What things to do in one day in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria? I asked myself the same question and took a look at the top things to do and see in the capital of Gran Canaria. In this article, you can follow the tour of Las Palmas’ biggest highlights.
Most holidaymakers stay in one of the beach resorts in the south and don’t even visit the capital of the Canary Island Gran Canaria. Yet a day trip is well worth it! The city with almost 380,000 inhabitants is the largest city on the Canary Islands and accordingly has a lot to offer.
The programme is tight. So get up early and come to Las Palmas in the north of the island of Gran Canaria. The best way is by bus, because parking spaces in the old town are not only expensive but also rare.
First stop in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Churreria
The day is long and if you want to see all the highlights of Las Palmas, you’ll need a nutritious breakfast like the hard-working artisans! Just check Google Maps or other portals for a nearby “churreria” and order a portion of “churros con chocolate”. In the “authentic” shops there is no menu and no English. Men in blue overalls shovel in churros while watching the news on a TV.
The very simple churros, I call them the “worker churros”, are misshapen, big and don’t look very appetising. The “fancy” churros are pressed through a biscuit press and are jagged and thinner. The “cook” in the churreria does nothing but deep-fry these dough sausages in a huge pan all day. But once you’ve dipped the greasy fried dough into the thick hot chocolate…. mmmhhh totally unhealthy, but so satisfying! The stuff really fills you up. You’re allowed to sin when on holiday.
Start of the tour: Parque de San Telmo
Well filled up, we start our tour through the old town of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. We start at Parque San Telmo. If you came by island bus, you will automatically end up in the park. It is located next to the bus station “Estacion de Guaguas de San Telmo”. Buses on the Canary Islands are called “Guagua” (pronounced: Wuawua), which has spilled over from Latin America.
Early in the morning, the beautifully decorated pavilions are still empty, but later on, children playing, café-con-leche-drinking locals and tourists scurry around or sit on one of the benches to watch the hustle and bustle in the tropical vegetation.
1st stop: The shopping mile Calle Triana
From Parque San Telmo, walk down the pedestrianised street Calle Mayor de Triana to the end. If you can manage it without stopping at one of the many shops or cafés. We resist and save it for later, when we need a break from sightseeing. Again and again, we notice pretty buildings that either shine in new splendour or were crumbling away venerably and are now being renovated. Triana is one of the oldest districts of Las Palmas and always offers amazingly beautiful and colourful venerable buildings in the side streets of the city center.
2nd stop: Teatro Pérez Galdós
At a certain point (statue of a man and two women) Calle Triana forks and you take the left alley. At the end you will come to a large thoroughfare. Before you cross over to the other side of the street, it is worth taking a look at or into the Teatro Pérez Galdós. The façade is a beautiful example of typical Canarian architecture with volcanic stone as the building material. Inside, the theatre is very splendid, but unfortunately it was closed when we were there.
3rd stop: The old town district Vegueta
Across the street, you’ll reach the cute old town in the district of Vegueta, which is definitely THE place to see in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The first stop here should be the market hall, the “Mercado de Vegueta“. This neat building is more than 150 years old. Note the opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 6.30 am to 2 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 6.30 am to 3 pm.
From the inside, the hall looks quite small and unadorned, but with the range of goods on offer, the eye doesn’t know where to look first: Artfully arranged Canarian fruit, Canarian souvenirs like soap made from goat’s milk or delicacies like mojo are waiting for customers. We buy organic spices at a stall and you can even pay by credit card.
Now follow a series of museums in the narrow streets. You won’t manage to visit them all. Concentrate on the ones that interest you the most. I will now present the most important ones.
4th stop: The CAAM
Continue up Calle Mendizabal and finally turn right into Calle Los Balcones. On the left is the rather inconspicuous entrance to the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (CAAM, Museum of Modern Art). Unfortunately, the historic building was not accessible at the time of our visit (November 2021) due to renovation work.
Here you can marvel at Canarian art from the present day, and for free, too, e.g. by Cesar Manrique. Anyone who has been to Lanzarote will recognise this name. The building itself is also said to be worth seeing.
Info on the CAAM: Admission is free. Opening hours Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm, Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, closed on Mondays.
5th stop: Casa de Colón
The Columbus House is a museum in an old Canarian palace and is worth seeing for the typical Canarian architecture alone. From the CAAM, walk towards the cathedral, which you can’t miss, and then turn right into an alley at a square. At Columbus Square is the entrance to the Casa de Colón, one of the most interesting places to visit in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
As the name suggests, it is mainly about the voyages of the discoverer Christopher Columbus. The individual voyages can be traced on maps, old instruments and a replica of the navigator’s cabin bring dates and historical facts to life. Columbus had downright luxurious accommodation compared to the simple sailors who had to sleep on deck.
On the upper floor of the Casa de Colón, loans from Madrid’s famous Prado Museum from the 16th to 20th centuries await you. In the museum’s basement, on the other hand, the focus is on art objects from the pre-Columbian period. Anyone who has ever been to Mexico will find this style familiar.
Fun fact: In each room you can scan a QR code with your mobile phone and download an audio guide. Nice idea, bad implementation. A creepy computer voice reads a text translated with Google translator. At least it’s kind of funny!
The picturesque courtyard is inhabited by two photogenic parrots, but they are quite aggressive. So better not pet them!
Info on the Columbus House: The entrance fee is normally 4 euros for adults, but was reduced to 2 euros during our visit to stimulate tourism in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Even for 4 euros admission, the museum is worth it! Only half price is paid by students up to 23 years of age and senior citizens over 65 years of age; minors and people with disabilities are admitted free of charge.
Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sundays/holidays from 10am to 3pm.
6th stop: Catedral de Santa Ana
You have probably already seen the mighty tower of the great cathedral on your way through the old town of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. You can climb it and you should do so for the great view!
Construction of the largest church in the Canary Islands began in 1497 and was completed no less than 400 years later. Architecture enthusiasts will recognise elements from the various eras in and around the Catedral de Santa Ana, from Gothic to Renaissance to Neoclassicism.
The church was open through the main portal when we were there in the morning. The five-nave cathedral is also impressive from the inside because of its size. Later they closed the main door and you could only get in by paying 3 euros – but then you also have access to the Museo Diocesano with religious art.
Instead, we paid the very fair 1.50 euros to visit the tower. Instead of struggling up a narrow flight of stairs as in other towers, you don’t have to climb up the tower of the Santa Ana Cathedral. A lift takes visitors up to the viewing platform. A few steps then lead up to the top of the tower. You can imagine what the view over Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is like from here: unique! Definitely one of the main things to see here.
Info on Las Palmas Cathedral: The tower can be visited from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5:45pm, Sundays from 10am to 2:15pm and costs 1.50 euros per person. The Museo Diocesano is open daily except Sundays from 10am to 4:30pm and costs 3 euros per person.
7th stop: Plaza de Santa Ana
The square in front of the cathedral, Plaza Santa Ana, offers beautiful views of the cathedral. At the other end of the square is the old Town Hall of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, built in 1853. Other important buildings with beautiful façades stand around the square: the seat of the Regent, the Court of Justice and the Provincial Historical Archive.
There are also a few cafés from which you can look out over the sights of Las Palmas and a monument to the Canary Dogs. Gran Canaria is famous for the Canary Dog. Incidentally, the name of the Canary Islands comes from the Latin word for dog, “canis”. The coat of arms of the Canary Islands appropriately features two dogs.
8th stop: Museo Canario
If you are still receptive, you can still visit the Canary Museum. We were out of it and preferred to enjoy a coffee.
Just 150 metres from Plaza Santa Ana and the cathedral is the Museo Canario. It is one of the top sights in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and conveys the history of the Canary Islands. The focus is on the life and culture of the Guanches, the indigenous people of the Canary Islands. Among other things, the dwellings of the Guanches are reproduced, as are stone houses and caves. From everyday objects such as ceramics to dozens of skulls and mummies found in caves, the museum impressively shows how people lived in the Canary Islands before the Spanish arrived.
Information on the Museo Canario: 10am to 8pm, weekends and public holidays 10am to 2pm; admission 5 euros for adults, 3 euros for pensioners and students. Children under 12 free.
9th stop: lunch
By now your stomachs must be growling. Spaniards eat lunch later than Central or Northern Europeans. At 2 or 2:30 pm, the restaurants and tapas bars are well filled. Since Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is of course also geared to tourists, there is always something to eat somewhere, even during the siesta when the city empties out. A scenic place for lunch is the restaurant in the Gabinete Literario, a very beautiful building.
Let yourself drift through the alleys, look at the diners’ plates and decide spontaneously what appeals to you. From Canarian tapas with shrimp potatoes and mojo to Japanese sushi, there’s something for everyone in this big city.
How to continue sightseeing in the afternoon depends on your energy and interests. I have three suggestions for you: either the botanical garden outside the city, the large urban beach Playa Las Canteras with its kilometre-long promenade or the huge aquarium “Poema del Mar”. Alternatively, you can walk back to Calle Triana and spend the afternoon shopping and café-hopping instead.
As an alternative to the bus, you can rent a bike from Sitycleta by app at many stations in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and use it for 1.50 euros per 30 minutes. There are an astonishing number of cycle paths. More info on prices and registration can be found on the website of Sitycleta.
10th stop: Jardín Canario
The botanic garden of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria was our choice and we did not regret it. The Canary Islands have an extraordinary variety of desert, tropical and subtropical plants. Some of the plants in the Jardín Canario you will recognise – at home they grow as miniature versions in pots, here they are huge cacti or trees.
Arriving at the main entrance, you look down into a deep valley, the Guiniguada Gorge. Walk down the slope and admire dragon trees, candelabra trees, palm species, agaves (aloe vera!) and many other plants labelled with their scientific name for those interested in botany. It’s quite a bit of walking, so you should still have energy to walk down the hill and back up again! For nature lovers, this is a thing to do in Las Palmas not to be missed.
Info about the Botanical Garden in Las Palmas: Admission is free and the Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. By car it takes about 15 min from Las Palmas to the garden. We took the bus from the bus station (Estacion de Guaguas) next to San Telmo Park. The lines 301, 302 and 303 go to the “Jardin Botanico” about every 15 minutes (duration 25 minutes). The fare is 1.40 euros per person and you can pay the driver in cash or with a card.
Tip: If you are travelling by car, it is only 7 km from the Botanical Garden to the Bandama Caldera. The crater of the volcano is a popular excursion destination from Las Palmas and a must on a holiday in Gran Canaria. The crater is 200 m deep and 1 km wide. Especially in spring it is beautifully green!
Alternative stop: Poema del Mar
A wonderful experience, especially for children, but also fascinating for adults: the Poema del Mar aquarium. The entrance fee of 25 euros for adults is really steep, but the reviews rave about the largest aquarium in Europe. The operators of the Poema del Mar are the same as those of the award-winning Loro Parque on Tenerife, which is saying something. The underwater worlds and animal enclosures are beautifully designed. Huge glass fronts and a glass tunnel make you feel as if the sharks and jellyfish are within reach. One of the best things to do in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, if the reviews are to be believed.
Next to the aquarium is the shopping centre “Centro Comercial El Muelle“, where all the well-known fashion chains are represented, and the port Puerto de la Luz, from where ferries depart to the neighbouring Canary Islands, e.g. to Fuerteventura. Another market hall is nearby: The mercado del puerto, where you can have a snack or a coffee.
Info Poema del Mar: Admission 25 euros for adults, 17.50 euros for children 4 to 12, younger children free. Open daily from 9am to 6pm. You can buy tickets online in advance. City buses 12, 21, 45, 47 and 60 stop at the aquarium.
Alternative stop: The popular beach of Playa De Las Canteras
Close to Poema del Mar is the kilometre-long Playa Las Canteras beach. At the southern end is the Auditorium Alfredo Kraus, renowned for its location and architecture. A window front facing the sea provides fabulous views during performances. Even when there is no event, the Auditorium Alfredo Kraus is a real highlight in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In the evening, the building is illuminated and the sunsets here are also very beautiful.
Why are there no big beach hotels at Playa las Canteras? The reason is simple: the north of Gran Canaria gets more clouds and rain than the area around Maspalomas, Puerto de Mogán or Puerto Rico. That’s why you should look for a hotel on the sunny south side of Gran Canaria. I recommend this one:
On the more than 2 km long promenade Paseo de las Canteras at Playa Las Canteras, there is pretty much everything a beachgoer could wish for, from beach loungers and international burger chains to tanned surfers and female surfers. You can even snorkel here. The promenade is the perfect place for a sundowner after a busy day of sightseeing in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Getting there: Many city buses go to Playa Las Canteras. Google Maps shows lines and times quite reliably.
11th stop: Dinner in Las Palmas
You can start the evening in one of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s many tapas bars, or stroll through the smartly dressed-up but by some perceived artificial “Pueblo Canario” neighbourhood. It is modelled on a typical Canarian village and, as well as boutiques, there are restaurants and the Parque Santa Catalina. The Hotel Santa Catalina right next to the park is a sight in itself. Spain’s royal family stays here when they visit Gran Canaria.
By the way: dinner is served very late in Spain by Central European standards. The restaurants don’t get really crowded until 9 pm. You should definitely try papas arrugadas con mojo! If you came by public transport, you should check when the last bus leaves for your accommodation. Otherwise there are taxis.
Did I promise too much? I certainly didn’t. Like us, you won’t be able to do it all in one day. We’ll be back!
Don’t have a hotel in Gran Canaria yet? Here are my favourites: