Let’s ignore Tenerife’s reputation as Spain’s island of iniquity, a nefarious costa buoyed by the British pound and fuelled by cheap Spanish lager. One or two residents of Santa Cruz – the northern capital of Tenerife and the Canary Islands – know better. But you won’t hear them shouting it from their rooftops.
Largely overlooked by holidaymakers, Santa Cruz is actually one of the fairer Spanish cities. We’ll spare you the “Valencia’s younger brother” comparisons, but with Santiago Calatrava hogging the skyline in both cities they are hard to ignore. While the southern towns of Playa de las Americas and to some extent Los Cristianos cater to a crowd of culturally retarded northern European pleasure-seekers, beautiful Santa Cruz is home to an affluent population of almost 250,000 Canarians.
The Canary Islands have been popular with tourists since the 1970s, thanks to the year-round temperate climate. Somehow Santa Cruz managed to avoid being overrun, though the city is more attractive than its southern rivals, and the landscape less arid. One of Santa Cruz’s biggest draws is its extraordinary architecture: in the space of a couple of blocks you can travel from Miami’s South Beach through Havana’s Prado, down Boulevard de Paris in Casablanca and back up Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona.
This is particularly true of Las Mimosas. Set back in the hills to the north-east of Santa Cruz, Las Mimosas is a rich neighbourhood without the chichi trappings you might expect. On the streets close to the Mencey Hotel you’ll find grand Art Deco avenues painted in dull pastels and you’ll swoon over derelict properties sandwiched between impeccably appointed olive and peach-coloured neighbours.
When we asked an estate agent about these abandoned gems he winked, betraying its potential. He said that Las Mimosas was expensive, but you could pick up a bargain fixer-upper for less than €150,000. Year-round sun, fantastic architecture (Herzog & de Meuron’s Museum of Modern Art and Culture opens this summer), no tourists, good food, regular flights, what more could you want?
Grab a quick breakfast at the Sheraton Mencey Hotel in Calle Dr José Naveiras. After chocolate caliente, spend some time exploring the quiet calles of Las Mimosas behind the hotel for varied architecture in this affluent neighbourhood. Head back down Calle Dr José Naveiras and pick up a copy of Via, a good local bilingual mook on Canary culture and design, at the quiosco on Rambla del General Franco, Santa Cruz’s main thoroughfare, which bisects the city. Skirt Parque García Sanabria along Rambla del General Franco and on the corner of Avenida Veinticinco de Julio and Calle Numancia you’ll reach Café Numancia. Order a cortado from Kiko, read Via and watch the locals sunning themselves and practising yoga in the park. Refuelled, stroll along Avenida Veinticinco de Julio, passing the marshmallow building next to Peluqueria Fefi. At the grand mosaic-ed Plaza de Weyler turn into Calle Callao de Lima and weave your way down to the Plaza del Principe for another cortado or two at Café del Príncipe, a coffee shop that looks like its is carved out of solid marble. Smokers should pop into El Hogar del Fumador and bag some duty-free Robainas on Calle Bethencourt Alfonso before a spot of lunch at Tasca La Rebotica on San Francisco. Order a half ración of pan ajo con tomate y jamón ibérico and a glass of the house rosé. Skip dessert, opt instead for a helado de la piña from La Flor de Alicante on Calle de la Rosa. Walk up Calle San Francisco Javier and stock up on picnic essentials at Horno de Pan for a lazy afternoon at Las Teresitas.
On the corner of Calle Valentin Sanz and Calle del Mirlo
Santa Cruz means sacred cross and it’s no secret that the Spanish are a devout bunch. This tiny shop selling kitsch iconography is the perfect combination of Christianity, commerce and kookiness.
Horno de Pan
Corner of Calle Méndez Núñez and Calle de San Antonio
We stumbled upon this hole-in-the-wall bakery en route to the beach on a Sunday morning. We made space in our beach bag for warm baked picos, tortas and the eponymous pan de horno.
Mercado Nuestra Señora de África
On the corner of Calle de San Sebastián and Calle Manuel Guimerá
This market in the centre of town may not look like Barcelona’s Santa Caterina, but it packs the same foodie punch. Expect an encylopedic array of oils, hams, greens, wines and even an international sweet shop.
Pico de Teide
From Santa Cruz take the TF-5 highway and head for the TF-24.
If you fly into or out of the south airport, we suggest you take the interior highway through the otherworldly landscape of Tenerife’s dormant volcano, Teide. Spain’s tallest mountain and the world’s third largest volcano, Teide is a great introduction to this island’s varied geography.
Auditorio de Tenerife
Avenida de la Constitución; + 34 922 56 86 00; www.auditoriodetenerife.com
Santiago Calatrava is far from our favourite architect, but his buildings are always worth a perimeter walk. Plus the auditorium attracts big names such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Boston Ballet, if you like that sort of thing.
Make friends with somebody who knows somebody and blag a seat on one of the clandestine boats heading to this virtually deserted island off the coast of Fuerteventura.
Playa de las Teresitas
Head north out of Santa Cruz for 5km on the TF-11 highway
The north coast’s only white-sand beach (it’s a man-made Saharan sand lagoon). In the right light it could almost be mistaken for Ipanema. Almost.
Tasca La Rebotica
Calle San Francisco Javier 17; www.tascalarebotica.com
Founded in 1702, La Rebotica is one of those walk-in tabernas that serves generous platos-loads of unfussy Spanish fare – the bacalao y pimientos is particularly good.
Café del Principe
Plaza del Principe de Asturias; + 34 922 278 810
Located close to the old town, this café is a favourite with locals and serves great coffee and shandies in ice-cold glasses. If you’re lucky, you will catch Radio Cadena 100 making one of their regular broadcasts from there.
Corner of Calle de Numancia and Avenida Venticinco de Julio
Numancia’s location at the crossroads makes it an excellent place to watch Santa Cruzans cruise by, and the staff are charmingly relaxed, even by Spanish standards.
Avenida Constitución 5
Jam is a beach bar close to the centre of town where patrons are permanently locked in mañana time. It’s also where less-relaxed residents have been known to start their swim between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, a leisurely 60km paddle.
Calle Robayna 34; + 34 922 272 300
This is the best place for Tenerife’s signature dish – papas arrugadas con mojo verde – new potatoes with a green coriander and cumin sauce. This dish is best with other tapas, and one of La Cazuela’s other specialities is gambas al ajillo, an enormous plate of sweet prawns cooked in oil.
La Flor de Alicante
Calle La Rosa 29; + 34 922 283 461
Although the Italians are probably best at ice cream, we have to admit the Spanish do a good impression of gelato and this heladeria serves the best helado de la piña sencillo we’ve ever tasted.
Sheraton Mencey Hotel
Calle Dr José Naveiras 38; + 34 922 609 900; www.starwoodshotels.com
This is one of the better Sheratons we’ve stayed at. Attentive and friendly staff, comfortable rooms and unnervingly generous bar staff in Las Mimosas.
Calle Dr José Naveiras 24; + 34 922 27 60 00; www.hoteltaburiente.com
Just down the road from the Mencey, the Taburiente is a good alternative if you’re sick of old-world grandeur and want low-cost modern comfort.
26, hotel manager
“I’ve lived in Madrid and I’ve lived in London, which are both great capitals, but nothing beats Santa Cruz. As capitals go – and I realise we’re small – SC must have one of the highest standards of living. Everyone’s friendly, there are few tourists and we have the pleasant Canarian climate, which never gets too hot or too cold. Las Mimosas is probably the richest neighbourhood in the city, but the prices are still affordable. Having lived elsewhere, I can’t imagine settling anywhere else.”
Margarita, Erika and Jairo Abreu
36, shop owner
“I’ve lived in SC all my life because the standard of living is so high. I’ve never been tempted to move away, partly because the schooling system is so good. Erika and Jairo like to spend weekends here at the Las Teresitas beach, which is fine by me. There are very few tourists, it’s mostly locals and it feels safe, there are always two or three lifeguards on duty. Because the city is so small everything is close, so one minute you can be shopping at El Corte Inglés and the next you can be sunbathing on the beach.”
Leticia Portero Mata
24, international business student
“I am busy studying in Santa Cruz and I live with my parents in Las Mimosas. I love how quiet it is up here behind the city, and the further up the hill you go the nicer the houses get. Santa Cruz is a cool place to go out, with loads of restaurants and bars and quite a big population of students to hang out with. I can’t see myself moving away from SC, although many of my friends plan to move to Spain. We Canarians love to travel, it must be something to do with having an island mentality.”
Average prices for houses
Santa Cruz €1,672 per sq m
Alicante €1,739 per sq m
Palma de Mallorca €2,127 per sq m
Marbella €2,185 per sq m
Barcelona €3,700 per sq m
Source: BPS (Buy Property Spain) buypropertyspain.com
Estate agents (private and business)
Barre’s Property Trading
Calle Mendez Núñez 114
+ 34 646 18 77 40
Global Group International
Avenida Las Américas 8
+ 34 922 77 75 20
Estate agents in the Canaries charge commission on property sales, but these vary from agent to agent so a period of comparison is advised. The Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands, including Tenerife, operates under Spanish law and it is important to hire a resident lawyer who understands the intricacies of Spanish and Canarian tax law variations. Expect to pay the lawyer 1.5 per cent of the purchase price plus VAT, and be aware that hiring a Spanish-speaking lawyer in your home country to save on travel will prove costly – it is more than likely that he will subcontract the work to a resident lawyer, effectively doubling your costs.
In line with Spanish law, a notary will also be required to guarantee the legality of the sale. The Spanish government sets the notary fees according to the number of clauses in the deeds and the declared value of the property. They range from approximately 0.1 per cent of the declared price of a property (on properties of €400,000 or more) to 0.4 per cent (on properties of under €100,000). In the case of a mortgage you must pay notary fees on the mortgage deeds as well.