10 Amazing Things to See in Las Palmas Old Town in One Day

Do you think that Gran Canaria is all about sandy beaches, sunbeds and sipping sangria? Think again.

North of the popular tourist resorts lies Las Palmas, the capital of the island and a destination that deserves at least a day of your Gran Canaria itinerary. At the heart of this vibrant city lies its true jewel, the captivating Las Palmas Old Town, also known as Vegueta.

But what can you do in Las Palmas Old Town in one day? Based on my first-hand experience, this is where I can help you.

From an awe-inspiring cathedral to achingly picturesque streets, my guide will reveal the things to see in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that you cannot miss.

small square with a church and bell tower and a sign saying vive vegueta

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How to Use this 1-Day Las Palmas Old Town Guide

This list of the top attractions in Vegueta gives you a loose framework on which to hang your day. But if you find it easier, you can use this guide as a Las Palmas self-guided walking tour. The good news is that as Vegueta is a compact area, the distance from start to finish is less than 1km.

After you have finished visiting these sights, you can wind your way back through Triana to San Telmo Bus Station. Depending on how long you spend at each place, you may even have time to catch the bus to Las Canteras Beach (recommended).

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria self-guided walking tour map

Here is your free Vegueta walking tour. For an interactive map with step-by-step directions, simply click here or on the image itself.

map showing the best things to see in las palmas old town in one day
What to Do in Las Palmas Old Town. Map data @ Google 2023

What to Do in Las Palmas Old Town in a Day

Within a day, you will visit a monumental cathedral steeped in history, explore the narrow streets that reveal the soul of local life, immerse yourself in Canarian history and traditions and stock up on local produce in Las Palmas Old Town’s famous market.

1. Get a flavour of local life at Mercado de Vegueta (Vegueta Market)

corridor in a covered market with shops selling fruit

As the morning is the best time to visit Mercado de Vegueta, begin your day in Las Palmas Old Town at its market.

Selling fish, fruit and vegetables and flowers, there are few better places to experience a slice of local life. And if you need a caffeine shot and a sweet treat, there are a number of good cafes from which to choose.

2. See where it all began at Plaza de San Antonio Abad

plaza with small chapel draped in purple flowers next to a red building in vegueta in las palmas de gran canaria

Gran Canaria was founded where Plaza de San Antonio Abad is today.

The first civil and religious institutions of the island were located in this small square. It’s also where you will find the hermitage dedicated to San Antonio Abad at the site of the first Cathedral of the Canary Islands.

Christopher Columbus prayed in the Ermitage de San Antonio Abad before sailing to the Americas. Although its door was firmly locked each time I passed, within its plain exterior is reportedly a beautiful Baroque altarpiece.

3. Learn more about Christopher Columbus at Casa de Colón

pretty small cobblestone square with fountain and beige and ochre colonial buildings

If you want to learn more about the journeys of Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic, and their impact on the Canary Islands, make Casa de Colón your next stop. Housed in a gorgeous resorted Canarian palace, which was the residence of the first governors of the island, this excellent museum also displays Pre-Columbian artefacts and explores the history of the Canaries.

The building takes its name from claims that Christopher Columbus stayed there in 1492 while one of his ships was repaired. Casa de Colón was rebuilt in 1777 and has housed a museum since 1952.

VISITING CASA DE COLÓN

Opening hours: Casa de Colón is open from 10 am until 6 pm, Monday to Saturday. On Sunday it is open from 10 am to 3 pm.

Ticket price: Admission fee applies (€4 in 2023)

4. Pay your respects at Catedral de Santa Ana de Canaria (Santa Ana Cathedral)

dark stone exterior of las palmas cathedral with 2 bell towers fronted by a large square with palm trees

With its twin towers rising over Vegueta’s skyline, Santa Ana Cathedral is Las Palmas’ most recognizable landmark.

Work began on this monumental cathedral in 1497, a mere 14 years after the Spanish conquest. However, construction continued until 1809 with the cathedral morphing through different architectural styles and employing numerous architects.

Its main nave is Isabelline Gothic and features an intricate ribbed vaulted ceiling. This blends seamlessly with the Neo-Classical extensions in the side chapels injected with a small dose of Renaissance. The result is a microcosm of Canadian architecture.

nave of catedral de santa ana in las palmas with ribbed ceiling
gilded pulpit with cherubs in santa ana cathedral las palmas

Walk through the Puerta del Aire into the Patio de los Naranjos. This leafy 17th Century courtyard, which connects the cathedral with the Museum of Sacred Art, takes its name from the orange trees planted there.

It shares its name with the patio of the Cathedral of Seville with which Santa Ana Cathedral has a close relationship (the Canary Islands diocese belongs to the archdiocese of Seville).

wooden doors opening onto a pretty cloister with a central palm tree

Your ticket for the cathedral includes entry to the Museum of Sacred Art (Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro). This houses a collection of religious sculptures, paintings and carvings from the 16th to the 20th Centuries.

Taking pride of place is a wooden crucifix by Luján Peréz. This plays a starring role in the Las Palmas Easter procession.

wooden sculpture of jesus on the cross
Wooden crucifix by Luján Peréz
VISITING SANTA ANA CATHEDRAL IN LAS PALMAS

Opening hours: I found these difficult to confirm online as the information was inconsistent and incorrect. When I visited in 2023, Las Palmas Cathedral was open from 10 and until 6 pm, Monday to Friday, and from 10 am – 4 pm on Saturday. On Sundays, the cathedral was open for Mass only in the morning.

Ticket price: There is a modest admission fee to enter the cathedral with an extra charge to visit the tower (€5 and €2 respectively in 2023; €6 for a combined ticket)

Although the cathedral does not offer guided tours, you can download the excellent free audiotour on your phone when you enter.

5. Take in the view of Plaza de Santa Ana from the cathedral’s tower

panoramic view of the large square of santa ana in las palmas lined with palm tress and 2 and 3 storey buildings

It’s worth paying the nominal fee to visit the tower of Santa Ana Cathedral.

As cathedral tower climbs go, this is a piece of cake. Take the lift to the main viewing platform and then climb a set of steps to the top of the bell tower.

bell tower of santa ana catherdal in gran canaria viewed through an arch

From here, there are the best views of Plaza de Santa Ana, Vegueta’s beating heart, and of the ocean in the other direction. This immense square is lined with fine Canarian buildings, including Palacio Episcopal Bishop’s Palace and Casa Regente (residence of the president of Gran Canaria’s High Court of Law).

Eight cast iron figures of dogs painted in green bronze guard the cathedral’s entrance and the square itself. The Dogs of Plaza de Santa Ana have resided here since the end of the 19th century, becoming a symbol of Las Palmas.

bronze sculpture of a dog in a colonial plaza

GOOD TO KNOW

If you are taking a day trip to Las Palmas on a Sunday, check out the Mercado de Artesania y Cultura de Vegueta. This takes place at Plaza del Pilar Nuevo, close to the cathedral.

6. Join a tour of Casas Consitoriales (Old Town Hall)

Facing Santa Ana Cathedral across the plaza is the elegant 19th Century Neo-Classical Casas Consitoriales.

Built on the site of the original 16th Century Town Hall, the building is home to important works of art by Canarian artists, including César Manrique. But its most famous painting is Emnigrantes by Ventura Álvarez Sala, donated by El Prado Museum in 1909, which hangs above the main staircase.

VISITING CASAS CONSISTORIALES

Free guided tours are provided by the City of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria every Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm (check current arrangements at the Tourist Information Office in Plaza de Santa Ana).

7. Chill out in Plaza del Espíritu Santo

domed stone fountain in vegueta in las palmas de gran canaria

Behind the Old Town Hall is Plaza del Espíritu Santo, which has a small dragon tree and a gorgeous stone domed fountain, one of the few covered fountains in Hispanic architecture. It takes its name from the Espíritu Santo Church which dates to the 17th Century.

Plaza del Espíritu Santo is also a popular local meeting point and often hosts cultural events, concerts and festivals.

8. Admire Vegueta architecture and its prettiest streets

green and white building with wrought iron balconies in las palmas de gran canaria

Plaza del Espíritu Santo is also notable for its stunning colonial-style buildings, a reflection of the Las Palmas Old Town’s rich architectural heritage.

But this is not the only place in Vegueta where you can admire these traditional houses. Just a quick stroll around Las Palmas’ oldest neighbourhood will reveal its varied architecture.

Although pirate attacks in the 16th Century laid waste to much of the post-Conquest hamlet, there is still plenty to see. There are balconies a-plenty, from typical Canarian wooden-box-like designs to Modernist wrought-iron varieties.

orange tree in front of a lime green colonial house with a wooden door

If you are looking for the most beautiful streets in Las Palmas Old Town, check out Calle Los Balcones, Calle Espiritu Santo, Calle Mendizábal (famous for its Thursday tapas nights) and Calle Pelota.

two people walking along a street lined with colonial buildings with wooden balconies in las palmas old town
man walking along a street lined with colonial buildings with wooden balconies in las palmas old town

9. Dive into local history at Museo Canario

Museo Canario is my type of museum; informative and entertaining in equal measure and refreshingly old-fashioned.

This superb museum explores the life, work and death of the Canarii, the island’s Aboriginal people, up to the time of the Spanish conquest. If you are planning to see any of the island’s Canarii sites – I recommend Cañada de los Gatos in Puerto de Mogán – visit Museo Canario first for context.

Its highlights include a room filled with hundreds of skeletal remains in glass cases, which were rich sources of anthropological studies.

glass cabinet of skulls

The museum also houses ancient sculptures of women, the most famous of which is the Tara Idol.

ancient ceramic sculpture of a woman known as the tara idol
Tara Idol
VISITING MUSEO CANARIO

Opening hours: Museo Canario is open from 10 am until 8 pm, Monday to Friday. On Saturday, Sunday and public holidays it is open from 10 am to 2 pm.
Check here for current opening times.

Ticket price: Admission fee applies (€5 in 2023)

Although all of the display information is in Spanish, scan the QR codes for excellent overviews in English.

10. Stroll through the streets of Triana

Leave Vegueta and cross the busy main road into Triana.

It wasn’t long after the Conquest that Vegueta became too small for the island’s growing population. By the 19th Century, the neighbouring district of Triana was, in effect, an overflow of Las Palmas Old Town.

Highlights of this vibrant neighbourhood include the Gabinete Literario – make sure that you take a peek inside – the Teatro Pérez Galdós and the Ermita de San Telmo.

grey and white neo-classical exterior of perez galdos theatre in las palmas de gran canaria
Teatro Pérez Galdós
magnificent interior of gabinete librario with sweeping staircase with wooden railings
Gabinete Literario

Other Places to Visit in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

If you want to squeeze more into your day in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, I recommend visiting Playa de Las Canteras, its superb urban beach. Longer-term visitors should consider taking a short bus ride to Jardin Botanico Canario Viera & Clavijo, the island’s botanical garden.

Playa de Las Canteras

massive sculpture of a man looking out over canteras beach in las palmas

Las Palmas has one of the finest city beaches in Europe.

Playa de Las Canteras has two miles of fine sand sandwiched between a pleasant promenade and the Atlantic Ocean.

Watch the surfers ride the waves at the western end of the beach. The waters become calmer and the sand finer and more golden as you head east.

My tip is to catch a local bus to Auditorio Alfredo Kraus at the western end of the beach and work your way east along the promenade, ending up at Santa Catalina bus station.

Jardin Botanico Canario Viera & Clavijo

cactus plant in a botanic garden near las palmas
a variety of cactus plants in a botanic garden

Vast and wild, Jardin Botanico Canario Viera & Clavijo is set across a deep ravine. This is not only the largest botanical garden in the Canary Islands but is also the largest of its type in all of Spain.

From ornamental cacti to pine woods and a laurel forest, this serene oasis showcases a diverse collection of native and exotic plant species. I’m a sucker for Japanese gardens and there’s also a wonderful ornamental garden here with a waterfall.

How to get to the botanical garden from Las Palmas

Jardin Botanico Canario Viera & Clavijo is a 15-minute bus journey from San Telmo Station. Take bus #301 towards Santa Brigida, which operates twice an hour, and alight at Jardin Canario. In 2023, the fare was €1.40.

Admission is free and it is open year-round.

Getting to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

As Las Palmas is the main transport hub for Gran Canaria, services arrive at its bus stations from all corners of the island.

There are two stations in Las Palmas: San Telmo and Santa Catalina. San Telmo is close to Las Palmas Old Town; Santa Catalina is near Playa de Las Canteras.

To find out more about public transport, check out my guide to using buses in Gran Canaria.

How to Get Around Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Unless you visit Playa de Las Canteras, you are unlikely to need to use local buses in Las Palmas. In 2023, city buses have a flat fare of €1.40 and you can buy your ticket from the driver.

yellow local bus in las palmas in gan canaria
Las Palmas city bus

Where to Stay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Las Palmas is not only a superb destination in its own right but it is also the best base for exploring Gran Canaria by public transport. After a relaxing stay in Puerto de Mogán in the south, I made the island’s capital my home base for five days, visiting the gorgeous town of Arucas, tasting rum in Agüimes and taking a day trip to Teror.

I opted to stay in the heart of Vegueta, which was the right choice for me. But if you want to be close to an excellent beach, look at properties near Las Canteras.

Apartments Vegueta Suite

I stayed in this spacious apartment in the heart of Vegueta. This is perfect if you want to be close to Las Palmas Old Town and its restaurants and within easy walking distance of San Telmo Bus Station for trips further afield.

It was also very affordable considering its location, size and amenities.

bedroom in a rental apartment with wooden floor and a bed with grey and beige checked linen
lounge in a rental apartment with a table and 5 chairs, sofa and tv

CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS AND PRICES

Here are a few other places I have found that may suit other budgets and tastes:

Midrange – VEINTIUNO Emblematic Hotels

This would be my choice of a comfortable hotel in Vegueta. It is ideal if you want to stay in a good hotel in the heart of Las Palmas Old Town. It also has a rooftop terrace with views to die for.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS AND PRICES

Splurge – Santa Catalina, a Royal Hideaway Hotel

If I was looking to splash the cash on a gorgeous beach hotel in Las Palmas, this would be my first choice. Santa Catalina might be for you if you are looking for all the facilities, comfort and service you would expect in a 5-star hotel. Other travellers love it too.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS AND PRICES

Is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Safe for Solo Travellers?

As a whole, Spain is one of the best solo travel destinations in Europe, especially if you are a first-time solo traveller. In my view, it is also one of the best places to visit alone in the world.

Solo travel to Gran Canaria is no exception. I felt comfortable wandering the streets of Vegueta at night, even at night.

However, like any city, it is always advisable to take common travel safety precautions to ensure a trouble-free experience. Remain vigilant, keep your belongings close to you and use your in-room safe to store valuables.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.

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