Las Palmas de Gran Canaria - the (correct and full) name alone evokes longings and, for me, personal memories. I worked as a tour guide in Gran Canaria many years ago and often went out in Las Palmas. It was a long time ago. Since then, I have always enjoyed visiting the capital of the island of Gran Canaria. Following is my report on my trip for the turn of the year 2021/22.
First, a few Facts:
Along with Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is one of two capitals of the Canary Islands with a population of just under 400,000. The city has one of the largest ports in Spain ("Puerto de la Luz") but is also a magnet for tourists worldwide. Las Palmas means "the palm trees" - the name originated when the city was founded in 1478. Las Palmas is located in the north of the island of Gran Canaria. It is not always as sunny as the south, which is so popular with holidaymakers.
Nevertheless, I recommend a holiday in this impressive city. Just do it the other way round like most tourists - spend a few days in Las Palmas and visit the south (Maspalomas) in one day. But more about that later.
Here are the most exciting sights of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria from my point of view. Beach, culture, varied gastronomy - here, in contrast to the tourist centres in the south, you will still find a Canarian ambiance. At the same time, you have every opportunity to go out and indulge in your favourite water sports.
The highlight for visitors is undoubtedly the beach Las Canteras, whose curved bay is reminiscent of the famous Copacabana in Rio. Stroll along the 3.5 km long promenade to the Auditorium Alfredo Kraus. The beach section "La Cicer" is not quite as busy and is a paradise for the primarily local surfers. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Teide, Spain's highest mountain, to the neighbouring island of Tenerife - gigantic. Restaurants and bars line the entire promenade. Although a lot of new development has taken place in recent years, Las Canteras still exudes some of the charms of the 70s. The beach has fine sand and is ideal for swimming. You will find showers, sunbeds, and parasols in most places—swimming in the sea in the middle of the city - an exceptional experience.
Playa del Confital
If Las Canteras is too busy for you, walk north along the promenade to the peninsula of La Isleta. From there, you can easily reach the natural beach Playa del Confital via a wooden walkway along the sea. Few people, lots of space to relax and beautiful views of the city and mountains.
You'll find sandy areas, but also lots of pebbles. Playa del Confital is especially popular with locals who like to come here for picnics and sunbathing. Important: Take provisions and especially water with you, as there is no infrastructure here so far. Playa del Confital is a true paradise for experienced surfers. Attention: The rocks in the water make it dangerous for beginners. At low tide, you can snorkel well here. Then there are also many small pools in the rock formations that children use for splashing around. For me, Playa del Confital is one of the most beautiful beaches in Gran Canaria.
Castillo de la Luz
On the peninsula of La Isleta, which you can easily reach on foot from Las Canteras, Las Palmas even has a small fortress dating from 1541. Today, the Castillo de la Luz houses a collection of modern art and has a lovely little rose garden. I enjoyed a relaxed coffee in the garden with a view of the harbour.
Poema del Mar
From the Castillo de la Luz, you can walk across a curved, very modern footbridge to the Poema del Mar, one of the main attractions of Las Palmas. Here, you experience nature through three spectacular environments: Jungle, deep sea, reef, and corresponding inhabitants. The highlight is the 36-meter-wide aquarium, in front of which you can sit comfortably and wait for sharks, rays & co. for your Instagram photos. This vast aquarium is an absolute must - even if the entrance fee of 25 E.U.R. per person (children 17.50 EUR - as of January 2022) is a bit steep.
Triana Shopping Street
In Las Palmas, you will, of course, find large shopping centres such as El Muelle directly at the harbour or Las Arenas at the end of Canteras beach. You may also shop until you drop at the department store "El Corte Inglés". However, a shopping experience in the Triana with its historic houses is much more authentic. Here, you'll mainly find internationally popular brands like H&M and Zara. My tip: stroll through the side and parallel streets. There you will find some local boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. The Art Nouveau kiosk on Plaza San Telmo just before the Triana, which houses a café, is also worth seeing.
La Vegueta - the old Town District
From the Triana, it is only a few minutes walk to the old town of La Vegueta with its imposing Santa Ana Cathedral. Tip: Take the lift up to the tower (and climb the last steps on the stairs). The view over the city is fantastic (entrance fee 1.50 EUR per person - as of January 2022). Just next to the cathedral, you will find the 8 Canes Cocktail Bar, a lovely place with great views and cool cocktails (brunch is served every first Sunday of the month!)
I can't get enough of the architecture of the historic houses. Tip: The small "Antico Caffé" in a beautiful red art nouveau house just before the cathedral - irresistible cakes and desserts! Another highlight is the Plaza Cairasco with the cultural centre Gabinete Literario, one of the most beautiful art nouveau houses in Las Palmas. In the Gabinete and on the Plaza, there are good restaurants and a chic ice cream parlour, surrounded by palm trees.
Towards the sea you will find the "Mercado," the market hall of Las Palmas with all kinds of Canarian and international delicacies. Not far away, in the Calle Mendizabal, you will find the most exciting restaurants in the old town. In addition to the usual Canarian specialties, vegans and vegetarians now also get their money's worth here. Tip: The chic bar Manuela Jimena in Calle Pelota between the market and the cathedral - well worth a visit!
Museums in Las Palmas
I have to admit, it's hard to get me into a museum on a nice summer day. The Casa Colón, dedicated to the voyages of Columbus, is, of course, a must. In 1492, the explorer landed in Las Palmas on his trip to America to repair one of his ships.
The C.A.A.M. (Centro de Atlántico de Arte Moderno) would have interested me most with its modern art. However, it is still closed until March 2022. A local friend recommended the award-winning Museo Canario (History of Gran Canaria) and the ELDER in Parque Santa Catalina. I'll save both for my next visit.
Muelle deportivo - the Yacht Harbour
You shouldn't miss the marina in Las Palmas, if only for the beautiful view of the harbour and the city. Here you will find some chic bars and restaurants such as the Allende or the Xanadu. Tip: Have a coffee or cocktail on the terrace of the nearby Hotel Santa Catalina, still the best address in town with a lot of history. The five-star is just a few minutes walk from the marina.
Of course, this sight is not in Las Palmas. But you should include it on a day trip. With the express bus (line 30), e.g., from Parque Santa Catalina at the harbour, you can reach the island's south in about 40 minutes (6.80 EUR per trip - as of January 2022). A little anecdote on the side: A bus is called a "guagua" in the Canary Islands, so don't be surprised if you see signs for the "estación de guagua." - I don't want to dwell on the tourist centre of Playa del Inglés, but Maspalomas with its magnificent, protected dunes and the striking lighthouse is well worth a visit. If you then stroll along the beach promenade for a few minutes, you come to Costa Meloneras. In recent years, several luxury hotels have been built here and a shopping centre (unfortunately, some of them are empty). The sandy beach is much quieter than in the neighbouring towns.
I recommend bathing shoes, as you can only reach the sea over pebbles in most places. I spent a few hours in the sun here in the afternoon (beware - the sun's rays are particularly intense on the Canary Islands). After that, I enjoyed a sundowner in the charming Kopa Z in the shopping centre as mentioned earlier, with an incomparable view of the sunset in the Atlantic. Tip: Treat yourself to dinner at the chic Ciao Ciao right on the beach. The finest Italian cuisine and an incomparable sea view.
These are my tips for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Of course, you can make other beautiful excursions to the surrounding area - for example, to a very unusual restaurant high above the sea, the imposing Bandama crater, or Arucas, the "capital of bananas". I will report on this and other highlights on the north coast of Gran Canaria in my next article.
The best time to travel to Las Palmas
Of course, information about the weather is becoming increasingly difficult due to climate change. However, one can say that the weather in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is good all year round - although not as sunny as in the south of the island. The warmest time is from June to October, and from May to July, it is also usually dry. The time between June and November is best for swimming in the sea.
Sleeping in Las Palmas
The somewhat dusty hotel scene in Las Palmas has been enriched in recent years by a few small boutique hotels. I can highly recommend three of them from my own experience:
Super location in the middle of the old town with a cool roof terrace, small pool and nice service. A minor drawback is the breakfast buffet, which is not quite as rich, but this hotel with its four stars is anything but expensive. By the way, the Cordial hotel chain has other hotels in Las Palmas, have a look at their website.
Calle Peregrina, 2, 35002 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Tel.: +34 928 914 239
Another boutique hotel in a former bank building near Parque Santa Catalina a good 10-minute walk from Las Canteras beach. Original décor and also a beautiful roof terrace with stunning views over the city and sea.
León y Castillo, 330
35007 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Ultra-modern hotel near the harbour, from here you can also reach the beach in 10 minutes on foot. One of the best restaurants in Las Canteras and - you guessed it - a very nice roof terrace to chill out on.
C/ Simón Bolivar 105
35006 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Tel: +34 828 155 500
Still the best hotel in town, located in the small Parque Dorama. Elegance and a lot of tradition. The Poemas restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star. Other plus points: The roof terrace and a first-class wellness area. Drawback: The hotel is relatively far from the beach. You can best reach Las Canteras by bus.
C Leon Y Castillo 227 35005 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Spain
+34928243040 - firstname.lastname@example.org
You will find more information about Las Palmas and the island on the official tourism website of Gran Canaria.