San Cristobal de La Laguna, the former capital of Tenerife, is an historic Canary Islands city with a long university tradition. Its model colonial layout, awarded World Heritage status, contains several of the island's major religious buildings, including the Cathedral, as well as a multitude of ancestral homes from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Its proximity to the coast enables the city to enjoy the vast Tenerife beaches and the numerous attractions of other cities such as Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava. Yet another attraction is the opportunity to discover the island's local delicacies and taste the wide variety of Tenerife wines protected by a Label Guarantee.
The city was founded more than five centuries ago, following Alonso Fernandez de Lugo's disembarkation in 1494 on the Tenerife shores and the subsequent incoporation of the island to the Crown of Castile. Three years later, in 1497, San Cristobal was founded on the banks of an inland lake situated in the north of the island. It was at this point that the city became the main centre of political and military power in Tenerife. It was also the main cultural centre, since it was here that several teaching institutions were established, including what was to be for a long period the only Canary Islands university, the University of San Fernando.
At the beginning of the 18th century, La Laguna entered a period of decline as a result of the expansion of the neighbouring Santa Cruz de Tenerife, culminating a century later in the transfer of the island's capital to the latter city. La Laguna has nevertheless preserved its status as the seat of the university and the Episcopal See.
The early urban centre (the so-called Villa de Arriba, or upper town), emerged around the church of La Concepcion, although it was not until the 16th century that the historic quarter expanded (the Villa de Abajo, or lower town) and adopted its present-day grid appearance in accordance with the rationalist canons of the period. Thus it was that La Laguna became the first non-fortified colonial city, its disposition indeed serving as a model for other cities developed in Latin America. It was thanks to this and other factors that the city was awarded World Heritage status.