A haven for sun-seekers
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the co-capital of the Canaries (sharing this honour with Santa Cruz de Tenerife). A hugely cosmopolitan city of three beaches, it’s said by some to have the best climate in the world – gateway to an island that’s a haven for sun-seekers all year round.
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Plenty of Gran Canaria’s shopping options are geared to tourists, particularly in the most established beach resort areas. There are some worthwhile souvenirs to be had – traditional knives and Canarian pottery being two good examples – and on a more practical level you’ll never have to look far for beach toys, swimwear and the like. For a substantial retail experience, the largest malls are based around Las Palmas. They include Las Arenas (Carretera del Rincón), which has stores such as C&A and Disney. Elsewhere, the classy resort of Meloneras gives good opportunity to pick up designer goods.
Food & Drink
Traditional Canarian food shares many similarities with that of mainland Spain, while at the same time drawing on African influences and throwing in a few home-grown flavours of its own. Classic specialties include papas arrugadas (literally ‘wrinkled potatoes’) and a sea-bream casserole called vieja sancochada. Sweet-toothed visitors can try the local prickly pear ice cream. There are huge numbers of tourist-friendly restaurants serving pizza and the like, but if it’s something refined you’re after, try Restaurante La Aquarela (Barranco de la Verga) or Restaurante Amaiur (Calle Pérez Galdós 2), both of which serve quality seafood dishes.
Festival de Música de Canarias
Three decades old, this classical music festival takes place across the whole Canary archipelago, with many of the biggest events taking place on Gran Canaria itself. Well-known international performers are commonplace, while local talent is also showcased.
Carnaval Las Palmas
In place for more than five centuries, the Carnaval Las Palmas is a fast-paced, colourful celebration that occurs in the run-up to Lent and involves a flurry of costumes, masks, parades and musical concerts. Every town and village gets involved.
Gay Pride Maspalomas
Gran Canaria has a strong gay-friendly reputation, something evidenced each year in entertaining fashion by the week of high-octane events that mark Gay Pride Maspalomas. Expect boat trips, pool parties, fashion shows, discos and, at the end of the week, a lively parade.
Virgen del Pino
One of the most important religious dates on the Canarian calendar, the Virgen del Pino (‘Virgin of the Pine’) is marked by a mass walk to the village of Teror. It commemorates the date in 1492 when the Virgin is said to have appeared.
Fiesta de la Naval
Gran Canaria has a rich maritime heritage, having been a popular port of call for ships crossing the Atlantic, and this annual fiesta takes place amid considerable fanfare. It primarily remembers the attacks on the island in 1595 by Sir Francis Drake.
Gran Canaria’s reputation as a holiday isle means it has a well-stocked supply of hotels. In the south, the ever-popular tourist resort of Playa del Inglés is ripe with different options – the five-star Bohemia Suites & Spa (Avenida Estados Unidos 28) makes a good choice for a luxury break, while the three-star Playamar Bungalows (Avenida Estados Unidos de América 3) is well suited for the mass market. In the north of the island, meanwhile, around the capital city of Las Palmas, Bora Bora The Hotel (Calle Anzofé 31) and the beachfront Hotel Reina Isabel (Calle Alfredo L Jones 40) are both solid bets.