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Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, to give it its full name is the largest city, in terms of population in the Spanish autonomous region of the Canary Islands. Most tourists in the South of the island do not appreciate that one of Spain's largest cities is only a relatively short distance away from their resort. They are therefore missing out on a cosmopolitan experience and all that such a large metropolis has to offer.
Located at the top of the island, Las Palmas is at the centre of the island's small motorway network. It is connected to the island's main airport by the GC-1 motorway and the journey between the two will take around 20 minutes. There is currently a proposal to build a rail link to connect Las Palmas with the resorts in the South at a cost of more than EUR 1 billion. Timescales and funding however remain vague.
The city was founded in 1478, with the name "Real de Las Palmas" when an invading Castilian army claimed the islands for the Crown. A war (ultimately of extermination) ensued with the islands' inhabitants, the Guanches. In 1492, Christopher Columbus (in Spanish Cristobal Colón) stopped off in Las Palmas on his first voyage to what would become known as the New World. Today, a museum is named after him, Casa Colón, in the Vegueta area of the city.
Las Palmas is today a cosmopolitan city. With a population of over 600,000, Las Palmas is the largest city in the Canary Islands and the ninth or tenth largest city in the whole of Spain. Together with Santa Cruz de Tenerife, it is the joint capital of the Canary Islands.
It has five beaches (Las Canteras, Las Alcaravaneras, San Cristobal, El Confital and La Laja) and a big seaport (Puerto de la Luz) that was very important during the 70s and early 90s (which benefited greatly from the closure of the Suez Canal during the Arab-Israeli conflict. The largest and most popular of the beaches is Las Canteras, a 3km long cove of golden sand, protected by a natural barrier, which makes it ideal for swimming and all kinds of watersports. This is also reckoned to be one of Spain's finest. The Paseo de Las Canteras adjacent to the beach and is lined with cafés, restaurants and shops. Las Canteras is also home to the world- famous concert and exhibition venue, Auditorio Alfredo Kraus.
Puerto de la Luz has become another major shopping and commercial sector of the city, the two main areas being Avenida Mesa Y Lopez and the shopping centre, El Muelle. The port itself has been the mainstay of the city's development both economically and physically, profiting from its location on a crossroads of main oceanic shipping routes. Nearby, you will find Parque Santa Catalina, also known as Santa Catalina Park, or Plaza de Santa Catalina. This is an ideal place to sit and watch the world go by over a coffee or a glass of wine.
The oldest part of the city, Vegueta, houses the 500 year old Santa Ana Cathedral, the Bishop's palace and the Casa Colón. Vegueta is where you should also head for the city's lively nightlife which is wide and varied with something to suit everybody, from small, local tapas bars to clubs and discos and an amazing collection of multi national restaurants.
Triana district, from the beginning, was an area for traders, shopkeepers and businesses. Its main street is lined with historical buildings and these are now protected, having been declared an historical monument. It is now pedestrianised and is one of the main shopping areas of the city.
There are too many museums too mention in Las Palmas but take your pick from the limited selection of links below. Otherwise, take time out and do some shopping and then relax over a meal and a drink either in the city centre or on Las Canteras.
Las Canteras, the main beach of Las Palmas:
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