Ciudad Jardín or the Garden City is an area of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria city that flies under most visitor’s radars.
At first glance, it looks like a residential area with large houses behind hibiscus and bougainvillaea hedges but in fact, it holds many of the city’s architectural treasures as well as a lovely park and a gorgeous art gallery.
The Garden City was countryside and banana plantations until the beginning of the 20th Century. The first building was the Anglican Church which still stands in its shady garden on Calle Rafael Ramirez. It’s always open on Sunday mornings.
Most of the houses in the Garden city were built in the 1930s when modern Bauhaus-inspired designs emerged and competed with the home-grown Neocanarian style.
Neocanarianism is a homegrown style developed by local architects; it took classical elements of Canarian houses, such as wooden balconies and stone detailing, and combined them with modern architecture techniques and designs.
The best example of the Neocanarian style is the Pueblo Canario by the Hotel Santa Catalina at the south end of the Garden City. The hotel itself, dating from 1890, is festooned with traditional Canarian balconies.
In the Garden City, as des-res then as it is now, wealthy British merchants and local businessmen chose a style and built their homes, leaving a charming architectural legacy.
The most interesting examples of both Modern and Neocanarian styles in the Garden City are highlighted in this Modernist Architecture guide created by the Las Palmas Town Hall.
The Garden City is a quiet area ideal for a stroll, especially if you love architecture. However, there are only so many buildings you can look at before you need a coffee or a cold beer.
So, once you’ve had your fill of facades head to the Parque Doramas behind the Santa Catalina Hotel. The lower zone is a large, formal garden complete with a lake and waterfall, children’s play park, lots of beds of subtropical plants and trees, and a pleasant outdoor cafe.
Over the road, there’s a steep area of lawn and trees that stretches up the hill; ideal for a lazy afternoon.
For a city-centre park, Parque Doramas teems with life. Escaped parakeets squawk away in the palm trees and big orange Monarch butterflies flit amongst the bushes.
Have a good look in the lake as it holds some huge koi carp and even a couple of swans. The little stream at the north edge of the lake is full of tropical fish such as mollies and cichlids as well as raucous frogs.
There’s a little stone path hidden here by the steps up to the cafe that nobody knows about. It's only about 10 metres long but puts you right over the stream under a big tree. It’s one of the most peaceful spots in Las Palmas as all you can hear is water, birdsong and croaking frogs.
On Sundays, it’s well worth heading to the Pueblo Canario for the weekly display of Canarian dancing and music. Also, pop into the Museo Nestor for an overview of Gran Canaria’s most famous artist: Néstor Martín-Fernández de la Torre.
The highlight here is the round room featuring Nestor’s Poema del Mar; a series of vivid Modernist paintings of monstrous fish eating sailors during a storm.
As well as an accomplished Modernist painter, Nestor designed the whole Pueblo Canario although he died before it was built.
Once you’ve had your fill of the park, walk east through the grounds of the Santa Catalina Hotel towards the sea. Cross busy Leon y Castillo street, the longest in the city, and head through the underpass and you arrive in Las Palmas’ marina.
Here, boat shoes and waterfront drinks are the order of the day and there are several restaurants perched right by the pontoons. If you see anyone feeding the fish, hang around as the marina’s resident barracuda often appear for a snack of fat harbour mullet.