Why go now?
While Northern Europe chatters its teeth in the grip of an icy February, the Tenerife capital basks in a very pleasant average of 18°C (64°F) in the shade (based on Spanish Met Office data collected between 1981 and 2010) with a default setting of sunshine. Add to that the longer daylight hours and you’ve got an instant spring fix in the depths of winter. And if you wait until after Carnaval finishes (Feb 18th), you’ll find prices lower and restaurants quieter although some bars may take a well-earned holiday after the frivolities.
Budget airlines (easyJet, Jet2com, Ryanair, Tui etc) fly frequently from across the UK to Tenerife South airport with prices as low as less than £100 return. From there, the 111 bus runs every 30mins direct to the city, a journey of 1hr 6mins. If you want to fly to Tenerife North airport, you’ll have to fly via Madrid and then jump on the 102 which runs every 30mins and takes 26mins.
Where to stay in Santa Cruz:
Deluxe – The Mencey
Colonial style and contemporary luxury make for a blissful marriage in this old dame of a hotel located on the Ramblas, still the city’s only five star. Effortless good service, a fabulous spa, and rooms that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Mad Men, all add to the glamour of a weekend stay. The gardens are delightfully sheltered too, perfect for soaking up the winter sun. Double rooms with breakfast start from €135 (£119); website
Mid-Range – The Contemporáneo
The same perfect location as the Mencey but without the price tag, the Contemporaneo sits alongside Parque Garcia Sanabria on the Ramblas and offers sexy, contemporary style and coddling comfort. The roof space is the place to head if you want to revel in that warm sun as well as taking in the cityscape. Leafy courtyards, decking and sun loungers abound but the pool doesn’t open until summer. Great breakfast at this hotel too. Double rooms with breakfast start from €98 (£87); website
Budget – The NH
Right in the heart of the shopping streets, just a two minute stroll from Plaza España, the NH is the ideal base for exploring the city. Typical city centre in terms of floor space, the décor is nicely contemporary with lots of glass, chrome and dark wood and the rooms have good quality bedding, hot showers and effective double glazing which keeps them insulated from the sounds of the city. Double rooms start from €85 (£75); website
Morning: Kick-start your weekend with our Santa Cruz city walk taking in all the best bits of the city including the Museum of Man & Nature with its macabre collection of mummified bodies; the TEA modern art museum and the African market as well as lesser known delights such as Plaza Patos with its mosaic benches and the leafy Parque Garcia Sanabria, known as the lungs of the city.
Mag Café Bistro
Stroll along the portside to the iconic wave of Calatrava’s Auditorio where, tucked beneath the curves of its south west face, alongside the Black Castle, you’ll find the chic Mag Café Bistro. Opt for the daily set menu (around €15) and select from creative, tasty and appetising dishes, nicely presented. This is a lovely spot to while away an hour or so over a glass of chilled white wine with lunch and don’t forget to check out the rock star gallery before you leave. (Ave Constitución 1 (in the Auditorium); +34 922 568 600: open daily 9am – 7:30pm, 11:45pm Fri & Sat )
Afternoon: Enjoy some retail therapy along Calle Castillo and surrounding streets, making sure to also take in El Corte Inglés (the Selfridges of the Canary Islands) and the Tres de Mayo (Calle ) and Meridiano (Calle ) shopping centres.
Cocktails: Give your credit card a well-earned rest while you put your feet up and enjoy a mojito or a G&T in the tranquil and trendy Strasse Parque on the Rambla with its terrace overlooking Parque Garcia Sanabria. This is the perfect place to unwind late afternoon or early evening.
It’s Saturday night so why not push the gastronomic boat out by dining at the city’s Michelin starred Kazan. A fusion of Japanese and Nikkei cuisine using the best of local and Iberian ingredients, this is top notch dining where the dishes look good enough to frame and deliver such a freshness and clarity of flavour that you wonder why you ever had your food cooked. We’ve been veering towards food in the raw ever since we ate here (Milicias de Garachico 1; +34 922 245 598; open Tues – Sat 1:30pm to 3:30pm, 8:30pm to midnight, closed Sunday).
If Japanese isn’t your thing, why not amble along to Cocina Urbana (on your doorstep if you’re staying in Mencey or Contemporáneo) for a mouth-watering burger; some tasty pasta or a fragrant Thai curry. Food is cooked fresh to order, the staff are brilliant and there’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere (Rambla de Santa Cruz 114; +34 822 026 677; open 1pm to 4pm, 8:30pm to 11:30pm daily).
Morning: Join the locals in Parque Garcia Sanabria, the lungs of the city. Stroll through the Italian gardens, by the fountains where groups of middle-aged folks are practising their morning Tai Chi, or sit by Fecundidad as the water splashes across her plump knees, creating rainbows. Don’t miss the bamboo tunnel and the famous flower clock, not to mention the art pieces ensconced within the greenery. This is a place to linger and enjoy. When you feel ready to move on, take the strolling to the Ramblas where you can enjoy the sculpture trail that takes in such masterpieces as Henry Moore’s Warrior and Miró’s Femme Bouteille. There are also numerous kiosks with table and chairs dotted along the green pedestrian walkway where you can stop and enjoy a barraquito, a uniquely Tinerfeño affair.
Lunch: Head late morning to the African Market where you can browse the stalls of the flea market before heading into the market and downstairs to Dos Gradus Centigradus or La Ría.
Nuestra Señora de Africa
After browsing the fruit, vegetables, cheeses, spices and cut flowers of this delightful market, head downstairs to the fish market where you’ll find a handful of pop-up style eateries with surprisingly good gastronomy and chic dining areas. Clearly fish & seafood are the wise choice in this Aladdin’s Cave of all things aquatic where you can be sure the catch has not travelled far from net to plate. Check out Dos Grados Centigrados or La Ria to sample such delights as fresh and zingy ceviche and garlic prawn omelette (tortilla de gambas al ajillo).
Afternoon: Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to head to Las Teresitas beach. Located 8km outside the city (bus number 910 runs every 10mins from the intercambiador at the back of the bus station), this 1.5km (1 mile) of golden sand curves gently around the bay backed by palm trees and beyond them, the Anaga Mountains. Small kiosks selling snacks and cold drinks line the back of the sand while the gently shelving beach drifts languidly into calm, blue waters, protected from the Atlantic waves by an extensive breakwater. With such an immense expanse of sand, it never feels crowded so grab a sun lounger and let your body breathe in that therapeutic winter sun, after all, it’s what you came here for.
Cocktails: Time to head to the city’s trendiest bar and restaurant district, La Noria, in Calle Antonio Dominguez Alfonso that stretches from the landmark tower of Iglesia de la Concepción to the viaduct beneath Puente Serrador. Mojos y Mojitos near the viaduct is a good place to start the evening with a cocktail on its terrace where people watching is compulsive.
Dinner: As the sun dips and evening morphs to night, you’re perfectly placed for selecting any one of the many restaurants that line Calle Antonio Dominguez Alfonso. Chose from tapas bars like Mirador de la Noria (Calle Antonio Dominguez Alfonso, 6; (+34) 922 082 738; open 12.30pm – 2.30 am daily, closed Sunday; tapas selection €10) or La Buena Vida (Calle Antonio Dominguez Alfonso, 10; (+34) 922 241 913; open 1pm – midnight daily; tapas average €8), both of which create delicious tapas dishes which stray from the usual. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, try Los Reunidos where you’ll find traditional Canarian cuisine given a contemporary remodel or Bulan where you’ll find a relaxed, chill-out atmosphere and a menu that spans the globe, from the Canary Islands to Thailand, Japan and Mexico.