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Santander City Guide
- Places of Interest
- Getting to
- Getting around the city
Cantabria is one of the most beautiful regions of Spain, and Santander, the region's capital, combines all the beauty of the area with the exciting atmosphere of a city. Its setting on the Bahía de Santander is stunning, with fabulous views of rolling green hills and mountains, and beaches to rival the very top coastal resorts. Practically entirely destroyed by a fire in 1941, many of the city's finest buildings are now gone, although it still retains its atmospheric feeling, particularly in the beautiful narrow lanes of the old town that run parallel with the waterfront, which are filled with charming bars and restaurants. During the summer, the city holds an international university, bringing a multitude of young people to the city. This is complemented by the music and cultural festival that is held throughout August, a real highlight in the Santander calendar and something not to be missed.
Santander existed as a town in Roman times, although it did not take the name Santander until the 3rd century, when it was named after a martyr whose head was brought to the town. The city owes its existence to the excellent harbour in the Bay of Santander, which was an important port for Castile in the Middle Ages and for trade with the New World. It officially became a city in 1775. In the early 1900s, Santander became a holiday residence for King Alfonso XIII, who built the Palacio de Magdalena for him and his family to stay in whilst they were there. This gained the city great popularity.
Santander is a wonderfully unique town set in spectacular surroundings that is a world away from the rest of Spain. Come and discover this magical city for yourself, and make Santander your own.
Places of Interest
This building is made up of two 13th century churches, one of which was extensively rebuilt after the 1941 fire. In the other church, you can see parts of Roman Santander through glass panels. There are two silver vessels in the cathedral, holding the skulls of the patron saints of Santander.
Península de la Magdalena
These parklands, with the Palacio de la Magdalena at their heart, make for a great walk or picnic and provide magnificent views of the coastline. The park even boasts a sea lion enclosure and a tourist train if the hills get too much for you!
Palacio Municipal de Deportes
Unveiled in 2003, this sports pavilion looks like something out of a science fiction novel!
These fascinating caves, full of prehistoric paintings and engravings dating back to the Stone Age, are well worth the short journey out of the city to reach them, and best seen on a guided tour. There are also archaeological remains in the caves, including tools made from bones.
Parlamento Regional de Cantabria
This beautiful neoclassical building has always stood at the centre of Santander life, and has served a variety of different purposes in the city. It started life as a hospital and has also been a university and an art school. Now it houses the region's Parliament. Tours are available by appointment.
Plaza de las Atarazanas
Set in a prime location in the city's centre, this beautiful 2000-foot square is where many of Santander's most interesting sights can be found, most notably, the cathedral and the picturesque central Post Office building. A series of statues map the city's history.
Biblioteca y Casa-Museo de Menéndez Pelayo
Famous not only in the Cantabria region, but also said to be one of Spain's most fantastic museums, this installation which celebrates the life and work of the influential writer Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo is well worth a visit. You can visit the author's study and reading room and the on-site library houses 42,000 volumes. There is also the opportunity to visit the author's family home.
Museo de Bellas Artes
Founded in 1906, this museum boasts a wide selection of Spanish, Italian and Flemish paintings, ranging from the 16th-20th centuries, as well as an impressive collection of Spanish contemporary art. There are also collections of sculptures, stamps, coins and medals.
Museo Regional de Prehistoria y Arqueología
This museum houses one of the world's most impressive collections of Upper Paleolithic artefacts. The region's history is well documented from the Prehistoric to the Middle Ages, and there is also a lot of interesting information on the Iron Age and the Roman Empire.
This museum, housed in a bullring itself, chronicles the tradition of bull-fighting, with displays of traditional outfits, posters, and tickets of important fights. Afterwards, you can go upstairs and watch a bullfight for yourself.
Playa Primera del Sardinero
This beach, the largest in Santander, is great for relaxing whilst watching the water sports enthusiasts out on the sea. Afterwards, you can walk up to Jardines de Piquio, which has one of the best views in Santander.
Playa Segunda del Sardinero
This beach is within short walking distance of the lighthouse. It has beautiful golden sands and many useful amenities, such as showers and bathrooms on site, and a good selection of restaurants.
Playa de Bikinis
Fabulously located within reach of the Magdalena Peninsula, this beach, as its name suggests, is perfect for sunbathing. It is very clean and has some picturesque rock formations which are great for climbing and exploring.
Getting to Santander
There is an airport about 5km south of the city. Ryanair flies there from London Stansted, Liverpool, Frankfurt and Rome. There are also internal flights to Madrid and Barcelona.
Services run to all over the north of Spain and to Madrid directly from Santander, as well as to the French border.
There are two train stations in the city. Three trains daily run to Madrid via Ávila and Palencia. Six trains also run daily to/from Reinosa, two of which continue on to Valladolid.
Brittany Ferries runs a twice-weekly service from Plymouth to Santander.
Getting around the city
Buses in Santander cost 1€ per ride. You can buy 10 rides for 5.60€ at tobacconists.
There are ample sports activities in Santander, so don't miss out on great surfing, golf, football and jogging opportunities. If you get a chance, try and go to a "bolas" game, a game typical of the Cantabria region, and Santander in particular, and similar to bowling. You could even have a go yourself!