The Canary Islands are known throughout Europe as one of the best vacation spots. The island of Gran Canaria soaks in an average of 320 days of sun (more than Michigan’s average of 158 days) and according to a much-flaunted rating in a 1996 scientific study called the ‘Pleasant Weather Ratings,’ it boasts the “best climate in the world.”
If you’re looking to escape the winter blues — or want to embrace the island life for the weekend, here are a few must-sees and must-dos.
Surprisingly, the food scene in Las Palmas is a bit lacking. With Spain’s robust gastro scene, I would have thought that it’d be overflowing with tapas, pintxos and other Spanish culinary delights.
However, I did find a few hidden gems. Did I miss any? Drop them in the comments below and I’ll hit them up when I’m back later this year.
Nestled along the touristy restaurants of Las Canteras beach, pop into The Couple for an excellent brunch. Run by (you guessed it) a French-Italian couple, it features the best brunch at a fair price. With a full bar (stop in at night for an excellent cocktail), sip a mimosa while enjoying an excellent view of the beach.
Choose from themed breakfast menus, like the Essential, with bacon, eggs, and toast with OJ and a coffee (€6), or the English Breakfast, with bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans and toast (€10) , which features ingredients imported from the UK to give the frequent British tourists a taste of home.
Paseo Las Canteras 23, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
I didn’t expect to have delicious Italian pizza in Las Palmas. Restaurante Pizzeria Pulcinella is a small place, maybe 8 tables inside and the same outside, so advance reservations are suggested. The wood-fired pizzas reminded me of Napoli; they’re plentiful in sauce and cheese with a tasty, crunchy crust. Service was cheerful but slow — so embrace the La Dolce Vita with a glass (or two) of Italian vino.
Calle Naval 4, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Looking for a fancy cocktail bar and a view of the city? Head to La Azotea de Benito Cocktail Bar. It’s located on the rooftop of the Centro Commercial Monopol, in the old town of Las Palmas (Vegueta). Sip on craft cocktails with an excellent view of the Cathedral of Santa Ana (also known as the Las Palmas Cathedral).
Centro Commercial Monopol 2ª Planta, Plaza Hurtado Mendoza, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
For south-of-the-border (American border, that is) flavors, try La Bikina. It’s toward the south-middle area of Las Canteras beach. Enjoy dining on the expected (like ceviche and tacos) and the unexpected (pad thai and nasi goreng). They also feature a strong cocktail menu and a good variety of fresh fruit juices.
Paseo de las Canteras 63, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
If you see one thing in Las Palmas, make sure to check out the Cathedral of Santa Ana / Las Palmas Cathedral. It overlooks the Plaza de Santa Ana in Vegueta. Take the elevator (yes, no climbing stairs!) to the top for a spectacular view of the hilly neighborhoods or the port. Take a short climb to one of the top spires for an extra-high vantagepoint. Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p..m.,or on Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. €3 per person.
Plaza de Santa Ana, 13, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Interested in learning more about Christopher Columbus? You’ll want to stop into the Columbus’ House, located behind the Cathedral of Santa Ana. Read up on the voyage of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria (and his other ventures to the Americas), and tour a replica of Columbus’ cabin. Tour through an original Canarian home and check out indigenous South American relics (in the basement). Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. €4 per person.
c / Colon 1, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Situated along the western coast of Las Palmas is one of the best beaches on the island, Las Canteras. It’s flanked by a long promenade that features a shopping mall (Las Arenas) and a performing arts center (Auditorio Alfredo Kraus) at the southern end, and the residential neighborhood (La Isleta) to the north. Take the 45-minute walk along the promenade and enjoy the seaside views, or stop in at one of the plentiful bars and coffee shops for a sunny break.
Las Palmas is a surfer’s paradise. While surfing schools prefer the smaller waves of Las Canteras beach, watch the experts ride bigger swells at El Confital. If you’re feeling restless, try the hike up the small mountain (more of an overlook than a mountain) behind the beach for an incredible view of Las Palmas and the bay.