Your first view of Las Palmas, the largest city in the Canary Islands, will be of the pretty, pastel-coloured houses of the hillier neighbourhoods.
These residences owe their exteriors more to thrift than frivolity, however, as they are coated in paint left over from daubing fishermen’s boats.
It’s a radiant introduction to a holiday in a city meteorologists say has the most perfect climate in Europe, with an average temperature of 22c (72f).
Meteorologists say Las Palmas has the most perfect climate in Europe, with an average temperature of 22c (72f)
Where to stay
This converted 18th-century home has 11 adult-only rooms fashionably arranged around a traditional Canarian atrium. Look up from a rooftop bar to the neighbouring cathedral and down to the cobblestone paths of olde worlde Vegueta. B&B doubles from £86, book direct with Early Bird offer, hotelveintiuno.com.
Lemon & Soul Las Palmas
The formerly functional Hotel Atlanta has been rebranded as fresh Lemon & Soul. Lemons are everywhere, from the tree at reception to the motif on the exterior.
It has 71 zestful rooms spread over six floors and is situated just 50 metres from Las Canteras beach, on Calle Alfredo L Jones, named after the pioneering Welshman who exported bananas from Las Palmas to what would become Canary Wharf in London in the 19th century. B&B doubles for an average price of £70, lemonandsoul-laspalmas.com.
Bright and light, this 1920s guesthouse, with 11 rooms, a children’s play area and a terrace, is the antithesis of the average B&B. It’s in Ciudad Jardin, also home to Anglican Holy Trinity Church and the Club Ingles, which was frequented by Agatha Christie when the city was Gran Canaria’s only resort. Queen bed from £52, king bed from £65, breakfast included, guesthousekatanka.com.
Bed & Chic
Set in Parque Santa Catalina, the 23-room Bed & Chic is in an ideal location. More square than park, the bustling space hosts popular city celebrations including Carnaval, whose hottest ticket is the Drag Queen Gala. From the olive-green facade to the Paisley wallpaper, this hotel stands out for all the right reasons. Doubles without breakfast from £60, bedandchic.com.
What to see and do
Get on your bike
Rent a bicycle and follow the Avenida Maritima, a doppelganger for Cuba’s Malecon (bikes from £2.60 an hour, sitycleta.com). Break up the leisurely 40-minute ride in erstwhile fishing village San Cristobal, home to the capital’s best seafood restaurants.
Start at the beginning
The city was a mere 14 years old, founded by the Spanish invasion force after conquering the Berber-descending canarii, when an adventurous son of Genoa, Christopher Columbus, dropped by in 1492. The Ermita de San Antonio Abad, a church in Vegueta, brought the explorer to his knees as he prayed for a safe voyage. For further facts about the oldest district in town, book an hour-long walking tour with Trip Gran Canaria (£6, tripgrancanaria.com).
Neighbouring Triana is the premier shopping area. Give the main drag, Calle Mayor, a swerve and hit more interesting offshoots. From Plaza Cairasco’s Hotel Madrid, where Franco plotted his Spanish Civil War campaign and Gregory Peck played the role of barfly at night while filming Moby Dick by day, to the stately splendour of the Palacete Rodríguez Quegles, there’s much to stumble across.
Squeeze in a stop at Casa de Colón, above, to examine a replica of Columbus’ fleet
Vegueta’s reasonably-priced museums get even cheaper on the first weekend of the month when they become free. Mummy’s the word at El Museo Canario, home to the dessicated remains of the island’s original inhabitants: the canarii (elmuseocanario.com). Squeeze in a stop at Casa de Colón to examine a replica of Columbus’ fleet (casadecolon.com).
The Las Palmas version of London’s Borough Market is Mercado del Puerto (mercadodelpuerto.net). It’s a mix of fruit and veg, fish and meat stalls and small restaurants. For a taste of Canarian cuisine, head to Piscos & Buches whose nicely spicy mojo sauce accompanying salty boiled new potatoes (papas arrugadas) is as orange as molten lava (£5.15).
Where to eat
Naturalis Beach Bar
Keep cool in the Atlantic breeze while relaxing at this beach bar’s outdoor tables. It’s specialities include smoothies, salads and sandwiches. Pair a shake (£3 for a medium or £3.85 for a large) of milk, banana, gofio (toasted cornflour) and honey, which many parents still prepare for their children’s breakfasts, with the classic mixto (ham and cheese) sarnie (£1.71). Address: Calle Numancia 31.
Spain’s first Japanese restaurant opened in Las Palmas. Toshihiko Sato, who arrived by boat, launched Fuji in 1967 and it’s now run by former disciple Miguel Martinez. Booking is advised. Starters are big enough to share, including the cold tofu (£3), kimchi (spicy vegetables, £3.50) and octopus vinegret (£3.70), restaurantefuji.es.
They are a clever lot at the stylish Adasu. Not only do they play with words — their name is an acronym formed from the first letters of the five tastes in Spanish: acido, dulce etc — they also toy with flavours. Snack on satisfyingly crunchy kale-heavy spring rolls (£6) for dinner; at lunch, feast on a generous set menu (£9.42). Address: Calle Secretario Padilla 73.
Reserve a lunch table or join the queue before dinner at this heaving tavern. Sample Castilian fare with a Canarian flourish, including lagarto iberico (£7.71) — pork cut in a lizard shape — and wash it down with a bottle of wine from one of the capital’s biggest cellars, such as the lively Librato (£10.28) from Don Quixote country. Address: Calle Galileo 13.