The most populous city of the Canary Islands, Las Palmas was founded in 1478 after a Spanish squadron under the command of Juan Rejón had established its military base at the site along a strand of palm trees. This area came to be known as the Vegueta district which, along with the Triana district and Plaza de Santa Ana, formed the early commercial, governmental and residential zones of the city. In the intervening years Las Palmas prospered as a link in the sugar trade with the Americas, and as a result, attracted scores of pirates and other devious seafarers, hastening the construction of the Castilla de La Luz near the port. While Sir Francis Drake and his English fleet were repelled in their attempt to take Las Palmas in 1595, a few years later a Dutch fleet effectively ransacked the city; although a pivotal moment in and of itself, the burning of Las Palmas was just one in a series of changes that led to the city’s gradual decline through the 18th century. Then in the late 19th century the city experienced a rebirth once its Puerto de La Luz had been constructed, allowing the city to capitalize on the profitable Atlantic trade routes.
The predominance of Modernista-styled architecture throughout the city – and particularly the developed areas around the port – dates to this period. Like the rest of Spain’s sunniest coastal areas, Las Palmas experienced a tourist boom during the 1950s and ’60s, led initially by the Swedish, which resulted in the often bawdy and somewhat over-the-top resort digs of Las Canteras beach, Las Palmas’ sand box.
Along with the neighboring Triana district, the historic heart of Las Palmas is the Vegueta district, an evocative area exhibiting exceptional Latin Colonial architecture dating to the 15th century. Las
As in the past, the Vegueta and Triana areas continue to serve as the cultural nexus of Gran Canaria. It is said that, prior to his voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus stopped in the Casa de Colón (C/ Colón 1) to request aid of the governor in modifying his fleet.With its exhibits of charts, maps, journals and other maritime affects, this 15th-century former governor’s mansion and museum paints a picture of the Americas before and after Columbus’ fated voyage and how that all ties in to the Canary Islands.
The Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (C/ Los Balcones) was founded with the acquisition of a large collection of ’40s and ’50s Canary artwork from the Luján Pérez School. Las Palmas’ modern art museum has evolved to include pieces by the latest generation of Canary artists, work by architect César Manrique and a significant representation of African and Latin contemporary art.
From here, the beloved Calle de los Balcones leads to the Plaza de Santa Ana, site of the city’s Ayuntamiento, constructed in the Modernist style that came into fashion in Las Palmas during the 19th century. Adjoining it is the city’s Catedral de Santa Ana (Plaza de Santa Ana), begun soon after the discovery of the Americas and finished centuries later in Neoclassical style.
Adjoining the lovely Plaza del Espiritu is El Museo Canario (C/ Dr. Verneau 2), a most extensive exhibition of the aboriginal peoples known as Guanche, who inhabited the island from as early as 500 BC until the era of Columbus. A trove of archeological relics are included in displays on the Guanches’ nature-worshiping faith, their mummification techniques and use of ceramics.
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