Why you should get to know Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

Think of the Canary Islands* and you probably don't conjure up images of cities; more sweeping beaches fringed by palm trees. Well, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas* for short, you get the best of both worlds.

The Cathedral of Santa Ana in Las Palmas
The Cathedral of Santa Ana in Las Palmas © Ricardo Alvarez Garcia - Dreamstime.com

It's easy to see why one of Spain*'s 10 largest cities is called 'Europe's Rio' as it swaggers with a South American charm that has rubbed off on the port city thanks to centuries of trade and migration in both directions.

Las Palmas stacks up for a holiday in its own right, but even if you don't stay here make sure to visit for at least a day. You will want to linger longer, but at least you'll have savoured a bit of this beguiling Canarian city.

Getting to Las Palmas: browse the latest savings on holidays to Gran Canaria with TUI*, which departs from airports across the country year-round.

That beach

It's Las Canteras that chiefly wins the Rio comparisons, its golden sands appealing all year round. The shallow, reef-protected waters are ideal for swimming and snorkelling in the main section, but you can surf here too from a beach that stretches on for over 3 km.

The wide-open stretch of beach at Las Canteras
The wide-open stretch of beach at Las Canteras © Canary Islands - Alamy Stock Photo

A sweeping pedestrianised boulevard stretches all along Las Canteras, lined with myriad eating and drinking options, from cool cafés and tapas bars to full-on restaurants.

The beach's hinterland brings more cafés, bars and restaurants, as well as an earthy buzz thanks to the location just a stone's throw from the city's sprawling, still very busy, port. Think Naples or Genoa rather than the Spanish Costas.

History at every turn

The past, present and future constantly merge together in a city that rarely fails to fascinate. Stay at the landmark Santa Catalina*, recently voted Spain's finest hotel, and you are hiding away in a brilliantly revamped oasis whose 1890 La Bodeguita gives the game away.

Yes, this less-than-humble abode has been welcoming guests for over a century. Time often stands still in Las Palmas and you half expect to see Francis Drake firing in to make his notorious raid in the 16th century.

The Vegueta quarter also oozes history, well established even before Columbus came calling in 1492 en route across the Atlantic. You can feel the centuries peel back exploring Vegueta's old stone streets, admiring the balcony-clad buildings.

Magic museums

Las Palmas overflows with excellent cultural attractions. Kick off with the Museo de Colon. Whether Columbus actually stayed here, or even visited this glorious example of traditional Gran Canarian architecture in Vegueta, we'll never know.

Intricate Casa de Colon, Columbus Museum
Intricate Casa de Colon, Columbus Museum © Ricardo Alvarez Garcia - Dreamstime.com

But it's a must-visit today as it offers a window into his controversial voyages, and also delves deeply into connections between Las Palmas and South America. Look out for temporary exhibitions and their art collection too.

The Museo Canario explores the island's culture, including the pre-Spanish days, while the Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno is more avant-garde, with an eclectic and ever-changing array of thought-provoking exhibitions.

Catedral de Santa Ana

Arguably the most striking religious edifice anywhere in the Canaries, this soaring cathedral dominates the old Vegueta quarter. Construction began as far back as the 15th century, but this smooth grey dame took over three centuries to sculpt.

Linger in the elegant square outside admiring the cathedral's scale and beauty from all angles. The interior has a tough job trying to be dramatic in comparison but manages it thanks to the stained-glass windows that dapple light in.

Vaulting pillars in the nave soar skywards like stone palm trees, echoing the city's name. Check out the on-site museum too.

Many people make the mistake of just leaving enough time to box-tick the cathedral - don't be one of them. Enjoy a coffee in a pavement café outside to build up the atmosphere before you even head inside.

Poema del Mar

Quite simply one of the best aquariums in the world, certainly on par with its counterparts in Lisbon and Valencia, Poema del Mar instantly became one of Gran Canaria*'s top attractions when it opened in 2017.

Allow at least half a day to wander through this attraction that makes you feel like you're exploring the great outdoors inside.

The Deep Ocean tank at Poema del Mar
The Deep Ocean tank at Poema del Mar - photo courtesy of Poema del Mar Aquarium

The collection is split into three main zones: the Jurassic Park-esque La Jungla, the fish and reef life of the massive Arrecife cylinder and Deep Sea, the largest saltwater aquarium, 36 metres long and seven meters high.

You'll explore 35 ecosystems across myriad aquariums that in total hold 7.5 million litres of water; you won't forget the turtles and the hulking sharks.


Those Rio comparisons come roaring back at the start of each year as Las Palmas goes Carnival crazy. Ok, so Santa Cruz de Tenerife may be a larger Carnival cousin (the largest in the world after Rio), but Las Palmas also puts on quite the party and has a more local vibe.

All the colours of Carnival
All the colours of Carnival © Tamara Kulikova - Dreamstime.com

What's more, it's one of the oldest Carnivals around, first mentioned in written records as far back as the 16th century. It is less made for TV and consumption outside the island than some parts of Tenerife's festivities can be. Visitors are very much welcome to what are weeks of events and festivities.

Superb dining

It's no surprise, given the location on an island deep in the Atlantic, that the seafood is sublime; don't miss chunky local fish cerne and the delicious vieja. But as a sophisticated city, there is real creativity and quality too.

In 2022, Poemas by the mercurial Padron Brothers snared a Michelin star. Their multi-course tasting menu is not just one of the best dining experiences in the Canaries, but anywhere in Spain.

Think sweet local black pudding dusted with chocolate and topped with gold leaf. Or Atlantic baby squid laced with black garlic and pickled lemon.

At the other end of the scale, it's tapas galore at the Mercado del Puerto. Piscos & Buches is a highlight, offering a tastebud-tingling adventure through a swathe of local produce. You won't forget the fried local goat's cheese with a spicy mojo sauce in a hurry.

Make sure you try Gran Canarian wines. You'll find them across a city that really knows how to let its collective hair down. Senorio de Cabrera is an artisanal family-run vineyard near Las Palmas that offers tours and tastings accompanied by delicious homecooked traditional Canarian dishes.

Weather in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

The above guide shows the weather in Las Palmas. Find out more about the weather in Gran Canaria and the weather across the Canary Islands.

Ready to discover Las Palmas? Don't miss the latest offers on holidays with TUI.

Low deposits on summer & winter sun holidays with TUI

More about Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie is a Scottish travel writer, author and broadcaster. He has visited over 100 countries and regularly writes about Scotland and the Canary Islands. As well as frequently contributing to Weather2Travel.com, Robin writes for publications including The Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times and Wanderlust, and has authored more than 30 guidebooks.

Posted on Monday 6th February 2023 in: Beach City Europe Summer Winter sun

Back to top

Explore holidays in the sun for less

More holidays

Airport parking

More parking

Airport lounges

More lounges

Related posts

Back to Travel inspiration Top ^