San Cristóbal de La Laguna. Inland of the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, better known as La Laguna.
La Laguna - UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site
Inland of the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and at the foot of the Anaga Mountains to the northeast of the island is the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, better known as La Laguna.
This city, the former capital of the island, is the historical and cultural heart of the western Canaries and houses the oldest and most prestigious university of the archipelago. It’s a city full of historic buildings, and its urban layout with straight streets that cross over in a grid pattern – as well as it being a “city of peace” without any fortification – have all made it worthy of being designated a Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
La Laguna is the third largest city by population in the Canaries, after Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but it’s location right next to Santa Cruz means that together they have a population of more than 360,000 inhabitants, which would make it the largest city by population on the Canaries.
In the last years of the 15th century, in what the indigenous Guanches knew as Aguere, a settlement was founded which attracted those living in the north of the island due to its fertile soil, water resources (it had a fresh water laguna after which it’s named), and the natural protection provided by the surrounding mountains. It was here that the last armed confrontation between the Castilian armies, sent by Don Alonso Fdez. de Lugo, and the indigenous population, led by Bencomo and Tinguaro, took place. The defeat of the latter brought an end to the hostilities between invaders and natives and brought with it the definitive conquest of the archipelago for the Castilian Crown. As the Spanish victory occurred on the Day of St. Christopher, it was decided that the saint’s name would be given to the city, of which he would also become, along with Saint Michael, the patron saint.
In recognition of his victory, the Castilian captain Don Alonso Fernández de Lugo received the title of Governor, with economic and political power over the territory, and was named head of the island’s Council, which for a long time was the only governmental body on the island. It was from this title and its successive holders that La Laguna came to be known as the “City of the Governors”.
At the start of the 16th century the definitive urban organization of the city was completed; a grid structure that was exported to the new cities founded by the Spanish in the Americas. Furthermore, the inland location of the city rendered unnecessary city walls or defensive outposts to protect against potential Berber pirates. For the whole century, numerous civil and religious buildings were constructed in the city, which constituted the heart and head of Tenerife. King Charles I awarded La Laguna city-status, to which the adjectives “Noble and of Loyal History” were added soon after.
The 17th century showed an increase in the trade of Tenerife wine to the Indies, the Netherlands, and England (Shakespeare mentions the marvelous canary wine in several of his works), which required a reorganization of the farming and agricultural areas of the island.
In the 18th century liberal enlightenment came about which brought with it, for example, the establishment of a center for higher education in La Laguna, which would later become the University of Saint Fernando, formally founded in 1792, and now known as the University of La Laguna.
This university, the oldest in the Canaries, boasts more than 25,000 students and some 1,800 teachers, making La Laguna the cultural capital of the Canaries. Its high schools, clubs, the Teatro Leal, and the remnants of the enlightenment period fill the city with cultural attractions that remain intact today.
In addition, the vitality of the student life permeates the entire city, meaning La Laguna is the center of university, as well as cultural and amusement activities, even though the formal capital is neighboring Santa Cruz.
Take a walk through La Laguna, 20 km from Puerto de la Cruz and five minutes from Santa Cruz by train, discover the museums (which house history, anthropology, sciences and the cosmos), the vibrant commercial activity and the countless tapas bars. Also try the Canary wine that the big pedestrian area offers which is a pleasure that nobody could pass up. These are the attractions that make La Laguna a meeting point for the islanders and a must-see for foreign visitors, who will discover the beauty of its architecture, the deliciousness of its food and wines and the friendliness of the inhabitants.