These twin geographical and geopolitical anomalies are part European, yes; but there is also an unmistakable South American swagger, architecturally and culturally, and their proximity to Africa has undoubtedly had a big influence. Yet while the two capitals share so much, they are very different. Their pride at being distinct is exemplified by residents who never tolerate their city names being shortened to Las Palmas or Santa Cruz, even if everyone does it.
Las Palmas’ Latin American vibe conjures Rio comparisons, thanks to the presence of its own Copacabana-style beach, known as Las Canteras, and its lively outdoor lifestyle. It feels like a big capital, and it is – this remains one of Spain’s ten largest cities. It also has many faces, which you see as you sweep south through bustling Santa Catalina and the commercial heart of the city, then on into the old quarter of Vegueta, with its hanging balconies, pretty squares, clusters of churches and the vaulting exterior of the impressive Santa Ana cathedral.
Tenerife’s Santa Cruz, on the other hand, is a stately city of grand streets and leafy parks. It’s deeply Canarian but wears its Spanish architectural and cultural influences on its sleeve. It is also home to, reputedly, the second biggest carnival in the world, after Rio, so strap in for a party – residents demonstrate admirable creativity and stamina. This spirit ripples on year-round in the subversive Carnaval societies of La Noria district. Elsewhere, the Plaza de España sets the tone for a graceful city that is alive with old-world architecture; one where pavement cafés and lush parks abound. Indeed, both capitals have resoundingly embraced outdoor living, so take a pew and join in.