For most visitors to Gran Canaria, Las Palmas is merely a place of transit. Once they have landed at the airport to the south of the town they travel straight on to the tourist heart of the island in the south, to Maspalomas or Playa del Inglés. For cruise tourists, too, Las Palmas is often just the place where they start or finish their voyage. But the capital of the island is not only a genuine cultural highlight, it is also, incidentally, a true beach paradise!
In contrast to the south of Gran Canaria, up here in the north it is noticeably quieter and people live their everyday lives well away from the tourist centres. To be within easy reach of the top attractions as well as the more remote beaches here in the north you should treat yourself to a hire car. If you arrive in the town via the motorway from the airport, in other words from the south, the town of Las Palmas seems at first glance rather oversized for the small island of Gran Canaria. All along the steep cliffs are tower blocks from the nineteen sixties and seventies, reaching down almost to the water, with only the multi-lane motorway between them and the sea. At evening, in addition to the lights of the town, you are greeted by innumerable dots of light out on the water, where tankers and fishing boats look like stationary glow worms against the night sky. But as soon as you start to explore the numerous winding alleyways and tiny squares of Las Palmas, you lose the initial impression of size.
Each quarter of this town lives and breathes its own character, none more so than the UNESCO world heritage district of Vegueta. This is where, in 1478, Juan Rejón, the leader of the invading Castilian army, established the town of Real de Las Palmas. Construction of the Cathedral of Santa Ana began shortly afterwards, so Christopher Columbus, one of the most famous visitors to Las Palmas, must surely have passed it on his voyage westward. If you take a walk today through the streets and alleyways of Vegueta, you will spot countless different architectural styles, from mediaeval stone facades to baroque stucco and large windows, which will blend before your eyes to form a complete whole. Apart from the historic buildings in grey sandstone, the facades retain their colours of soft green, pale yellow or turquoise. Vegueta radiates all the colours of the rainbow, like an echo of the open LGBT party scene in the south of Gran Canaria.
The famous town beach of Playa de las Canteras is redolent with this atmosphere of tolerance. Here, right on the promenade, you can install yourself in one of the charming small seventies-style hotels so as to be close to all the lively activity. In the early evening a colourful mixture of young and old wanders along the kilometre long promenade, peacefully admiring the sunset, as it traces the silhouettes of the innumerable palms on the Paseo de las Canteras. Hand in hand with your nearest and dearest or the man of your dreams, you can mingle with the crowd or sit in one of the small bars with a cooling cocktail, letting the whole spectrum of the evening sky, from deep red to dark purple, work its magic on you. Only the Atlantic Ocean lies between you and the setting sun.