Tamaran meaning ‘Land of the Brave’, now known as Gran Canaria, is a sweet and laid back Spanish island situated off the Atlantic coast of North West Africa. It is the third largest island of the archipelago in both area and altitude and the third most populated of all Spanish Islands with a population of around 850,000.
The North African Canarii quite possibly arrived on the island as early as 500BC and, after a century of European incursions and attempts at conquest, the island was conquered on April 29th, 1483 by the Crown of Castile, under Queen Isabella. The capital was founded on June, 1478, under the name ‘Real de Las Palmas’. Las Palmas, as the capital is now known, is the joint capital of the autonomous community of the Canary Islands along with Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus is known to have anchored in the Port of Las Palmas and he wasn’t the only famous visitor. Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins apparently tried to take Las Palmas in 1595 as well as a Dutch fleet who reportedly created havoc in the city burning many of its buildings to the ground. Gran Canaria, and Las Palmas in particular, has a wonderful history and this can all be experienced today in a visit to the older part of the city.
The rich history and beautiful architecture of the old town of ‘Vegueta’ and the area of Triana has been wonderfully preserved and can be appreciated by taking an historic walking tour of this old part of the city. I chose to ‘go it alone’ and just wander the streets armed with a list of landmarks I’d found through an evening of research the night before.
If you are thinking of visiting the older parts of Las Palmas, I would highly recommend firstly calling in at one of the Tourist Information offices for a free map of all of the most popular landmarks and finding out about free tours of some of the most interesting and historic buildings. I went in and had a lovely chat with Aurora at the smaller office inside the Teatro Perez Galdos. She not only helped me with information about the historic area but the whole city. You will find the main tourist information offices at Santa Catelina Park and San Telmo but there are many smaller offices dotted all over the city. They are very well marked on google maps and have visible signage you can easily spot when wandering about. The employees speak great English and couldn’t be more helpful.
Getting the map will prevent you from missing any of significant spots as well as giving you a sensible and walk-able route through this meandering part of the city. The roads and lanes are largely cobbled and pedestrianised and you could easily spend at least half a day wandering around, soaking in the rich history. As I mentioned before, it is possible to join a walking tour of the old city.
In actual fact, if you buy a twenty five euro ‘hop on, hop off’ bus ticket of Las Palmas, a walking tour of the old part of the city is included in the price. If I’d known this before, I’d definitely have done it as I think this would have saved a lot of time and helped me to see and appreciate more. Although, getting on the bus with the locals is always great too.
I’d highly recommend spending at least half a day in the historic part of the city. If you want to be organised and squeeze as much in as possible, consider taking a walking tour. Make time to go inside and appreciate the magnificent Cathedral Santa Ana and consider a tour of one or more of the other historic buildings. Obviously, it’s uneven underfoot so sensible footwear is a must but don’t worry about getting hungry or thirsty as there are countless bars and eateries offering stunning tapas and perhaps a glass of wine or two. As well as places to eat and drink there are numerous small shops and even plenty of little supermarkets so you’ll have no problems getting everything you might need during your visit.
Whilst there are plenty of quaint places to sit and rest your feet for a while should you want a ‘free’ stop during your adventure, as ever in Europe, the lack of public toilets is evident. I walked around all morning and didn’t see one. However, there are bathrooms in the modern art gallery which has free entry and of course you can always go into one of the many local bars so long as you are buying a drink or so.
In terms of getting to this historic part of the city of Las Palmas, it really couldn’t be easier. If you are staying outside of the city, you want to be catching a bus to San Telmo bus terminus in Las Palmas City. It’s a massive bus depot so you’ll have no issues getting to the area. The historic part of the city is right next to the bus station. The tourist information is also right there and this will get you all sorted for a fun packed day. I travelled from Playa Las Canteras/ Las Palmas Port area and the buses leave every few minutes from Santa Catelina Park.
I caught the number 12 which takes about 15 minutes (6 stops). It’s a very busy ‘bendy’ bus with standing room only all of the way. Apparently there are other buses such as the number 1 that also go to San Telmo but all of the others take around half an hour as far as I could see. There is a ticket office at Santa Catelina Park should you need help. But to be honest it’s really easy. A single journey is one euro forty (they do give change) and the drivers are very helpful.
So, if you do go to Las Palmas, make the time to go and explore this quaint and beautiful part of the island. It’s well worth it and largely free too, which is a bonus if you’re on a budget. With bars, shops and facilities to cater to every budget, you can’t really afford to miss it.