The Canaries: Spring… for eternity
There’s a lot more to the Canary Islands than crowded beaches, high-rise blocks and 2-for-1 cocktails. We asked Borja a real Gran Canarian native, to tell us where he likes to eat, shop and get away from it all.
About me: Food and art lover. Originally from Gran Canaria, now living in Berlin and working for 9flats. I’ll guide you to the greatest places to give your stomach happiness and treat your eyes to beautiful views and fantastic architecture. Mixing with local people is a must for me when travelling.
December 31. My mother’s busy and asks me to disappear so she can organise everything for tonight. It’s 23° so I decide to go to the beach. Sandals on, Christmas all around, blue sky and still in Europe. Welcome to the city where I was born and grew up. Welcome to my Gran Canaria…
A little island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, nestled between Africa, Europe and America, it doesn’t matter when you want to go because Gran Canaria is known as ‘the everlasting spring isle’. Whether you like beaches, mountains, countryside or city, you can have all that, in the sunshine, and still not have to travel far from the old continent.
Here are my top tips to help you enjoy this destination as a proper local…
To begin with, breakfast…
A good place to start is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the island’s capital. I recommend a morning visit to the market, Mercado de Vegueta in the beautiful old town, Vegueta-Triana. A market is always a great way to gauge how people live and eat in a place. Have breakfast in Bar Emiliano and ask for ‘chocolate con churros’, a really thick chocolate drink with churros (deep-fried, long, crispy doughnuts).
When you’re done, cross the border between Vegueta to Triana by going along the cathedral street, and you’ll discover the relaxing Plaza Cairasco. Sit down for a break, gaze at the colonial-style building Gabinete Literario and order a sweet ‘leche y leche’ (coffee with both milk and condensed milk) in the historical Hotel Madrid, the very place where Franco slept before his coup d’état in 1936. A curious paradox: this was also a place for intellectuals in the 19th century.
After that, head to Calle Triana and have a look around. This high street is a great place to sit on a bench and soak in the multicultural essence of this city. Las Palmas has always been a place for people to stop for a little while. Like a tiny USA, you’ll find Canarios with Indian, British, Venezuelan and many other roots, and then you have the foreigners, people from far away places who decided to spend a short time in the relaxed sunshine.
Then to the harbour…
Head down to the bus station and hop on a ‘guagua’ (a cool name we use for buses). Avoid the tourist buses! Line 12 will take you to Intercambiador de Santa Catalina bus station quickly and cheaply.
When you get to the harbour area and see its huge dimensions, maybe you’ll understand why Las Palmas is so diverse. Starting off from Parque Santa Catalina, I definitely recommend you get lost in the dirty and decadent surrounding streets. It’s lunch time already, and Oso Polar restaurant is a brilliant example of this multicultural side of the city. Delightful Indian cuisine in a cosy place!
El Puerto’s atmosphere with hotels, old shops and different kinds of people drive me crazy. Everything’s chaos. Africa, America and Europe mixed in a blurry mess. And suddenly on the opposite side to the harbour… Las Canteras beach, our precious treasure. The perfect time to stop looking at your watch, turn off your mobile phone and choose how to enjoy your life. Here’s my tip: walk though the esplanade, stop in Casa Suecia and have one of their great cakes or Swedish specialties while reading a book, then go for a swim or just walk along the shore. Watch surfers do their stuff in La Cícer.
Hungry? Again?! Go to Ca´Ñoño and taste his famous ‘bocadillo de calamares’ (squid sandwich) and ‘papas con mojo’ (potatoes with special Canarian sauce). Something sweet? The ice cream in Peña La Vieja is heaven on earth (so good it inspired Paul McCartney to write Let It Be apparently). The best moment in Las Canteras comes when sunset is coming and you can see the colours in the sky. Hard to describe, definitely to be experienced.
So… impressed by how many things you can do in a beach?
And into the island…
Outside the city, I would definitely go to Barrio de San Cristóbal in the south. The colourful houses and sparse seafront create the ideal atmosphere in this traditional fishing area on the outskirts of the city. You have to go there to eat fish, no matter what. And not only fish, but gofio escaldado, a typical Canarian dish made from roasted corn.
I’m a big fan of mercadillos (fleamarkets), and San Mateo and Teror are nice ones: full of fresh, delicious food from the island. A must is chorizo de Teror and queso de Valsequillo. Because of the nice temperatures it’s also common to see a lot of decorative plants, especially tropical ones, in these markets. Handcrafted objects like the precious table linen made by Canarios are good things to take home.
That’s it for now! I’ve always been impressed by the variety of landscapes just one island can offer. I hope you are too.
What about the other islands?
Even though Gran Canaria is a varied isle in itself, the other six main islands in the Canaries are just amazing in their own ways. Don’t miss (from largest to smallest)…
5. La Gomera… dare to walk from Playa Santiago to Los Roques in a fantastic route with amazing landscapes. After a while, you can feel the solitude and and imagine what live was like for the ancient indigineous people.
Where to stay >