly 10 feet long and weighs over 4,000 lbs. Legend has it that it was the one that wounded the famous English Admiral, Horacio Nelson when he tried to invade the city in 1797.
Nelson lost his arm after one of El Tigre’s musketballs hit him, which is why this cannon and castle remain an important attraction.
4. Our Lady of Africa Market, the best place to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
If you like traditional marketplaces, visiting Our Lady of Africa Market is one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. More popularly known as La Recova, this Neo-Colonial style market was named one of the Top 10 markets in the world by The Guardian newspaper.
The building itself is beautiful and surrounded by flowers and statues. However, what makes it one of the top attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the incredible array of fruits, vegetables, and seafood.
Moreover, the market serves as a symbol of resistance since it almost closed in the 80s and 90s, when supermarkets and mass-produced junk food were brought to the island. While several merchants abandoned their stalls, many others resisted and formed a cooperative. In this way, they sustained the marketplace and increased its popularity.
In 2018, Our Lady of Africa received a gold medal from the Government of the Canary Islands, cementing its reputation as a Santa Cruz de Tenerife tourist site. If you come here during one of the tasting nights, I’m sure this marketplace will become one of your favorite places in the city.
5. Playa de Las Teresitas, one of the best beaches in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Playa de las Teresitas is one of the best beaches in Tenerife, so it should be a must-see during your trip to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It’s in the town of San Andrés, about 4 miles from the city center.
Curiously, this is one of the few white sand beaches you’ll find in northern Tenerife. Originally, the beach was characterized by black sand, volcanic rocks, and strong waves that made swimming difficult. In the 70s, the City Council installed a large breakwater and white sand from the old Spanish Sahara.
As a result, Playa de Las Teresitas is among the best beaches in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It’s especially popular with families, so you can’t miss it if you’re visiting with kids. Among its facilities are showers, toilets, changing rooms, accessible walkways, boat rentals, umbrellas, and hammocks.
6. Visit Anaga Rural Park, the best thing to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
One of the best things to see near Santa Cruz de Tenerife is Anaga Rural Park. It’s just a few minutes from the city and boasts one of the most magnificent laurel forests in the Canary Islands. Its natural fairytale landscape encompasses over 37,000 acres.
If you’re not sure what to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I highly recommend adding this park to your itinerary. This place fascinated us, as I shared in our guide to Anaga Rural Park. There are several hiking trails here, although the Trail of the Senses is one of the most popular hikes in Tenerife.
I also recommend the “Enchanted Forest” route, which we took with this guided tour.
7. Plaza de España, another cool thing to see in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Another awesome place to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is Plaza de España, the largest square in the city. It was built in 1929 at the Castle de San Cristóbal, although it was renovated years later to include a seawater lake and pavilions.
The highlight of the square is the Monument to the Fallen, a cross-shaped tower with a viewpoint on top. It was built after the Civil War and is a bit controversial today since some say it violates the Historical Memory Law of Spain.
In any case, if you visit Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you should visit this plaza, as it’s quiet, beautiful, and a great portrait of everyday life in the city.
8. Museum of Nature and Archeology, another place of interest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Visiting the Museum of Nature and Archeology (MUNA) is one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It’s in the Old Civil Hospital of Our Lady of the Forsaken, which dates back to 1745 and exemplifies the neoclassical architecture of the island.
Nearly three centuries later, the building is now a modern museum and one of the top places in Santa Cruz de Tenerife to learn about the archaeological heritage of the Canary Islands.
If you go, you can discover Tenerife’s natural wealth and the largest collection of Guanche culture, representing the aboriginal people who inhabited the island before the first European conquerors arrived.
9. García Sanabria Park, another tourist site in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
One of the most popular things to see in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is García Sanabria Park. Built in 1926, the park was meant to provide more green space to the city.
Today, the park covers 17 acres and includes plant species from many different countries. Among its collection are tropical and subtropical plants like peacock flowers, bougainvillea, Mediterranean species like the olive tree, and, of course, Canarian palm trees.
So, if you’re not sure what to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you can always take a pleasant walk through García Sanabria Park. Furthermore, the park is a declared Asset of Cultural Interest of the Canary Islands, so it’s worth visiting.
10. Castle of San Juan Bautista, a historical place to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Also known as Castillo Negro, the Castle of San Juan Bautista is one of the most popular points of interest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
It was built in the first half of the 17th century, although the fortification facing the sea underwent renovations in the past to fix some water damage. Today, it’s the best-preserved castle on the island and considered a National Heritage Site.
Every July 25th, the Recreation Gesta takes place to commemorate the failed attempt by British Admiral Horacio Nelson to invade the city. The event is a great thing to see in Santa Cruz de Tenerife if you’re visiting during this time.
11. Àngel Guimerá Theater, one of the best tourist sites in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The Àngel Guimerá Theater is another attraction in Santa Cruz de Tenerife with a lot of history. Inaugurated in January 1851 under the reign of Elizabeth II, the theater is an Asset of Cultural Interest in the Canary Islands.
Its name pays tribute to the writer, poet, and playwright Àngel Guimerá Jorge, who is also commemorated in a bronze statue out front. If you like theater, this is one of the best things to see in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Esteemed actors such as Margarita Xirgú and María Guerrero, among others, have graced its stage.
The theater has also hosted ballets, orchestras, musical companies, and lyrical Spanish dramas called zarzuelas. Furthermore, it has been a centerpiece for the famous Santa Cruz Carnival, a declared Festival of International Tourist Interest.
12. Church of La Concepción, another Santa Cruz de Tenerife point of interest
In 1500, Father Juan Guerra founded a church and dedicated it to Santa Cruz. It was named Church of Our Lady of the Conception in 1638 and remains one of the most impressive churches to visit in the city.
The church was rebuilt after a fire destroyed it in 1652, and its current tower was constructed in 1786. Even so, the church is one of the most beautiful attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, thanks to its artistic heritage.
13. Visit César Manrique Maritime Park, a fun thing to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
César Manrique Maritime Park is a 236,000ft² recreation area and one of the best places to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife with kids. The park has three seawater pools, a jacuzzi, a gym, restaurants, sports facilities, children’s areas, and a small beach.
The park is a posthumous work by the famous Lanzarote artist César Manrique and was inaugurated in 1995. It includes the architect’s signature designs that incorporate natural elements like volcanic rocks, palm trees, and ornamental plants. There are even several of Manrique’s famous wind mobiles in the park
Without a doubt, this is one of the coolest attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It’s open year-round, although I recommend avoiding weekends and holidays because it gets very crowded.
14. El Chicharro, another famous attraction in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
El Chicharro is a bronze sculpture that’s become a local symbol of Tenerife. Going to see this work of art is one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The sculpture is in the Plaza del Chicharro and is a 1,320-lb replica of the original, which was created by students at the Caracas School of Industrialists.
Unfortunately, the original piece was vandalized, so a replica was created. That said, the new sculpture is just as gorgeous, so be sure to check out this famous bronze horse mackerel!
15. Parish of San Francisco de Asís, another point of interest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Another lovely church to visit in this city is the Parish of San Francisco de Asís. It’s in the Plaza del Príncipe and was originally in the church of the Franciscan Convent of San Pedro de Alcántara.
The ecclesiastical confiscations closed most of the convents, including this church, in 1823. It reopened 25 years later and, today, it’s a grand historical and artistic monument. As you visit this place in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you’ll see the influence of the island’s 17th and 18th-century baroque style.
Where to stay in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
We already have a guide on where to stay in Tenerife, but if you want to know where we stayed in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I’ll tell you a bit about our experience.
We spent one night at the Iberostar Heritage Grand Mence, which was an amazing hotel. It’s not the cheapest hotel in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but we were celebrating our anniversary and wanted something special. The colonial-style hotel has a spa and a restaurant serving breakfast and dinner.
For the rest of our trip, we stayed at the Silken Atlántida Santa Cruz. While it was cheaper, it was almost as elegant as the Iberostar. I loved this hotel’s rooftop terrace because it offered incredible ocean views. Also, our room had a hydromassage shower, and the gastro-bar served local wines and tapas.
If you’re on a budget, the Príncipe Paz Hotel is one of the most popular and cheap accommodations. It’s right in the historic center, so you’ll be able to easily walk to most of Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s points of interest. The hotel also has a restaurant with magnificent views of the plaza and a varied menu of tapas, sandwiches, and salads.
Other important information about Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Along with hotel recommendations, I’d also like to tell you how to get to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, how to get around the city, and where to eat.
At the end of this article, you’ll find a city map with all the points of interest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, hotels, and restaurants, so you can plan your trip.
The best restaurants in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
This city has great food, and one of the best places to eat is Etéreo by Pedro Nel. This restaurant is considered the best on the island and serves original, high-quality dishes.
Another good option is El Porrón Tasca Andaluza, which offers good food, nice service, and a lovely atmosphere. Likewise, D’Tapas, 26 is a great choice and, while it looks unassuming on the outside, its menu is out of this world. Finally, if you want to enjoy an impressive dinner with friends, check out Guannabí‘s excellent food and ambiance.
How to get to Santa Cruz de Tenerife
If you’re flying into the Tenerife North Airport, you have a few ways to get to the capital city.
By public transportation:
- Bus 20 towards the Santa Cruz Interchange will take you to the city center in less than 30 minutes.
By rental car:
- Take TF-5 towards Avenida Reyes Católicos in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
You may also prefer to book a transfer from the airport to your accommodation. Cars for 4 people and mini-buses for 10-15 people are available.
Map of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
To help you plan your route, here is a city map with all the hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites in Santa Cruz de Tenerife that I mentioned.
That’s it from me! If you still have questions about what to see in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, or you’d like to tell me about your trip to the capital city, leave me a comment. As always, have a safe trip!