Activities & Attractions
Grand sights by the sea in Las Palmas
Weather experts state that Las Palmas is officially the ‘City with the Best Climate in the World,’ a bold claim backed up by extensive academic research. This ever-consistent, spring-like sunshine gives a pin-sharp outline to the elaborate stonework of the historic Vegueta district. Along with the Triana district, it reveals an extra layer of vibrancy at character-filled street markets, designer boutiques and prestigious department stores.
There’s a cultural vein flowing through the heart of Las Palmas too. Flashes of inspiration arrive in the form of elegantly landscaped botanical gardens as well as galleries dedicated to the island’s native artists and writers. That’s not forgetting wonderful museums that tell the story of Gran Canaria, from its rural beginnings to becoming a colonial outpost for Christopher Columbus and a battling ground for Sir Francis Drake.
Yet perhaps the greatest appeal of Las Palmas lays with the fact that sightseeing, sunshine and sea views prove such an inviting combination. It means that after marvelling at the churches and cathedral of the Old Town, you’ll have a welcome slice of golden sand awaiting you. Either way, the cool blue waters of the Atlantic or a fruity cocktail by the marina are sure to prove equally refreshing!
A tapestry of stonework and open green spaces
It’s no exaggeration to claim that Las Palmas has some of the finest architecture in all of the Canary Islands. You’ll discover this is particularly true of Vegueta, a district of off-white and pastel yellow townhouses, wrought-iron balconies and charming courtyards. Such elegance culminates in the Santa Ana Cathedral, with stonework so beautiful, it took more than 400 years to build! Admire its beige facade then wander inside its cool, whitewashed interior to see its soaring knave.
Many museums make the city a constant source of fascination, which is something you’ll discover when you visit the Casa de Colon. Set in a grand house once owned by the original Spanish conqueror of Gran Canaria, Christopher Columbus used the residence as a stopping point for his Atlantic voyages, and the brilliant exhibitions inside tell the story of his journeys to America. You can even see the Aztec and Amazonian art that the Spanish plundered from the continent, as well as two leafy courtyards complete with colourful macaws!
For a trip even further back in time, you should also visit the Canarian Museum. This atmospheric cultural centre remembers the original Guanche people of the Canaries who lived here before the Spanish occupation. It even features cave tableaus and an eerie collection of skulls and skeletons from the native ancient islanders! In direct contrast, the Elder Museum has its face firmly fixed on the future - children will definitely love its interactive science and technology experiments.
But you needn’t spend all your time inside when you explore Las Palmas. You can happily make the most of the city’s sunlit glow at the Jardin Canario, a sprawling botanical garden perched on the ravine just above the Old Town. It combines all the weird and wonderful plant life native to the Canary Islands, from spiky-topped dragon trees to huge cactuses and colourful blossoms.
And if you’re game for enjoying more greenery, you’ll be impressed by the Royal Las Palmas Golf Club. Created in 1891, it has the prestigious honour of being the oldest golf course in Spain. And with trimmed fairways and manicured greens, it’s certainly not showing its age!
The true taste of the Canaries
The peaceful car-free streets of Las Palmas’s pedestrianised centre ensure you’re well placed to make the most of the Canarian culinary scene. For such a small island, the local cuisine is surprisingly diverse; stretching the full breadth of cheap street eats all the way to innovative gourmet experiences. If you’re so inclined, you can try the fine dining restaurants of Perez Galdos Street in the suitably grand surroundings of the heartlands of Vegueta. Las Palmas also boasts the biggest number of Michelin-recommended restaurants on the island, with no less than seven in total.
Eating out in Las Palmas also takes on an international flavour too, with globe-spanning restaurants including Japanese sushi bars, British pubs serving Sunday roast and of course, classic Spanish tapas!
It’s also very easy to try the original Canarian cuisine while you’re in the capital. Sancocho, salted fish served with sweet potato, is a local favourite as well as the ubiquitous papas arrugadas – salt-wrinkled potatoes cooked in their skins. Many dishes are often served with mojo, a sauce based with olive oil, herbs and spices that comes in many different versions, from sweet to spicy. But for a true sweet treat, you should try bienmasabe, a deliciously sticky almond sauce that translates as ‘it tastes good to me’ and it certainly does!
Lovely long beaches in Las Palmas
One of the most surprising aspects of Las Palmas is that it ‘shore’ has a lot of beaches for such a built up city! Despite being the biggest EU city outside of the European continent, the Gran Canaria capital has a golden lining of sand that leads all the way to its peninsula on the northeastern tip of the island.
Of the four beaches to be found here, Playa de la Canteras captures the most attention. It traces undulating arcs of Saharan sand for over 3km, lapped by the frothing waves of the azure Atlantic. Another interesting feature of this beach is its nationally protected natural reef, known as La Barra, formed from coral sandstone. This particular formation shelters the waters here from the wilder Atlantic currents.
As an alternative, Playa de las Alcaravaneras begins at the Isthmus of Guanarteme on the far northeastern tip of the peninsula. Stretching for more than 1km, a wide, clean promenade follows the coastline here, creating a hive of activity both day and night. It makes strolling along the orange tiles of the pathway and looking out on an endless blue horizon just as inviting as lazing upon the smooth, golden sands of the beach itself.
Whilst these are certainly the two best beaches in Las Palmas, they’re not the only option. Playa de la Laja has grown in popularity in recent years, especially for the surfing community who love the wilder thrash of waves that can occur here. The Playa del Confital is perhaps the least frequented by sunbathers, yet its wilder plains still have a select appeal, particularly for surfers and naturists!
Cultural evenings and beautiful marina bars
Las Palmas is just as alluring by night as it is when cast in the full light of day. That’s largely because the capital is a cultural hub of artistic venues and waterfront bars.
If you have the opportunity, you really should try to catch a show at Las Palmas’s two theatres, Teatro Cuyas and Teatro Perez Galdos. The Perez Galdos is perhaps the more prestigious of the two, as it has a history dating back to the 19th century, with modernist renovations in the early 20th century. The orchestra section of the stage makes operatic and classical performances a possibility here, with a sense that your experience is amplified by the plush crimson furnishings and gilded trimmings. In contrast, Teatro Cuyas is a much more modern arrangement, setting the stage for both musicals and dramas.
Additionally, the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus dominates the skyline close to coast of Guanarteme on the western side of the city. Built in tribute to the late native tenor Alfredo Kraus, the building is cut with angular shapes and a central glass dome. Plus, its huge glass window overlooking the sea from the stage give it a special air for orchestral performances.
If you’d really like to enjoy an aspect of the Atlantic with on an open-air terrace, the cocktail bars of the Port of Las Palmas are the perfect place. Specifically, Santa Catalina draws a young and vibrant crowd to its pedestrianised zone and nearby urban park.
It’s well worth remembering that all of the Canary Islands embrace their festival season every February, and Las Palmas is definitely no different. The famed Carnival of Las Palmas hosts fireworks, illuminations and festival queen galas viewed by more than 200,000 people annually along a 6km parade known as Cabalgata. If that sounds like fun to you, be sure to plan your Jet2holidays city break to Las Palmas around the time of the Carnival.