What to do in Las Palmas?

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Today Las Palmas is the Canary Islands’ largest city and although it shares the title of capital of the archipelago with neighbouring Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the latter lacks the atmosphere of a busy metropolis. The city’s ethnic mix reflects its position as a crossroads between Africa, Europe and Latin America. Traditionally dressed Moroccan men suck on hookah pipes while South Americans and northern Europeans socialise nearby. A paradise for shopaholics, Las Palmas also has leafy suburbs and quiet cobbled streets, all crowned by Playa de Las Canteras, one of the world’s top city beaches. About Las Palmas.

Playa de Las Canteras
Few cities can boast a beach as good as this: 3km (2 miles) of fine sand, sandwiched between a wide promenade and the chilly Atlantic Ocean. Surfers congregate at the southern end, an area known as La Cicer. The sand here is black, but moving northward it gets ever more golden, and the sea, protected by the broad reef, takes on the appearance of a lake. Locals sometimes head for el ascensor (“the lift”), a part of the reef where the swell catapults swimmers back up onto the rocks – look for the throng of whooping youngsters in front of Playa Chica.

Auditorio Alfredo Kraus
One of the city’s landmark buildings, this fine modern auditorium, perched on the jetty at the southern end of Playa de Las Canteras, hosts cultural events, including the opera season, the film festival and jazz concerts. Should the show not inspire, there’s a stunning ocean view.

Gasa Museo de Colon
The main focus of this first-rate museum is Christopher Columbus’s travels across the Atlantic and their effect on the Canary Islands. Pre-Columbian cultures and Historic Las Palmas are rewarding subsidiary themes. It’s all displayed in a restored Canarian house.

Catedral de Santa Ana
The enormous cathedral and adjoining sacred art museum contain some important paintings and sculptures, including two works by local sculptor Jose Lujan Perez.

Guagua Turistica
The open-top double-decker may have originated in London, but Gran Canaria certainly has climate for it. The hop-on, hop-off tour departs from Parque Sta Catalina and takes in Castillo de la Luz, Avda Mesa y Lopez, the Alfredo Kraus auditorium, Parque Doramas, Avda Maritima, and the upper part of the city for its fine views. Vegueta’s streets are too narrow for the bus, but there’s a stop nearby so you can explore it at your Leisure. An excellent way to see the whole city in a day.

Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnologia
While kids enjoy the many interactive exhibits, parents might prefer to find out how beer is made, what they would weigh on Mars, or if their hearing and heartbeat are normal. This is a fine place to spend a few hours, especially if you’re caught in the rain in Las Palmas.

Not long after the Conquest, the original Vegueta settlement became too small for the island’s increasing population and spread across the Guiniguada ravine. By the 19th century, the neighbouring district of Triana was a bustling area, boasting some fine architecture and a large theatre. It was formerly the elite that shopped on the city’s premiere street, Calle Mayor de Triana, but these days, affordable chain stores complement the exclusive boutiques. Do venture away from the main street, for it is in the side streets that you will find Triana’s treasures – such as one-off handcraft shops and snug tapas bars. There’s more to Triana than shopping: admire the exquisite architecture of the Gabinete Literario and the Teatro Perez Galdos, and also the Ermita de San Telmo.

Museo Nestor
Las Palmas-born artist Nestor Martin Fernandez de la Torre is best known as a Modernist painter, but you can also see evidence of Pre-Raphaelitism and Symbolism in his colourful works. Construction of the Neo-Canarian building housing the gallery was a joint project by the artist and his architect brother Miguel. As well as Nestor’s famous “poems”, huge paintings comprising eight panels each, don’t miss the vivid sketches based on theatre productions. Towards the end of his life, he favoured pictures depicting hidden corner of his beloved Gran Canaria, in a style he called “Typism”.

Vegueta Architecture
A stroll around the capital’s oldest district is a must for its quiet cobbled streets and varied architecture. Unfortunately, pirate attacks in the 16th century destroyed much of the original hamlet set up after the Con quest, but there is still plenty to see. Balconies prevail, be they the uneven wooden-box-like designs favoured in Canarian architecture or the more ornate wrought-iron versions typical of Modernist buildings. Of course, the centrepiece of the barrio (district) is the cathedral, but don’t limit your viewing to this mammoth construction.

Museo Canario
This museum boats the largest collection of Guanche artifacts to be found anywhere and gives a fascinating insight into their culture. This is a good preparation for those who may be visiting Guanche sites around the island.

Best of the Rest

Playa de las Alcaravaneras
Its location next to the port might put swimmers off, but the lack of sunbathers makes this a popular place to practise aquatic sports such as sailing and scuba diving.

Casa Museo Perez Galdos
Novelist Benito Perez Galdos – “the Spanish Charles Dickens” – is the island’s most famous son. His charming childhood home in Triana is now a museum.

Castillo de la Luz
The 16th-century fort is now used for temporary art exhibitions. Set in a small park equipped with a cheap café serving tasty food, it’s also a fine place to wile away an afternoon.

Las Coloradas
Enjoy a seafood lunch in this barrio north of Las Canteras, worlds away from the bustle of the city. Wander up the mountain for a superlative view of the isthmus.

Parque Doramas
The city’s largest park is named after the brave Guanche leader who refused to bow down to the Spanish. It’s well equipped for children, and there’s a small open-air café for parents.

From outside, the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno is just another Neo-Classical building. Inside, Vegueta’s most modern space is host to contemporary sculptures, paintings and audiovisual artworks.

Vistas from Escaleritas
You’ll get the best view of the city in all it’s variety – port, beaches, skyscrapers, mansions and palm trees – from the Escaleritas barrio.

Muelle Deportivo
The sporting marina attracts sailors from across the globe – often to rest before heading to southern Africa or across the Atlantic.

Ciudad Jardin
As you enter “Garden City”, the unsightly skyscrapers of Las Palmas’s commercial districts suddenly give way to grand mansions, mostly built by British settlers in the 19th and early 20th Centuries and now home to the city’s wealthiest families.

Pueblo Canario
Built in the mid-20th century, this miniature Canarian village is a good place to sample local cuisine, but handicrafts or admire the work of Nestor de la Torre.

Best Places To Shop

Calle Mayor de Triana
Although Avda de Mesa y Lopez is vying for the position of top shopping street, Triana still has the charm.

El Corte Ingles
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in this mammoth department store, it may well not exist! There are two branches on Avda de Jose Mesa y Lopez and a third in the 7 Palmas shopping.

The best artisans from across the island unite to sell their wares in this government-run outlet in Triana. It’s a non-profit organisation, so you know your euro is going straight to the craftsmen.

Artesania Santa Catalina
This is a good place to hunt for typical Canarian souvenirs. Their speciality is pottery, but you will also find food stuffs, aloe vera products and embroidered goods.

La Libreria
Every aspect of Canarian culture, from hiking and history to festivals and flora, is represented in the cabildo’s bookshop in Triana. Although most titles are in Spanish, a few have been translated into other European languages for those who want to delve deeper.

Tienda Artesania Canaria Las Palmitas
The perfect place to pick up an interesting souvenir or gift, while at the same time supporting local artisans. The shop is crammed with handcrafts from wooden jewellery to earthenware jugs.

Las Palmas has no less than seven shopping malls.

Calle Ripoche
If you’re looking for a cheap replica of traditional Canarian dress, head to this street near Parque Santa Catalina. It might not be truly authentic, but this is where the locals buy their gear for the romerias.

Idiomatika specialises in foreign-language books.

El Puente
This charming shop stocks typical Canarian crafts such as tablecloths, pottery and traditional Canarian costumes.

Top Las Palmas Nightspots

With its retro design and contemporary styling, this venue in the heart of the capital has certainly made a name for itself. Expect live singers, top DJs and some pretty crazy party nights throughout the year.

Lack of space impedes anything other than drinking and shouted conversation at this lively nightspot, but you can’t beat the atmosphere.

Teatro Cuyas
If you want an earlier, quieter night out, try this modern theatre. Plays are always in Spanish, but there are live music events as well, and a wonderful restaurant serving creative cuisine. The high ceilings and spacious rooms are a breath of fresh air. Catch a live band playing jazz or Latin music at weekends from 1am, or enjoy a game of pool.

Tao Club & Garden
Not one for ravers, Tao has a chill-out lounge (the club) and a restaurant (the garden). Choose one of the delicious cocktails, find a comfy sofa and relax to the ambient sounds.

Treinta y Tantos
As the name suggests (treinta means “thirty”), the clientele here are largely in their thirties. Local bands play Spanish and international hits, mostly from the 70s and 80s; a DJ fills in the breaks with more retro classics.

Casino de Las Palmas
The city elite prefer to wile away their evenings at the casino, which boast a prestigious location next to the Hotel Santa Catalina. Hotel guests gain free entry.

Las Brujas
Outside the city on the way to Tafira, a huge rural house has been converted into an amazing nightspot. You can wander around, or stop for a bite to eat in one of the small dining rooms dotted about the house. In summer, revellers spill out into the garden.

La Floridita
An older crowd frequents this large, maze-like club around a pretty patio. Except Latin hits, Spanish pop and a few golden oldies.

Malecon de la Habana
This is one of the best places in the city to hear Latin music, dance to the rhythm of salsa and watch live Cuban bands. Hots up around 3am.

Best Places To Eat in Las Palmas

Rias Bajas
The capital’s premier restaurant specialises in seafood. If you’re daunted by the choice, try the paella or the arroz caldoso, a kind of rice stew with a multitude of seafood.

Casa de Galicia
Another wonderful place to sample seafood and fish, along with its adjoining sister restaurant El Anexo. Try the arroz negro (black rice) cooked in squid ink – simply delicious.

Nabila offers delectable Moroccan dishes, waiters clad in traditional costume, authentic Arabic décor and live belly-dancing.

De Tapa en Tapa
Settle into one of the cosy wooden booths and choose from a superb selection of tapas. Recommended: the spicy papa bomba; dates wrapped in bacon; courgette omelette.

A meal at this welcoming seafood restaurant adorned with nautical paraphernalia feels more like eating in a small fishing village than a hectic metropolis.

Excellent French food in a romantic setting. Enjoy game dishes you won’t find anywhere else on the island, such as wild boar, venison and ostrich.

Restaurante Asador El Cid
Popular with visitors and locals, this rustic eatery serves a mean roast suckling pig, Segovian style.

Gran Canaria’s first Japanese restaurant, Fuji offers authentic dishes and friendly service. You’ll need to reserve a table at the weekend to indulge in the delicious sushi and sashimi.

La Alquitara
Unusual dishes such as kangaroo steak accompany a select tapas menu. There’s an excellent-value three-course menu del dia and an extensive wine list.

Casa Montesdeoca
Succulent steaks and fresh fish are followed by some unique home-made desserts at this atmospheric restaurant, carefully restored in Traditional Vegueta style.

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