The streets of La Orotava welcome visitors to stroll around the town and discover its historic and artistic secrets on a tour that is not to be missed. The historic quarter of this municipality is divided into Villa de Abajo, which once housed the more wealthy families, and Villa de Arriba, with more modest buildings which nonetheless prove to be of significant architectural interest. Both areas can be explored on a tour by starting at Calle San Francisco, opposite the Church of San Francisco and the Santísima Trinidad Hospital.
These buildings both stand on the land that once housed the Monastery of San Lorenzo, though now only its portico and the figure of the saint remain. Walking on towards the streets of Calle Colegio and Carrera del Escultor Estévez, visitors will see a great many examples of stately architecture, with many homes bearing the coat of arms of the families who built them on the façade. Among them, special mention should be made of Casa de los Balcones, with a distinctly Canarian character, combining masonry and woodwork on the façade and with a beautiful inner patio.
The route then goes on towards Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which is covered once a year with a carpet made of volcanic sand to celebrate the Corpus Christi, and then on to the gardens of Hijuela del Botánico, behind the town hall, which were used as a nursery supplying plants for the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz.
On the street of Calle de San Agustín, visitors can see the magnificent houses of Marquesado de la Quinta Roja and Casa Ascanio, which overlook Plaza de la Constitución. Opposite is the Church and Monastery of San Agustín dating from the 17th century.
A short stroll will then lead you to the majestic Church of La Concepción, which was declared a Historic Monument in 1948. The dome and steeples at either side of the façade are part of La Orotava’s skyline.
Casa de los Balcones
Built in roughly 1670 with the help of some of the finest carpenters of that time, this house’s most notable feature is its large Tea wood balcony on the third floor. The patio comprises two L-shaped open verandas and an impressive wooden wine press. Casa de los Balcones now houses the traditional craft centre of La Orotava, selling craft goods and showcasing the traditional methods that are still used today to create unique objects. Next to it is the house of Jiménez Francy, built in 1632, which contained the Farrais school in the 1940s. It now houses the Museum of Flower Carpets and the Wine Guild’s headquarters. Just a few yards away are Casa Molina and Casa del Turista (the Tourist House), which helps to disseminate the town’s traditional events that take place in the other buildings mentioned above.
Also known as Casa Ponte Fonte, this house was built in the 17th century after the marriage of Jerónimo Ponte Fonte and Catalina Grimaldi. The façade is adorned with sgraffito latticework and the windows and balconies feature elaborate woodwork. The central balcony is made of wrought iron and adorned with plant-like motifs. Topping the window on the third floor is the family coat of arms set in marble. This Asset of Cultural Interest contains a lovely patio with Corinthian pillars and a mill.
Built in the 16th century by Diego Mesa, this house has been divided into two properties since the early 20th century. One of them preserves the original name of the building and features a Plateresque doorway, whilst the house of Torrehermosa has a lovely balcony.
Liceo de Taoro
This town palace was the home of the Ascanio family before it became the school of Liceo de Taoro. The plans of the building were presented in 1925. It stands on a hilltop overlooking much of the valley and the coastal area of Puerto de la Cruz. Its eclectic, palace-like appearance both inside and out is enhanced by the gardens that surround it.
Plaza de la Constitución
Located opposite the Liceo de Taoro and the church of San Agustín , this square was built over a flat stretch of land known as Llano de San Roque and soon became a very important public meeting place. The square received its current name after the approval of the Spanish Constitution in 1812, though it is more fondly known as Plaza del Kiosco because of the Neo-Mudejar style kiosk that was installed there in 1916.
The Carpet Museum
Near to Casa de los Balcones is a museum for visitors to discover the local tradition of making carpets out of flowers and sand from El Teide to adorn the streets of La Orotava once a year during the Corpus Christi celebrations. It is a great place to learn first-hand about this ephemeral tradition and the design and manufacturing process involved in making these fabulous carpets.
The church and former monastery of San Agustín
This Catholic church belonged to the Augustine Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, which was built over the old Chapel of San Roque. Work on the church began in 1671 and ended in 1694. A special feature on the north side of the church are its four Roman arches, three of which have been closed up, with just one preserving the original door that once stood. The church has three naves and a lovely main chapel presided over by a 17th century Portuguese figure of Nuestra Señora de Gracia. The monastery was expropriated from the Augustine order in the 19th century and was used as a military base for the infantry. Nowadays it is a Cultural Centre.
The Church of La Concepción
This is the municipality’s main parish church and is considered the best piece of Baroque architecture in the Canary Islands. It began to be built in 1498 and was later extended. The structure suffered considerable damage due to the seismic shifts caused by the eruption in 1706 and was it therefore rebuilt in 1767 exactly as we see it today, largely thanks to the contributions made by the wealthier echelons of society and even the Spanish Crown. In 1948, the Church of La Concepción in La Orotava was declared a National Historic Monument. The Baroque façade features elaborate stonework, whilst the inside of the building preserves its Neo-classical style with a structure divided into three naves. The main chapel is presided over by a Genoese tabernacle made of marble and jasper, which was designed by Giuseppe Gaggini in 1823. Other works of art include religious statues by the local sculptor Fernando Estévez and a significant array of Sacred Art.
The church of San Juan Bautista
This parish church began to be built in 1728 and has a single nave forming a Latin cross, with a distinct Portuguese influence. Among the images inside the temple are the figures of the Lord tied to the Column made by the Sevilian artist Pedro Roldán in 1689 and La Virgen de los Remedios, which is also from the 17th century. It also houses La Virgen de Gloria by José Luján Pérez and the sculptures of Virgen del Carmen, San Juan Evangelista and La Magdalena, which were created by Fernando Estévez in the 19th century.
The Church of Santo Domingo
Erected in the 17th century over the old chapel of San Benito Abad, this church stands near to Casa Mesa. In fact, the support of the Mesa family was essential for the construction of the church. Its steeple stands out together with those of the Church of La Concepción to form the well-known skyline of La Orotava’s historic quarter. Inside there is a carved wooden pulpit, as well as images of Jesús Nazareno, San Juan, La Dolorosa and La Virgen del Rosario. Other patrimonial gems inside this parish include two paintings representing the Burial of Santo Domingo and Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria by Canarian painters. Beside the church is the Iberian-American Craft Museum in a building that used to be the Dominican monastery adjacent to the church.
The gardens of Marquesado de la Quinta Roja
Also known as the Victoria Gardens, they were commissioned to be planted in an orchard by the Marchioness of la Quinta Roja named Sebastiana del Castillo. Her son Diego Ponte del Castillo died in April 1880 but the Bishopric did not allow him to be buried in the family vault because of his involvement with the Freemasons, leaving him to be interred in the non-Catholic section of the cemetery. The shame this would have brought on the family led the Marchioness to build a garden with a mausoleum in which to lay her son’s body to rest. Eventually, they were granted permission to bury their son in the family vault and the mausoleum was never actually used, though it still stands today as a monument against religious intolerance. Made of marble from Lyon, the small building was completed in 1883 under the orders of the French architect Adolph Coquet. It is interesting to note that the pathways, fountains and gardens surrounding it were laid out in a symbolic arrangement linked to Freemasonry.
The Town Hall
The current town hall building was designed in 1869 after the demolition of the Clarisse convent of San José which stood in that same place before it became too run down. The plan was for the work on the town hall to last no longer than two-and-a-half years, but the construction process dragged on for twenty-five years after it was interrupted due to lack of funds. It was finally completed in 1895, with a Neo-Classical style. Among its most striking features is the tympanum decorated with the town’s coat of arms in relief, surrounded by the symbols of agriculture, justice, history and teaching. The square it overlooks is one of the town’s most popular meeting points, hosting a number of events and fairs over the year.
Source: Tenerife Tourist Board