10 Exciting Things To Do in Las Palmas, the Capital of Gran Canaria
Offering an action-packed itinerary for every kind of traveller, get ready to say hola to your new favourite holiday destination
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the bustling capital of Gran Canaria. It’s a bold statement, but we think it’s one of the best city breaks in Spain with its brilliant mix of beaches, culture, history, cuisine, nature and shopping. What more could you ask for? If you’re thinking of a trip here, our travel experts at Plum Guide have put together all the top things to do in Las Palmas. You won’t need any more convincing once you’ve read through our list.
People relaxing in the sand under palm trees on Playa de Las Alcaravaneras, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
While most beach bums tend to make a beeline for the island’s southern shores, Las Palmas has a selection of stunning beaches that are nothing to be sniffed at. Las Canteras is the main beach, and at 3.5 kilometres, it’s so long that it’s separated into Playa Grande, Playa Chica, Peña de la Vieja and La Cicer. Each one offers something different, whether you’re there to sunbathe, play sports, snorkel or swim. Those with little ones should check out Playa de las Alcaravaneras, a large sweep of golden sands with plenty of space for sandcastles and ball games. The calm waters are perfect for paddling and you’ll often see kids learning to kayak here. Prefer somewhere a little more secluded? Playa El Confital has calm rock pools and sheltered inlets to relax in – oh, and clothes are optional.
Dunes of Maspalomas
Aerial views of Maspalomas sand dunes and Atlantic Ocean, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
There are a number of exciting day trips from Las Palmas, and one of the best destinations is the Dunes of Maspalomas. Situated on the island's south coast, this immense dune expanse covers an area of around 1,000 acres and is continuously sculpted by the wind and the sea. You’ll come across a beautiful beach, brackish lagoon and palm grove where you can spot migratory birds resting. As it’s a protected nature reserve, there are trails in place where you can walk around the dunes. Looking for a unique experience? Take a camel ride through the dunes, or glide down them with a sandboarding adventure.
One of the best things to do in Las Palmas for outdoorsy folk is hiking through the island’s rugged, mountainous interior. There are a whole range of hiking trails to choose from. For an easy day hike, take the trail around Santa Lucia, which takes you through meadows, orange orchards, palm groves and the archaeological site of Montaña de los Huesos. For something longer, roam the trail from San Pedro, which winds through a shaded pine forest and up the mountains for views of Agaete and the port of Puerto de Las Nieves. If you’re brave enough, take on the long-distance Camino de Santiago. Not to be confused with the official hike of the same name in mainland Spain, this one stretches for 66 kilometres long from the south of the island to the northwest, taking about twenty-four hours to complete – most people choose to slow it down and complete it over three days.
Try local cuisine
Spoon pouring spicy red mojo sauce on boiled potatoes (papas arrugadas), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Travellers who plan their entire holiday around food will fall in love with Las Palmas. With everything from humble street food to casual tavernas and fine-dining restaurants, you won’t go hungry here. The ingredients used on the island are simple – seafood from the surrounding waters and fresh produce grown in the fertile volcanic soil – but the quality is so high that they don’t need much enhancement. There are similarities with Spanish cuisine, but you’ll mostly find that the food on Gran Canaria has its own distinct taste with a lot of influence from Africa. Some of the most common dishes you’ll come across are papas arrugadas (boiled potatoes served with a chilli pepper garlic sauce called mojo rojo), pulpo a la Canaria (octopus and potatoes in a spicy sauce of garlic, chillies and Jerez vinegar), and ropa vieja (a stew made with chickpeas, meat, onion and potatoes).
Go wine tasting
How about a glass of local wine to wash all that good food down? With its mountainous terrain and rippled topography, Gran Canaria is the ideal place for wine growing. The most popular grape variety is Listán, used to make both white and red wines, while Moscatel grapes are grown to produce sweet wines. Tintilla, Tinta Negra Mole, Malvasia Rosada, Gual and Marmajuelo are also grown here.
Being based in Las Palmas, you’re well-positioned for day trips to visit the various wineries and vineyards on the island. One of the most renowned spots is Bodegas Bentayga, perched at 1,300 metres above sea level – whether the wine or the views are better, you decide. Another favourite winery is Bodega Los Berrazales, a 200-year-old estate which produces red, dry white and semi-dry white wines. Take a tour of their vineyard and farm where they make wine, coffee and other products.
See Caldera la Bandama
Volcanic landscape and palm trees of Caldera de Bandama crater with circular hiking trail and sea views in the distance, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
One of the things we love about Las Palmas is that you have the incredible Caldera de Bandama right on your doorstep. Formed 5,000 years ago, this gigantic crater is 1,000 metres wide and 574 metres high. Visitors can follow the trail down to the crater floor while spotting plants like wild olive trees and white echium, as well as local birds like kestrels and blackcaps. Don’t fancy the trek? Take a drive up to the peak, Pico de Bandama, which has an observation platform with spectacular views of the north and east coast – on a clear day, you may even get to see the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura.
Enjoy a night out
Those wanting a taste of the local nightlife will be pleased to know that Las Palmas has a fabulous party scene. It’s the main hub for nightlife in the north of the island, with numerous bars, pubs and clubs each offering something different. Head to the vibrant neighbourhoods of Vegueta and Triana where you can hop between the many different bars. Feeling peckish? The Ruta de los Pinchos tapas bar crawl is the perfect way to satisfy your appetite. Younger folks tend to flock to Calle Canaleja and its surrounding area, as well as the trendy nightclubs in the port area. For something a little more romantic, there are plenty of rooftop bars where you can enjoy a cocktail with magical views of the city and coast.
Visit the Jardín Canario de Viera y Clavijo
One of the nicest things to do in Las Palmas on a hot day is to escape to the shade of Las Palmas’s botanical garden. Located on the edge of the Guiniguada ravine, the Jardín Canario de Viera y Clavijo is a truly magical place where you can meander through 27 hectares of fascinating Canarian flora. Founded in 1952 by Swedish botanist Eric Sventenius, the garden is divided into various sections, each offering something different. From the collection of over 2,000 cacti and succulents to the Jardín Macaronésico Ornamental showcasing endangered species from the Macaronesian archipelagos, there is plenty to see here.
Explore the city’s history
People sitting outside at a cafe in the Plaza del Cairasco in Vegueta, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
History buffs looking for things to do in Las Palmas have plenty to put on their itinerary. The oldest and most picturesque part of the city is Vegueta, a maze of narrow cobbled streets lined with grand old buildings built in the traditional architectural style of the Canary Islands. Take a walk down Los Balcones and Espíritu Santo until you reach Plaza de Santa Ana and the Cathedral of Santa Ana. One of the city’s most splendid buildings, the cathedral was built across four centuries and features Gothic, Renaissance and Neoclassical architecture – check out the breathtaking views from the south tower.
For more wonderful architecture, other buildings worth visiting include the Episcopal Palace, the Casas Consistoriales, the Chapel of San Antonio Abad and Casa de Colón, an ornate mansion which houses a museum dedicated to Christopher Columbus’s voyages. The Museo Canario is also a great place to brush up on the pre-colonial history of the Canary Islands.
Looking to fit in a little retail therapy in between sightseeing? Las Palmas is the best place for it. One of the main shopping promenades is Calle Mayor de Triana and its surrounding area. Peppered with gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings, there are a variety of shops and boutiques to pop into where you can pick up everything from local crafts to designer brands. There are also some fantastic markets, such as the Mercado Central, where you can pick up fresh produce, as well as weekend pop-ups like Mercadillo de Vegueta, where you’ll find arts and crafts as well as local song and dance performances. Located in the Plaza de Pilar Nuevo, this charming square is a great place to sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Down by the coast is the Mercado del Puerto, a great spot for tapas and drinks.