Best Places For Winter Sun is a high ranking Google search of mine which, admittedly, when coming across these types of click bait blogs in the past I’ve always scrolled past the Canary Islands suggestions on them. However after my recent fleeting visit to Gran Canaria in March i’m starting to wonder why it’s taken me 32 years to realise that this little sunny gem of an island, only a four hour flight from London, is the perfect winter sunshine holiday! Read on for our five night getaway in Las Palmas with all places to eat, things to see and what to do in Gran Canaria.
72 HOURS IN LAS PALMAS
Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria is the ultimate city break (without the price tag). Kicking off the holiday in style we booked in to the ultra chic Veintiuno hotel. A somewhat hybrid between boutique hotel and upmarket guesthouse – luckily the prices reflect the latter. Behind the doors of this narrow townhouse in the centre of the historic old town is the ultra stylish lobby of Veintiuno. A glass elevator floats against the backdrop of preserved crumbling stone walls, the original staircase intact with modern metal handrails and unfinished plastered walls merge into the concrete chevron floor tiles. Everywhere you look is a juxtaposition between the old and the new. The attention to detail is so impressive the hotel feels like a work of art.
Another layer to this visually pleasing paradise is the rooftop, equipped with an infinity plunge pool with the stunning backdrop of Cathedral Metropolitana – the city’s main cathedral.
Breakfast is the only meal served at the hotel in the rooftop dining area. A non-extensive list of delicious savoury and sweet options are available to all guests. Every single day we went for the toasted bread with Iberian jamon and tomato. The quality of ingredients used were SO good we couldn’t resist! Make sure to get the freshly squeezed sweet Spanish orange juice too – it tastes like sunshine.
Rooms start out very fairly priced for the quality and location of the hotel. Not all rooms have external windows which are the more budget friendly options. Our room (the Double Deluxe) had floor to ceiling windows looking out on to the street which I’d absolutely recommend to allow that peaceful morning light to stream in whilst pulling yourself from what could arguably be the world’s most comfortable bed and pillows. The rooms are spacious and minimalist in design allowing the original preserved features like wooden shutters, exposed beans and original stone to be the main focus.
Owners Alexandra and Paco are as charming as the vision they have created here at Veintiuno. The love they have for their hotel and their city radiates off them like sunshine. Having arrived to Gran Canaria with very loose plans they were so helpful with giving us fabulous restaurant recommendations and things to do and see in Las Palmas.
So, as tempting as it was to laze by that rooftop pool all day we took to exploring Las Palmas.
Where to eat:
We joined Freddie’s parents on holiday here and my mother in law had a number of restaurants researched and booked so we had the absolutely pleasure of just showing up and enjoying Las Palmas’ best restaurants over the course of the weekend.
La Travesia de Triana – the best tapas restaurant we ate at in Las Palmas. Stylish yet traditional and such good value for money. Every dish we ordered was delicious – especially the acorn fed Iberian ham of which we ended up ordering two plates. The padron peppers were fresh but perfectly oily and salty at the same time. The queso de flor is a local island cheese served warmed up and melted with chilli jam. The local pork sliced and fried was melt in your mouth delicious. And something so simple as a tomato salad was arguably one of the tastiest dishes. All washed down with Gran Canaria red wine recommended by our waiter, this was a 10/10 meal. My only wish is we’d dined here more than once during our stay.
Midway – proudly famous for the tortilla in Gran Canaria. This ultra cheap eat doesn’t take any reservations and is always busy so be prepared to wait, but oh it’s worth it. We ended up ordering second rounds of the melty tortilla that is served hot and fresh with a slice of crusty bread.
Los 5 Sentidos – The chef’s clever use of ingredient combinations made this a surprising and exciting experience of a meal. The prawn carpaccio served with fois gras shavings was an unexpected delight and star of the show. We also tried tuna steak with smoked hummus, low temperature cooked salmon (which was indescribably fresh) with wasabi salt, pistachio butter with chilli and dusted corn on soft cheese lollipops. Everything was a surprise when it arrived because we couldn’t anticipate how these combinations would taste – I can confirm they were absolutely perfect.
Allende Triana – delicious food, quick service, and an array of traditional tapas on the menu. It was our first meal on the island and such a warm welcome to the gastronomic delights we were about to experience. We had jamon, queso de flor, tuna tartare, beef carpaccio and Iberian jamón. All the usual stuff that is more or less on most tapas menus here. It was a great meal, worth a visit and won’t break the bank.
Casa Montesdeoca – an enchanted courtyard lit with twinkling lights and luscious palm trees sits behind a very unassuming building. This place oozes character. We enjoyed a drink in the bar before dining on fish croquettes, local melted cheese, octopus, tuna tartare, and squid with sweet potato. An exquisite meal, not the cheapest but worth every penny.
Amigo Camilo – located at the beach this was our cheapest and one of my favourite meals. Very local and not much explanation on the menu. Dishes are listed as the fish type and it’s a surprise how it shows up. However leave the experts to it because everything was incredible. We had grilled chopped octopus, seafood salad, whole fried white baits, sardines griddled, and very tender grilled squid. All served with bread and beers. Simple and perfect. Absolutely where you should dine if you find yourself having a beach day.
If you fancy a coffee whilst wandering around town head to Cool Beans. Drink the lightly roasted, delicious artisan coffee in their ultra cool creative workspace. Just like Hotel Veintiuno their balance of old and new is perfect. Neon signs, ultra modern lighting and glass doors mixed with crumbling painted walls, original staircase and midcentury style lounging chairs.
What to see:
Wandering the streets is very pleasant in this city. The historic old town is filled with beautiful architecture and history. One of my favourite things to do on holiday is visit the market. Drop by the Mercado de Vegueta for a browse round the food stalls. We stopped by on our final day and picked up lots of fruit, meats and cheese for our Air BnB stay on the south of the island. We got chatting to the vendor who proudly told us everything here is grown on the island. Rich and fertile soil from it’s volcanic base mixed with uninterrupted sunshine creates the perfect environment for fruits and vegetables to grow as well as vegetation for animals to graze on. Here in Gran Canaria the pigs are fed acorns to ensure the ham is rich and flavoursome in taste.
It’s also worth visiting the Christopher Columbus museum to get a history on how he begun his voyages of discovery across the Atlantic. The museum also sheds light on the historical origins of Gran Canaria which is useful to understand the city you are visiting.
What to do:
The city beach in Las Palmas is called Playa de las Canteras located on a west facing islet of the east coast meaning it gets sunshine all day! The yellow sand spans a 3 mile beach stretch where we spent the afternoon swimming and snoozing after a delicious feed at Amigo Camilo.
The Botanical Gardens – unlike any botanic gardens i’ve visited before the gardens in Gran Canaria, located a 10 minute drive outside of Las Palmas, are bursting with giant cactus, scented chamomile plants and beautiful bourganvilla. Huge palm lined pathways, cascading waterfalls and picturesque ponds fill up the huge valley. Jardin Canario Visitas is complete with plenty garden plants to inspire you and gigantic cactus to mesmerise you. An abundance of plants and flowers thrive in this rocky and arid landscape. The scent of the sweet chamomile wafting in the hot air will forever stay with me and always remind me of this trip. We got a taxi to the lower part and hiked our way back up through the meandering paths and left from the top exit. We then caught the bus back into Las Palmas. The gardens are free to visit and absolutely worth doing – you could spend all afternoon getting lost in here.
There are many beautiful landscapes to visit all around the island and feeling spoiled for choice we picked something that felt other worldly. It really did feel like we were on mars visiting the Barranco de las Vacas rock formations. Not the easiest to find but absolutely worth it. These weather worn curved rocks form a meandering channel below the road. Go early as it gets busy. We parked up at the nearby roadside parking which if driving from Aguimes towards Barranco de las Vacas it’ll be on your left side slightly before the pin drop on the map for rocks. We walked along the edge of the road until we arrived at the archway under the bridge where there’s a visible path in the landscape to climb down.
The nearby town of Aguimes is worth stopping off for lunch after exploring Barranca de las vacas. We had local cheese and beers at the deli shop Aragüme which touts itself as a gastronomy museum, and they aren’t wrong. Make sure to pick up some cheese, meats and wine for the road too!
If your travels take you further south then don’t forget to check out the incredible sand dunes on the south east of the island. Las Dunas de Maspalomas are made up of sand that has blown and settled off a marine ridge during the last ice age. It’s a mesmerising and fascinating experience to see a natural wonder of our world. It gets very busy so go early. You get to the dunes by walking through the central promenade of the Riu hotel in Maspalomas.
That concludes the first part of our holiday in Gran Canaria. We certainly did a lot of eating, drinking, lounging and doing in three days! Read on for our seaside stint at Puerto de Mogán for the final few days on this happy and peaceful island.
As always my saved places are all listed on my Google Maps guide.