Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the capital of the Gran Canaria island and of Las Palmas province, which makes up part of the whole Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain. The Canary Islands are an archipelago of seven major islands (separated into two provinces) in the Atlantic Ocean. They are situated just west of Africa and to the south of Spain. The entire Gran Canaria island has a population of over 802,000; almost 379,000 of those inhabitants live in the capital. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the biggest city of all in the Canary Islands.
Gran Canaria started to become a popular tourist destination in the late 1800s.
People started flocking to the south side of the island to find rest and relaxation on one of the many sandy beaches.
The earliest recognition of the Canary Islands was that they were hanging on the edge of the known world, or that they were a part of the lost land, Atlantis.
The island was supposedly inhabited by aborigines from Northern Africa called Guanches since 500 B.C. The island was basically forgotten about by the rest of the world, leaving about 30,000 Guanches to lead a peaceful life. This all changed in the 14th century when Italians, Portuguese, and Spanish started invaded the land and taking people as slaves.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria was originally named Real de Las Palmas by Juan Rejón when he led the Spanish army who overtook and founded the city in June, 1478. The Guanches tried to resist, but by 1483 many were killed and others taken as Spanish slaves and forced to convert to Christianity.
In 1492, before he set out to discover the Americas, Christopher Columbus spent some time in the port area of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The city was the first ultramarine urban center in Europe; this led as an example in the creation of similar cities throughout the Americas.
After the transition brought upon by the Reconquista, the land changed from being a military base to become more colonized. In the distribution of the land, cane was discovered and the city became a major manufacturer of sugar in the European market. This greatly influenced the layout of the city, its economy and demographics. The capital city was split into two zones, due to walls that were built to defend against pirate attacks in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although they were able to fight off 27 attacking British Ships in October of 1595, the city fell in 1599 to an attack from the Dutch, commanded by Van der Does, which resulted in the devastation of many of the city’s structures.
With the construction of the new port in the 19th century the city was able to outgrow the lengthy, lethargic state it had suffered in the previous centuries. The city began to flourish and become modernized. Thus, the sea started to bring in travellers and settlers to the island. Portuguese, French, Flemish and other Spanish began to flock to the city. They were able to co-exist openly and civilly with the people of Las Palmas. The city was then used as a tri-continental platform and turned into a melting pot of cultures that has grown to be the cosmopolitan society it is today.
- Airport: There is an airport located on the Bay of Gando; this is approximately 18 kilometers from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. There are a few busses, that run daily, which can take you between the capital city and the airport. The airport is notably one of the busiest in Spain because of the high number of airplanes and passengers traveling through annually.
- Boat: Being an island, there is a lot of boat traffic leaving and arriving in Gran Canaria. One of the most important ports is Port of La Luz in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Every year over a million passengers travel through the port, this is comprised of mainly tourists.
- Bus: Bus service is available in Las Palmas by Guaguas Municipales; they serve the city with over 40 lines (Line 1 runs from the Port to the Theater 24 hours a day). One trip on the bus costs 1.10€, but there are other options to save money if you will be staying in the city for an extended period of time. A card for 10 trips costs 5.80€, easy month pass (unlimited trips) costs 35€ and there is a special pass for students that offers 80 trips in a month for 23€. Global is the bus service that connects Las Palmas to the rest of the island with around 120 busses in their fleet. Seeing the island by bus is one of the best ways to take in all the scenic viewpoints.
- Car: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is accessible with the rest of the island through three superhighways: the GC1 to the south, the GC2 to the west and the GC3 towards the center of the island. These superhighways were created at the end of the 20th century. A main reason for their construction was to help with the increasing tourism traffic. The last few years Gran Canaria has been working on making new bypasses for quicker conections from the center to the outskirts of the city.
Of course on the island of Gran Canaria it is possible to enjoy all types of water sports and activities; especially because of the excellent, year-round weather. The sea temperature is quite close to the actual temperature, rarely dropping below 19º (66 F). Las Palmas de Gran Canaria boasts some of the best sailing, body-boarding and surfing on the island. There are also places to go paragliding and jet or water skiing and many other interesting adventures sports where you can practice Spanish or even help you Learn Spanish in Tenerife or the rest of the Canary Islands.. Aside from the water sports, Las Palmas offers places to golf, hike, cycle and much more.
Las Palmas is also home to Gran Canaries biggest commercial shopping center. There are many shopping areas and centers that offer top name brands, as well as cafés, boutiques, restaurants and entertainment.
There are a few museums in the city that offer an exposure to some of the city’s history and culture. To see some antiques and art from the Canary Islands visit the Canary Museum. You can also visit the Casa de Colón (House of Columbus) which lays out Christopher Columbus’ travels as well as more art and history of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. If you are interested in seeing a dance or theater performance stop by either the Teatro Cuyás or Teatro Pérez Galdós or Auditorium Alfredo Kraus.
On the Gran Canaria island and within the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria the food shares similarities with the other islands and even some parts of the Peninsula. The core foods are, of course, seafood and a mixture of produce grown inland. The preparation styles are quite varied, however, between Gran Canaria and the mainland of Spain.
A popular seafood dish that you can find on most local restaurant’s menu is Sancocho. It is made up of a salted fish, with potatoes and yams, olive oil and seasonings to taste. Other common fish dishes are fried moray and marinated tuna. These can be found throughout the city and the whole island, maybe with slight variations from place to place.
Yams and potatoes were not a native product on the island, but they made their first appearance after the discovery of the Americas. Today, they have become a major part of the islands gastronomy. Many other vegetables and spices can be found growing on the island; tomatoes are perhaps the most popular as they are a highly regarded export and found all over Gran Canaria just like bananas (platanos).
Much like the rest of Spain, the nightlife on the island is lively, energetic and fun. That also means that things don’t get started until later as well. Most bars open around midnight or 2 a.m. In Las Palmas a good place to go out at night is around Plaza de España, around the Mesa y Lopéz area. For rum lovers stop by La Ronería (Rum Museum) which serves all rum drinks. It’s only open at night from 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Close to the largest campus of the university, in the Tafira zone or in the obelisco (the second campus), and you can find several bars and pubs that will have more of a student atmosphere, also in the Santa Catalina district there are many places to enjoy a night out on the town.