Las Palmas, Canary Islands
Las Palmas is a long, sprawling city, strung out for 10 km (6 miles) along two waterfronts of a peninsula. Though most of the action centers on the peninsula's northern end along the lovely Las Canteras beach, the sights are clustered around the city's southern edge. Begin in the old quarter, La Vegueta, at the Plaza Santa Ana (don’t miss the bronze dog statues), for a tour of interesting colonial architecture. Then make your way into the neighboring quarter of Triana, a treasure trove of small shops and cafés and restaurants. It's quite a walk from one end of town to the other, so at any point you may want to hop one of the many canary-yellow buses. Buses 1, 2 and 3 run the length of the city.
Las Palmas has easily the best shopping on the islands. The main commercial areas are located around Calle Mesa y López (south of the port) and Triana in the old quarter. Here you’ll find all the major international and Spanish fashion stores, duty-free stores, and shops selling local crafts, hats and clothes, Russian caviar, tackle for fishing and catching crabs, and lots more.
El Corte Inglés
If you want to one-stop-shop for souvenirs, try the department store El Corte Inglés, in Las Canteras.
As the official artisan shop, FEDAC carries a selection of genuine Gran Canaria crafts and handiwork.
La Despensa del Sur
Canary cheese, wine and mojo are all available at this store; the adjoining restaurant serves traditional fare and snacks.
Centro Comercial El Muelle
This modern shopping mall opposite the Santa Catalina Park has stores selling all the major Spanish fashion brands, several sports shops, and a movie theater.
The hallways of this 14th-century mansion in the historic quarter are stone labyrinths. During the Inquisition, the Jewish Montesdeoca family escaped from their pursuers through hidden doors and secret tunnels. Today the mansion only conceals a romantic restaurant with an outdoor patio draped with bougainvillea. Fresh fish—including cherne (sea bass) and rape (monkfish)—is prepared on an outdoor grill steps from your table. The wine list has the best bottles from each island.
Te lo dije Pérez
Just below the cathedral square is one of the island's best bars for having a beer—there's a huge selection—along with some tapas. The bar feels a bit like a French café, with high ceilings and black and red furnishings. Some unusual tapas plates include nachos with eggplant and ginger sauce and a genuine German sausage as well as spinach and walnut croquettes. There are inside and outside tables, but you may have to stand at this very busy venue.
Casa Museo Colón
The Casa Museo Colón is in a palace where Christopher Columbus may have stayed when he stopped to repair the Pinta's rudder. Nautical instruments, copies of early navigational maps, and models of Columbus's three ships are on display in the palace, which retains many original features. Two rooms hold pre-Columbian artifacts, and one floor is dedicated to paintings from the 16th to the 19th century. There's a focus on self-portraits.
Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno
The Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno has earned a name for curating some of the best avant-garde shows in Spain, with a year-round calendar of exhibitions. The excellent permanent collection includes Canarian art from the 1930s and 1940s and works by the well-known Lanzarote artist César Manrique. The center also has a fine collection of contemporary African art.
Catedral Santa Ana
St. Anne's Cathedral took four centuries to complete, so the neoclassical Roman columns of the 19th-century exterior contrast sharply with the Gothic ceiling vaulting of the interior. Baroque statues are displayed in the cathedral's Museo de Arte Sacro (Museum of Religious Art), arranged around a peaceful cloister. Ask the curator to open the sala capitular (chapter house) to see the 16th-century Valencian tile floor. Be sure to check out the black stone dog sculptures outside the cathedral's main entrance—these are four examples of the Gran Canaria hounds that gave the island its name.
One of the best urban beaches in Spain is found at the northwest end of the city. Its perfect yellow sands are flanked by a pleasant promenade, which goes for just over 3 km (nearly 2 miles), from the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, in the south, where surfers congregate, to the Playa del Confital, in the north. The beach is protected by a natural volcanic reef, La Barra, which runs parallel to most of the beach and makes for safe swimming. Lounge chairs and sunshades can be rented year-round. This is a very popular beach that can be extremely crowded in summer.
Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: sunset; surfing (at southern end); swimming; walking.
Parque Santa Catalina
Ride a guagua (busd) to Parque Santa Catalina, or get off at the neighboring Parque Doramas (stops are listed on big yellow signs; the 2, 3, and 30 generally cover the entire city), to peek at the elegant Santa Catalina Hotel. Next to the Parque Doramas is the Pueblo Canario, a model village with typical Canarian architecture.
Ermita de San Telmo
Destroyed by Dutch attackers in 1599, this chapel was rebuilt in the 17th century. Inside is a fine baroque altarpiece with rich gold leaf and wooden details.