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Panoramic view of Santa Cruz de la Palma on the island of La Palma (Canary Islands)

Santa Cruz de la Palma

La Palma

A small but beautiful city, with a maritime flavour. Going for a walk here, by day or by night, is a sensation-filled experience. It is a place steeped in history.

Santa Cruz de La Palma is a beautiful colonial-style city whose historic quarter, declared a Historic-Artistic Site, boasts many palaces, colonial-style buildings and houses bearing typical elements of traditional Canary Islands architecture. Other interesting places include churches and the Shrine of Virgen de las Nieves, where a centuries-old tradition takes place: the descent of the island's patron saint.

The history of Santa Cruz de La Palma dates from the late 15th century, when Alonso Fernández de Lugo conquered the island and made it part of the possessions of the Crown of Castile. From that point on, the city began to acquire substantial economic power.

Its importance on the trade routes to Europe –and particularly to the Americas– was so great that in 1558 it became the home of the first Courts and Assizes of the Indies. The city had become a flourishing export hub and attracted a large number of merchants and bankers. All this, in combination with the intense naval activity undertaken by its shipyards, served to make Santa Cruz de La Palma the third most important maritime port in the Spanish Empire, after Seville and Antwerp.

The cityThis glorious past can still be seen in the historic centre of Santa Cruz de La Palma in the priceless legacy of palaces, colonial-style buildings and houses bearing typical elements of traditional Canary Islands architecture such as the wooden balconies.

The legendary Calle Real street stands out in this small but beautiful city that has been declared a Property of Cultural Interest and a Historic-Artistic Site. Calle Real is the city's main street, mostly cobbled, where the main shops, squares, large houses and interesting buildings can be found. A walk along this street is a must. From north to south, visitors can learn about the capital's traditions, history and culture.

Plaza de España square is a meeting point for the locals, and home to some of the most important buildings on the island. Here we find the Town Hall, the Church of El Salvador and an interesting fountain at one end. It is worth noting that it is a unique ensemble of Renaissance buildings in the island.

Placeta del Borrero is a typically Canarian small and secluded square, surrounded by houses. It is an ideal place to stop and enjoy a "barraquito" (coffee with condensed milk, cinnamon, lemon peel and a sweet liqueur), local wine or homemade beer.Plaza de la Alameda is situated in the far north of the capital. It is a long square with the Naval Museum at one end, and the statue of the "dwarf".

From here, you can cross the bridge to go up to the Castle of La Virgen, which is situated at the other side of the gully. The views of the city from here are amazing. Not far from here, you can find the Church of La Encarnación, where "The Annunciation" (16th century) stands out. It is a set of polychrome wooden carvings from Flanders.

Then you can walk back to the starting point along the Avenida Marítima promenade while you enjoy the sea breeze. The first stop is the walls of the Castle of Santa Catalina, a military fortification that helped to defend the city from the pirates and corsairs in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The second stop is the balconies on Avenida Marítima. They are typical Canarian houses with wooden balconies that are beautifully decorated with brightly coloured flowers.

Another place not to be missed is the traditional Calle de San Sebastián, where you can enjoy a pleasant walk. Also interesting is the area of the Church of Santo Domingo, Circo de Marte theatre and the Shrine of Virgen de la Luz. The latter affords spectacular views of the port.

Gastronomy, festivities and the surrounding areaSanta Cruz de La Palma offers the chance to discover all the most representative dishes of the island gastronomy. The best options include "papas arrugás con mojo" (tiny potatoes boiled in their skin with lots of salt) accompanied by red or green "mojo" (typical sauce of the Canary Islands), pork or fish, "potaje" (a hearty soup) and "bienmesabe" for dessert (a sweet made from egg yolks, ground almonds, sugar, etc.), all washed down with La Palma Designation of Origin wine.

There are many hotels, apartments, guesthouses and country house lodges which will make your stay enjoyable.

The local inhabitants of La Palma – like the rest of the Canary Islanders– are friendly and fun-loving, as can be seen from their festivities. The Descent of the Virgin of Las Nieves takes place every five years and includes the famous Dance of the Dwarves as one of its main attractions. There are also other traditions: Minué, Carro Alegórico, the dialogue between the Ship and the Castle, etc. Two weeks of festivities, Chica and Grande, at the beginning of July, should not be missed.

The capital's most typical festivity, however, is Los Indianos (Monday during Carnival). Talcum powder, white clothing and straw hats turn the city streets white.

In the early hours of the morning on 3 May, the crosses in the capital are adorned for the Festival of the Crosses, accompanied by the interesting "mayos", which are dolls made out of cloth that represent everyday scenes or famous people.

La Palma offers a multitude of hiking options. Santa Cruz de La Palma has many paths that take you straight to the countryside after a few kilometres: Barranco de la Madera ravine or Molinos de Bellido mills are some of the options.

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