In the surroundings of San Gines, an aboriginal population was established. Under the constant pirate attacks, a fort was raised that, after being burned, was rebuilt as El Castillo de San Gabriel.
In 1630, the trader, Francisco Garcia Santellas, constructed the hermitage at San Gines, now converted into the parish church of San Gines, where one can admire the salt carpets that the islanders made for the festival of El Corpus.
Arrecife formed as a city at the beginnings of the 19th centuries, when the capital of the island passed from being Teguise to Arrecife due to the trade in la barrilla (used in the production of soap) and cochineal (valuable natural colorant), and its fishing fleet. In 1908, the first commercial port was built.
Its festivals are the most important as they are the oldest - San Ginés in August involves popular music, sailing competitions
For centuries, Arrecife (or Puerto de Arrecife as it was originally known) was the main port gateway to the island due to its proximity to ancient capital Teguise and its natural deep water harbour at Los Marmoles — now home to the city’s ferry and container ports.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the ports of the Canary Islands in general and Lanzarote in particular were plagued by pirate attacks and Arrecife was raided regularly.
Teguise — Ancient Capital
Teguise, some 10km from the coast was strategically better placed to deal with this threat and carried the title of capital city of the island for some 450 years.
It was only in 1852, as the importance of maritime trade grew, that this title was somewhat reluctantly handed on to Arrecife.
Biggest Fleet in the Canaries
Today, the port houses the biggest fishing fleet in the Canaries and the legacy of these pirate raids can still be seen in the two impressive castles that stand guard over Arrecife’s natural harbour.
Arrecife is a bustling city by both day and night. Its deep water harbour Los Marmoles, once the sole domain of the fishing fleet, is now also home to a very busy ferry and container port. The fortified castles were built at the harbour to protect the inhabitants from the repeated attacks by pirates. El Castillo de San Gabriel now houses an archaeological museum. Wander around the fishing harbour at night and savour the atmosphere of the old fishermen’s houses which are illuminated after dark.
The narrow streets of the old quarter with their small squares and pavement cafes retain some of the charm from bygone days. The pretty church of San Gines with its bell tower lies in the old quarter.
The dark golden beach, El Reducto, shelves gently into the sea. However it must be remembered that it is the Atlantic Ocean and there can be strong currents. Swimmers should swim parallel to the beach and not out to sea. A coral reef fairly close to the shore attracts many divers.
There is now a very smart paved and landscaped promenade along the beach offering shaded resting places and refreshments.
Arrecife has excellent shopping facilities and a wide variety of restaurants catering for most tastes.
Lanzarote is a place of outstanding natural beauty with extremes of scenery. An excursion to the National Park of Timanfaya with its huge volcanic craters and stark lunar landscape should not be missed. Another very popular attraction is Los Verdes caves with their illuminated caverns and underground lake.
Being a fairly large town, Arrecife has evening entertainment to suit everyone. There are lively nightclubs, bars and discos where those who wish can party through the night. There are also many quiet restaurants where holidaymakers can enjoy a meal and a bottle of wine in an intimate atmosphere.
One of the attractions of shopping in the Canary Islands is that goods are virtually tax free and Arrecife has an excellent shopping centre. The main street, Castillo y Leon, has a wide variety of designer boutiques and specialist shops. Perfume, alcohol, cigarettes, cameras and electronic goods are all considerably cheaper. The Sunday market at Teguise has hundreds of stalls and street entertainers. It seems that most of the island take coaches to the old capital to enjoy wandering the cobbled streets looking for bargains and holiday souvenirs.
There are a large number of bars, pavement cafes, and pubs serving a wide variety of food catering for most tastes. Arrecife is also well endowed with fine restaurants providing international cuisine as well as excellent fish restaurants serving traditional Canarian menus.
Castillo San Gabriel
The most readily visible of these is the Castillo San Gabriel, dating from 1590 and now home to a museum dedicated to the history of Arrecife.
Castillo San Jose
At the outer fringes of Arrecife by Puerto Marmoles lies the Castillo San Jose, which was originally built to repel pirates and alleviate poverty on the island in the wake of the major volcanic eruptions of the 1730’s. As a result it became known locally as the Fortress of Hunger.
Museum of International Contemporary Art
Ironically, The Castillo is still filling stomachs today, as it now houses a stylish restaurant, designed by Cesar Manrique as well as the islands small but prestigious Museum of International and Contemporary Art.