Villa de Teguise
The Real Villa de Teguise is the heart of town and because of its historical legacy has been declared a historical architectural and artistic. Teguise is possibly the best preserved historic center of the Canaries, and that has not undergone major changes over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Teguise today, especially since the town known happy times as a result of the implementation in terms of tourism subsector, struggle to maintain unchanged the profile of the streets, turned, curiously, in an attractive first-order within the offer cultural hutch (Lanzarote).
Thus, a walk in the XXI century Teguise is the closest thing we find in the Canary Islands to visit anachronistic to the time of our grandparents, as the town of Teguise is held with the taste of the truly ancient.
A Brief History of Teguise
Unlike it’s more modern coastal counterpart, Teguise (or La Villa as it is known by it’s residents) is steeped in history and can lay claim to being the oldest Spanish settlement in the whole of the Canaries, dating back to 1402.
It’s central position, high ground and commanding views gave it a tactical and defensive advantage over coastal towns like Arrecife, so securing it’s status as Lanzarote’s capital for some 450 years.
Blood in the Streets
For many centuries these strategic considerations were of paramount importance as Lanzarote was subjected to wave after wave of invasion by plundering pirates.
This on-going pillage reached a violent crescendo in 1618 when an armada of 5,000 Algerian buccaneers overran the town.
A small street called La Sangre, which means blood in English, serves as a memorial to the violent massacre that ensued and can still be found beside Teguise’s main church, the Neustro Senora de Guadalupe, just off the central Plaza de la Constitucion.
Sightseeing in Teguise
In Teguise, flat fronted white houses hide inner courtyards and patios, pretty squares play host to a variety of bars and restaurants and there are loads of beautiful historic buildings to visit.
Teguise is certainly a great place for just strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere.
If you’re looking for things to do in Teguise and you don’t come on Sunday, which is Market Day, here’s three of the best:
Castillo Santa Barbara
Teguise’s defensive beacon and the oldest castle on the island, The Fortress of Santa Barbara, still stands guard over the town high up on the extinct volcano that forms Mount Guanapay.
It started life as a watchtower and was built at the end of the 15th century by the then Lord of Lanzarote, Sancho de Herrera.
As well as offering the most incredible views of the island, Santa Barbara today also houses the excellent Museum of Emigration; which details the patterns of mass exodus forced upon Lanzarote’s inhabitants over the years, by factors such as volcanic eruptions and general economic hardship.
Palacio de Marques
The Palacio de Marques is the oldest building on the island, dating back to 1455 when it was finally completed after a lengthy 32-year construction process.
For 270 years this was the HQ of the island’s government — but today it’s beautiful, plant bedecked central patio houses a German owned tapas bar and bodega.
During the more turbulent years of the 16th and 17th century the town’s inhabitants would converge upon the Palacio at the first sign of invasion, as from there they could access a tunnel which would enable them to flee, underground and uphill, to the safety of the Castillo Santa Barbara.
Although dating from a different architectural period to the Palacio Marques, the Palacio Spinola, which lies just off the central Plaza de Constitucion still exudes an historic, colonial air.
Originally built in the 1730’s the house was only acquired by wealthy merchant family the Spinolas in 1895.
A sympathetic restoration project, overseen by the ubiquitous César Manrique helped restore the building to its full glory back in the 1970’s and today it is one of Teguise’s most important monuments.
The architecture of the island has been influenced by the weather. White is the predominant color of the houses, they work as a mirror to the sun's rays, not allowing the temperature to rise in the interior.
Rooftops and concrete patio castings that are inclined seek to collect the small amount of rainwater in ponds made of stone. Flat roofs decorated with typical decorations in the form of a hat or umbrella. Green is the color that predominates in doors and windows, it is because in the past fishermen were using the remnants of paint, having painted their boats. Traditional architecture also has a colonial touch.
Portuguese and Andalusian influences have led to a particular architecture, as the typical wooden balconies hanging from the facade and the interior courtyards, and skylights typical of Teguise, for example. Indoors are usually very sober. The houses are often decorated with pieces of ceramics and pottery.
You cannot talk about the architecture of Lanzarote, without mentioning the outstanding work done by the artist and designer of Lanzarote, César Manrique, his influence and his work is the identity of the island.