Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Once you have discovered the beautiful island of Gran Canaria, the capital city of Las Palmas located on the most northern point is a "must" on your list of places to visit. The city is easily accessible by the extremely clean and efficient bus service from all parts of the island. From the Parque Santa Catalina in Las Palmas, take the yellow open-topped Tourist Tour Bus to see the many attractions the city has to offer. There is something for everyone , but first a little background history ....
On 24th June, 1478 the city was founded by Juan Rejon, who was the head of the Castilian Army. The Army invaded the aboriginal people of the Canaries, a simple tribe known as Guanches, and impelled them to change their names to Spanish and convert to Catholicism. The people who were captured and would not conform to the new requirements were sold off as slaves in Valencia and Seville. Others fled to the mountains and made homes in the caves, many of whom still choose to live in the caves today, although they do not live quite such basic lives, having all the mod cons of plasma screen televisions and microwaves! The latest recorded population of Las Palmas is approximately 377,000 which is just under half of the total population of Gran Canaria.
Historic Quarter - Museums and Monuments
In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed into the port during his first trip to the Americas and then again on his way back to mainland Spain and the city boasts a museum named after the place where he spent the night, the Casa Columbus, located in the Vegueta district. Vegueta is still thriving as the city's historic area and is the home to many museums and monuments such as the Chapel of San Antonio Abad, the Atlantic Centre of Modern Art, the Cathedral, the Episcopal Palace and the Canary Museum to name but a few.
Shopping in Las Palmas
If shopping is what you do best, the neighbouring area of Triana should definitely be on the list of places to go. With it's pedestrianised maze of streets full of boutique style shops you can 'shop 'til you drop', but when you need refreshments make sure you stop at one of the street cafes for drinks and tapas before setting off again. If you prefer to do all your shopping under one roof, then visit Las Arenas Shopping Centre which is full of famous brand name shops. Head for Avenida Mesa y Lopez in the Santa Catalina district where you will find Spain's leading department store, El Corte Ingles, along with some familiar UK stores such as Marks and Spencer. Many of the local tour operators run air-conditioned coach services, dropping you off and picking you up within these three main areas.
Las Palmas Beaches
There are several beach areas in Las Palmas, the main one being Las Canteras. The beachfront has a newly constructed promenade housing many bars and restaurants all with spectacular sea views and offering a multitude of mouthwatering Spanish and international food-fare. The sand is of the fine variety and the waters are shallow making for perfect sun worshipping and safe swimming. The second longest beach in Las Palmas is Playa de Las Alcaravaneras which is flanked at both ends by sailing clubs, sailing being a popular pastime in Gran Canaria. Las Palmas as a beach resort is used mainly by the locals and people from mainland Spain. There are several medium sized hotels and apartments both at the beach and within the city itself. Foreigners tend to concentrate in the resorts in the south of the island.
Las Palmas Nightlife
There are theatres too many to mention individually in Las Palmas presenting all kinds of shows including live music concerts, musicals, comedy and dance. The area around Parque Santa Catalina comes alive with music and street artists from early evening right through to the early hours where every member of the family can be found, from sleeping infants to reminiscing grannies!
Carnival in Las Palmas
A highlight of Canary life at the beginning of each year is when Las Palmas hosts the fabulous Carnival. This is the most amazing exhibition of exuberant colour and entertainment where nearly everyone dons fancy dress costumes. The main events start in the pedestrianised area of Parque Santa Catalina set up with a massive stage for the dancers and various acts. The Drag Queen final is held during the carnival taking us back a few years with platform soles anything from ten to thirty inches high. Its only at Las Palmas Carnival you will see a mermaid dancing on stilts! Following on from the show the street parties start where the revellers continue throughout the next two or three days. The atmosphere is electric so if you are lucky enough to visit Gran Canaria early in the year, get out your glittery wig and join in with the fun.