Arrecife, Canary Islands
Although Arrecife has fully 50,000 of the 130,000 people that live on Lanzarote, this small city remains a place where life moves at a more sedate pace than it does in bustling Santa Cruz or Las Palmas. The coastline here is strung with line after line of rocky reefs (in fact, "reef" is what arrecife means in Spanish). While you're here, don't miss its two castles or its inland saltwater lagoon, Charco de San Ginés, where there's a gorgeous fleet of small fishing craft. A stroll around the back streets near the lagoon gives you an idea of the old Arrecife. The local Playa del Reducto is a good place to get in some beach time if you’re spending the day here. From Arrecife, you might want to walk or bike to Puerto del Carmen along the 12-km (7½-mile) seafront promenade, which takes in lovely stretches of golden sand and views of the Ajaches mountains in the south. You can stop for a bite to eat in Playa Honda. Take the bus back if you’re not up to the return trip.
Shopping is low-key in Arrecife. The main shops are on and around the pedestrian-only Calle León y Castilla.
Creative cooking with Canarian roots is the philosophy behind the dishes at this modern restaurant that's just around the corner from the beach. Although there are a few tables outdoors, the dining mainly takes place inside, where copper and chocolate tones accompany floral touches. Standout dishes here include plantain croquettes and a slow-cooked suckling pig, served with a fruit reduction. Reservations are a good idea on weekends.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
The old, waterfront fortress Castillo San José was turned into this stunning museum by the architect César Manrique. One of his paintings is on display, along with other modern Spanish works.
Castillo San Gabriel
The Castillo San Gabriel is a double-wall fortress once used to keep pirates at bay. A museum, due to open in 2013, will cover important events in the city's past.
Playa del Reducto
It may not be in the same league as some of the beaches in the south, but Playa del Reducto is still an attractive urban beach, ideal for relaxing after you've looked around Arrecife. It's well maintained and protected by natural reefs, so swimming is usually like swimming in a warm lake (though do watch out for rocky outcrops at low tide). The beach is backed by a pleasant promenade that goes all the way to Puerto del Carmen.
Amenities: food and drink; showers; toilets. Best for: sunrise; walking.