5 things to do in Santander, Spain

The 15 best things to do in Santander, Spain

The capital of Cantabria in Atlantic northern Spain, Santander is a seaside town that still makes its living fishing, but it also has a graceful grace and natural scenery that will blow your socks off. The beaches are also top-notch and are right up your alley if you find Spain’s Mediterranean sea too hot in the summer. That’s what brought Spanish royalty in the early 20th century, when King Alfonso XIII chose Santander and its more temperate climate for his summer residence. Allowing you to explore the best things about Santander :

1. Magdalena Park.

Source: flickr Magdalena Park For much of the city’s history, this green peninsula at the entrance to Santander Bay was paramilitary. During the Napoleonic wars in 1812, there was a hard-fought battle between the British and the French for control of this point and the small island of Mauro, visible at the mouth of the bay to the east. The entire peninsula was later donated by the city to King Alfonso XIII in the early 20th century. Pine groves replaced gun positions and an exquisite park was laid out. It now hosts major public events such as the Santander Music summer festival in August, and there is even a mini zoo with seals and penguins. The capital of Cantabria in Atlantic northern Spain, Santander is a seaside town that still makes its living fishing, but it also has a graceful grace and natural scenery that will blow your socks off. The beaches are also top-notch and are right up your alley if Spain’s Mediterranean summers are too hot. That’s what brought Spanish royalty in the early 20th century, when King Alfonso XIII chose Santander and its more temperate climate for his summer residence. Allowing you to explore the best things about Santander :

1. Magdalena Park.

Source: flickr Magdalena Park For much of the city’s history, this green peninsula at the entrance to Santander Bay was paramilitary. During the Napoleonic wars in 1812, there was a hard-fought battle between the British and the French for control of this point and the small island of Mauro, visible at the mouth of the bay to the east. The entire peninsula was later donated by the city to King Alfonso XIII in the early 20th century. Pine groves replaced gun positions and an exquisite park was laid out. Now it hosts major public events, such as the Santander Summer Music Festival in August, and there’s even a mini zoo with seals and penguins…

2. Magdalena Palace

Source: flickr Magdalena Palace When King Alfonso chose the highest point of the Magdalena Peninsula as the location for his summer residence, he transformed Santander overnight. Not only did the city become a royal court for a while, but it also began to attract the Spanish bourgeoisie and turn Santander into a tourist destination. The palace is a mix of styles reminiscent of an English manor house. The palace is now part of the University of Santander, and on weekends there are guided tours that take about 45 minutes… The cliff-top header and ocean vistas are the highlights here, but the former Tudor layout stables are the best part of the tour.

3. el Sardinero.

Source: flickr El Sardinero El Sardinero, led out of the ocean, between the Magdalena Peninsula and Cabo Menor, is a pair of golden sandy beaches that are more than a kilometer long. The waves are moderate, never exceeding a waist on calm days, and extend far enough to keep kids safe while staying in the shallows. Next to the beach is a promenade with balustrades and a resort with a majestic turn-of-the-century air. This is embodied in the Gran Casino, which has been here since 1916 and joined by luxury hotels… The best way to take it all in is to rent a bicycle for a couple of hours, stopping at a gazebo in Parque de Matalenas on the far north end…

4. Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology

Source: Santanderspain Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology Cantabria is a part of Spain with a lot of prehistoric activity. The world-famous Altamira cave paintings are near Santander, although the original cave is closed to the public for the sake of preservation. But in this museum you can explore the Paleolithic artifacts found in the region’s archaeological sites, including the ritual staff found in El Pendo Cave, as well as art utensils, stone tools, and carved horns and bones. There are also reproductions of these incredible 15,000-year-old paintings of bison and horses. The collections go back to medieval times, and the oldest are over 100,000 years old.

5. Catedral de Santa Maria de la Asunción

Source: flickr Catedral de Santa Maria de la Asunción Santander The Gothic cathedral of Santander is much more understated than the most lauded Spanish cathedrals, with a sharp, almost austere Gothic design that dates from between the 1100s and 1400s. It needed some reconstruction in the 20th century after the Civil War and the 1893 Cabo Machicago disaster, when a dynamite steamer exploded in the harbor, killing 590 people. The monastery is the part that has changed very little, retaining the trapezoidal layout of the 1300s. The lower Ilgesia del Cristo is also original, with a solemn Gothic vault and a glass floor through which the remains of the Roman settlement of Portus Victoriae can be seen.

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6. Cantabrian Maritime Museum

Source: spainisculture Cantabrian Maritime Museum In the 1880s Spain moved its Royal Institute of Marine Zoology and Experimental Botany to Santander, and this, together with the former landmark dedicated to the royal shipyard in Guarnizo, became the successor of the modern maritime museum… You will learn about the natural and human history of the Cantabrian Sea, including the fishermen who continue to make a living from these waters, and see an aquarium with fish, rays and sharks that live near the coast of Santander. One of the most interesting sections focuses on the various technological advances that continue to be made in underwater research and exploration.

7. Playa de El Puntal

Source: flickr Playa de El Puntal El Puntal is an urban equal beach: it is a sandbank that faces the bay of Santander, 4.5 kilometers from Somo on the eastern lip. In summer, a boat runs from the port to El Puntal, and afterwards you are free to walk along the dunes and relax on the beach all day… If you’re with young children, the south side of El Puntal has calmer waters and will suit young swimmers. This side also has distant views of the mountains beyond the bay… The north side is more open to the ocean and attracts people of all water sports, but especially surfers.

8. Jardines de Piquio.

Source: flickr Jardines de Piquío When the tide comes in, this park on a promontory between the two beaches of La Sardinera is almost washed by the ocean and is a favorite among families and couples to meet and wander. In the summer, you can buy ice cream on the promenade and relax next to the palm trees and flowerbeds while the ocean rolls down. It’s also great at night when the gazebo at the edge of the promontory is lit up and you can look back on the chic resort buildings along the shoreline.

9. Cabo Mayor.

Source: flickr Cabo Mayor To see the Atlantic in all its fury, all you have to do is head to this cape, just beyond the northern edge of Santander… The Cape’s lighthouse was built in 1839 and became fully automated in 2001, so the lighthouse keeper’s dwelling was turned into a public art gallery. After parking at the lighthouse, you can choose a grassy trail at the top of the cliff with photogenic scenery in any direction, such as the golden cove in Playa de Matalenas or through the hills on the east side of Santander Bay.

10. Paseo and Jardín de Pereda

Source: flickr Paseo de Pereda Far from the beaches, Santander’s waterfront is very pedestrian-friendly, with a chain of wide walkways… Paseo de Pereda has two paths; one under rows of plane trees and illuminated at night by wrought iron lanterns, and the other at the water’s edge. Adjacent to the paths are beautiful 19th-century apartment buildings with cafes and outdoor seating on the sidewalk. At the western end is Jardines de Pereda, a woodland park on reclaimed land where thousands of starlings nest from September to March. The park and “Paseo” commemorate José María de Pereda, the famous 19th-century Cantabrian writer.

11. seafood.

Source: flickr Rabas With the Atlantic Ocean on your doorstep, you can bet the city is looking at water for its diet. Take a walk to the Barrio Pesquero (Fishing District) to see it in action, where fishing boats bring their catch to sell to Santander’s impatient restaurants. One of the typical creations in town is “rabas,” fried squid. It looks and tastes a bit like squid, but with slight differences, and each bar will have a different way of preparing it. Also local are bocartes rebozados, breaded and deep-fried fry. Both go great with a glass of Cantabrian vermouth with lemon and ice.

12. Puertochico

Source: flickr Puertochico Near the marina is this coastal neighborhood where the Santander fishing community lived before it moved to Barrio Pesquero in the west. In the past few years, Puerto Quico has taken on a younger, more vibrant vibe. Several rows of narrow streets and staircases contain a welcoming group of bars and restaurants, and you walk down to the water to see where small fishing boats mingle with the more upscale pleasure yachts. The scenery is factual, too, as you can settle in on a bench for a few moments and look out over the dark green hills behind Pedrenia on the other side of the bay…

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13. A boat ride on Santander Bay

Source: flickr Boat Trip, Santander Near Paseo Pereda, you can board one of the Los Reginas ferries for a cruise around Santander Bay, which is strikingly beautiful… A return ticket for an adult costs less than 5 euros, and if you don’t get off at the stops in Somo or Pedreña, the trip lasts about 45 minutes… If you like to play golf, you can get off in Pedreña at the incredibly scenic Real Golf de Pedreña golf course, between the bay and the Cub River… In summer, the ferry is also the best way to get to El Puntal for a day at this superb beach…

14. Mercado de la Esperanza

Source: flickr Mercado de la Esperanza Santander has the largest central market in Cantabria, and if you rent an apartment in town, you can find the Mercado de la Esperanza grocery store… Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, the market guarantees a visit to its beautiful Belle Époque architecture, with a large iron and glass hall that was completed in 1904 and listed as a “historic monument.” Like all the best Spanish food markets, it’s a multi-sensory experience with fruits, vegetables and fresh ocean fish stacked on the counters. For a souvenir, you can pick up a jar of authentic Cantabrian anchovies, which are known throughout Spain.

15. Cabarseno Nature Park

Source: flickr Cabarseno Nature Park In the green hills 20 minutes south of Santander is a zoo that almost defies definition. It sits on the site of a former mine quarry, covering more than 1,900 acres in a stunningly beautiful environment of meadows and hardwoods. Walking 20 miles along the roads, you’ll get around aviaries with various species of animals, both native and exotic. Thus you will see wild boars and Cantabrian brown bears in one section, and then lions, cheetahs, elephants and gorillas. All of these animals live in captivity, so you can observe behavior closer to what you saw in their natural habitat.

What attracts the resort town of Santander in Spain

The city of Santander (Spain) is the administrative center of the region of Cantabria, which is located in the northern part of the country. Santander is located on the Atlantic Ocean, on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, and like most seaside cities, stretches along the coast.

Santander in Spain

The city has a long and rich history: the first references to it date back to 1068 (under King Sancho II the Strong), and the year of foundation is considered 1755.

The city streets are littered with ancient white-marble buildings and modern new buildings, while historical palaces rise amidst urban areas. These architectural contrasts are understandable: in 1941 all the wooden buildings in the historic part of town were completely destroyed by fire, and in 1941-1950 this area was rebuilt.

Modern Santander, which occupies an area of 35 sq. km. and is home to 180,000 people, is a major port in Spain with a well-developed infrastructure. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, thanks to the fact that it began to arrive here to rest the royal family, this city has become quite a fashionable resort. Now it can not be called a super popular, but it still attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world, attracted by the beautiful nature, clean beaches, interesting sights.

Morning Santander in Spain

Weather in Santander: when to visit

Compared to other Mediterranean resorts in Spain, Santander is much cooler, because local climate is dictated by the influence of the Atlantic. The climate in Santander is mild and very humid. Rains are a constant companion of these places in any season, but they are especially common from November to April.

  • The daily air temperature during the summertime does not exceed +25 … +27 °С, the temperature of the ocean water stays between +20 … +22 °С.
  • Weather in the first half of September practically does not differ from the weather in August, the temperature is +20 … +24 °С. Then, as the winter approaches, in November the average air temperature slowly decreases to +13 … +15 °С.
  • In winter, it gets colder, with average daily temperatures rarely falling below +10 ° C. And with the warm winds come the rains and storms.
  • In the spring the weather is not stable, the temperature fluctuations reach the maximum values. The average temperatures are +13 … +19 °С. The rains and strong gusty winds are replaced by warm sunny days.

When to visit! High season, when the beach holiday is in full swing, is in Santander from the second half of July to the end of September. And the winter, when the Biscayne Bay with clear sunny skies storms, is considered the best season for surfers. Those tourists who travel to Spain to explore its attractions, the city will be of interest at any time of year.

Beach Vacation in Santander

Santander has 12 beaches stretching along the Atlantic Ocean for 5 km. This resort has long been known for the fact that its beaches are the cleanest in all of Spain. All of them with soft light sand, with comfortable sandy entrance to the water. And the water is crystal clear, the bottom is perfectly visible for several meters in depth.

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In each area of recreation there are cabins for changing, showers, toilets. Sun loungers and umbrellas are available for rent, but because this service is not very popular, there is not much space for deck chairs on the coast.

Compared with the Mediterranean resorts in Spain, the beaches here, even in the season are not too crowded.

Playa Primera de El Sardinero

Primera de El Sardinero is not just a beach, but a historical site belonging to the “golden age” of this resort. It was to this area that all the nobility and aristocrats of Spain came to relax “on the waters”.

First Sardinero stretches for almost 3 km, along which runs a beautiful promenade, there are several gardens and parks. Even when it’s not hot and you don’t want to sunbathe or swim, you can walk here and admire the sea scenery or enjoy a meal in one of the many cafes. The location is very convenient, close to public transport stops and parking lots.

It is a pretty little beach, located in a bay in front of the entrance to the Magdalena Peninsula, almost connecting with Sardinero.

Playa del Camello

The beach is named after a local landmark, a rock that resembles a camel. You can only see this rock at certain times: it is the tide that counts.

Throughout the year, the Camello is used by locals and palas players (a form of tennis born in Cantabria).

El Puntal is a sandy peninsula, to which a small ferry leaves from the Centro Botín every 15 minutes in the summer.

Playa de El Puntal

The beach is large and beautiful, but almost wild. There is no special equipment, and there is only one restaurant. This place is ideal for those who like secluded vacations, who want peace and quiet without people around.

On El Puntal there is a place where nudists rest.

Matalenas, which can be considered a real natural attraction of Santander, is located on the outskirts of the city, next to the lighthouse. This picturesque sandy beach is located in a cozy little cove, closed on both sides by rocky headlands. There is a lot of space due to the fact that the coastal strip is wide.

Playa de Matalenas

Swimming here you must be careful, because there are undercurrents and often get big waves. You must always pay attention to the flag: green – you can swim, yellow – there are waves and it is better not to risk, red – you can not swim.

The only disadvantage of Matalenas is that you have to go down a steep, but perfectly safe staircase of 150 steps.

Going to Matalenas for the day, it is advisable to take food and drinks so that you do not have to go up the stairs to the restaurant. By the way, the toilets are also upstairs, there are none on the beach itself.

The beach at Bikinis is a very small piece of beach, surrounded by a breakwater on one side and a rocky promontory on the other. The area is well-equipped and not very crowded.

Playa de Los Bikini

The name Bikinis was formed historically: At the beginning of the 1970s foreign students were the first in the city and in the whole of conservative Spain to sunbathe here in bikinis.


There’s plenty to see in Santander. Historical buildings, ancient churches, museums and the stunning natural surroundings.

The Centro Botín, opened in 2017, is one of the city’s most modern attractions.

The building, designed by Lorenzo Piano, is considered an architectural masterpiece. It consists of two blocks resembling floating ships connected by steel and glass bridges. This structure is located by the sea and rises 20 meters above it. The facade of the building is covered with sparkling ceramic hemispheres (280,000 pieces), reflecting the color of the sky and sea.

Art Center Botín

There is a restaurant on the first floor with beautiful views of the bay. You can also take an elevator up to the roof, admire the scenery of the whole area and take panoramic photos of the city of Santander.

The Centro Botín is not just a tourist attraction, but also a Center for Contemporary Art with exhibition halls and galleries (a total area of 2500 m²) where a variety of art exhibitions change regularly.

The Botín Center is open:

  • October-May – 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m;
  • June-September from 10:00 to 21:00.

Mondays are off, with some exceptions. There are weekends on holidays as well.

The Botín Art Center inside

View a calendar of events, check ticket prices and hours of operation at the official website: www.centrobotin.org.

Address: Muelle de Albareda, Paseo de Pereda, s/n, 39004 Santander, Cantabria, Spain.

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The museum is small, but very interesting. The collection presented here was collected over 200 years by the Naval College and the Royal Experimental Station working under it. All exhibits are divided into several thematic sections.

  1. “Life at Sea” – the exhibition is dedicated to marine life. A lot of all kinds of exhibits, among which the most interesting attraction is the skeleton of a whale. There is a huge aquarium, inside which there is a special glass tunnel for visitors. Stingrays, sharks, and other sea life swim around the tunnel and the people in it.
  2. “Fishermen and Fishing” – this exhibit focuses on the history of the development of fishing in northern Spain.
  3. “The Cantabrian Sea and History” (geographers in Spain call the Cantabrian Sea the Bay of Biscay). The exhibition tells the history of seafaring in this part of the Atlantic. Among the most interesting exhibits are realistic models of ships from different eras.
  4. “Advanced technologies and the sea” – this exposition is about modern shipbuilding industry.

Important! It is forbidden to take photos of museum exhibits. Photography and videotaping is allowed only in the hall with an aquarium, but because of the darkness photos are of poor quality.

Maritime Museum inside

You can go on the roof of the museum, there is a special terrace. From the top there is a beautiful view of the picturesque bay and the passing ships.

Free to see the museum sites can children under 5 years of age, and on Sundays at 14:00 all visitors. At other times admission is charged:

  • for adults – 8 €;
  • for children 5-12 years old – 3,50 €;
  • for pensioners over 65 years old – 5 €.

The Museo Maritimo del Cantabrico is closed on Mondays; on other days it is as follows:

  • May-September – 10:00 to 19:30;
  • October-April: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Maritime Museum is located on the shore of the bay, near the beach of Los Peligros. Address: Av. de Severiano Ballesteros, s/n, 39004 Santander, Cantabria, Spain.

In the IX century the monks brought to these lands the relics of the holy martyrs Emeteria and Celedonia – this marked the beginning of the construction of the abbey of the holy bodies, in the church of which the relics were kept.


On the site of the abbey in the XII-XIV centuries was built the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a landmark that can be seen today. Initially, in the XII century, a church was built for the relics of saints Emeterius and Celedonia – it was erected on the foundations of the old church. A hundred years later, this church was used as the foundation for the construction of a second church, the upper church. The entire building was monumental, more like a fortress: thick thick walls, a bell tower in the form of a watchtower.

The lower church now serves as a crypt for the storage of holy relics. In one of the naves, a unique attraction is preserved: fragments of the walls of the ancient temple with a drainage system.

In addition to the lower and upper churches, the complex includes a lovely courtyard (cloister). There is a fountain there now, and before that an orange grove and a city cemetery used to grow a few centuries ago.

To see the outside of this attraction of the city of Santander in Spain is free. Entrance inside is paid – 1 €.

The cathedral stands on a natural hill, address: Calle Somorrostro, s/n, 39002 Santander, Cantabria, Spain.

Just a few minutes by bus or a short pleasant walk on foot and you will reach the peninsula Magdalena. You can also get there by car, but parking may be a problem.

Royal Palace in the Magdalena Peninsula

On the peninsula Magdalena, in its center, there is a famous landmark: the royal palace of the same name.

It all began in 1861, when Queen Isabella II began vacationing “on the waters” in Santander. Her example was followed by all the aristocrats of Spain, and her grandson, King Alfonso XIII, decided to build his summer residence here. So in 1912 the Palacio de la Magdalena appeared.

When the monarchy was overthrown in 1930, the palace housed the university. It was here that the foreign students who showed off their bikinis on the beach of conservative Spain were trained.

At the end of the twentieth century, the palace was restored, and now its premises organize conferences and congresses, and even hold wedding ceremonies. Everyone can visit this landmark and see all its splendor.

The Royal Palace on the Magdalena Peninsula inside

Around the Palacio de la Magdalena there is a picturesque park with sculptures and replicas of old ships. Throughout the territory, among the numerous flowerbeds, there are pedestrian paths and comfortable benches. There is a small zoo with penguins, sea lions and seals.

The park offers wonderful views of the city, the lighthouse and the water area of the bay. There are many points where you can take great panoramic photos of Santander and Spain.

Important: The walking route is marked on the map, which is available at the entrance to the park. If it is difficult to get around the area of 25 hectares, you can ride the tourist train for 2 €. The trip in a circle lasts about 20 minutes.

Entrance to the area is free, open from 8:00 to 22:00.

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Entrance to the palace is only possible with a guide, 45-minute guided tours take place at strictly scheduled times and only in Spanish. Price €3. For a schedule of guided tours, visit http://palaciomagdalena.com.

Address: Av de la Reina Victoria, s/n, 39005 Santander, Cantabria, Spain.

Cabo Mayor Park

Cabo Mayor Park is one of those natural attractions of Santander in Spain with beautiful hiking trails. It begins at Sardinero beach, then goes along the coast through Matalenas park, then next to a small beach called Molinucos, and goes directly to Cape Menor, to the Cabo Mayor lighthouse. As you walk, you can admire the carved lines of the coast, the green fields, and the ocean.

Important: You have to be very careful: there are no fences at the edge of the cliffs and the grass can be slippery.

Accommodation in Santander

Although Santander is a small city, there are a lot of hotels. But in the summertime tourists come here for beach vacations, and at other times come business travelers: Santander – a business city in Spain, there are often conferences and other events.

Hotel in Santander

Important: Since there are always a lot of visitors in this city, accommodation must be booked in advance in any season, especially in August.

Logically, arriving on a beach holiday, it is better to settle as close to the coast as possible. Such options for settlement in the resort offer hotels, and private apartments are very few and quite expensive. Hotels are along the coast, especially a lot of them near the beach Sardinero (the prices here are the highest).

In winter, spring and autumn, when proximity to attractions is more important, it is better to stay in the historic center. There is a good choice of hotels, and there are private apartments.

Approximate cost per night in the summer months:

  • room for two in a 3* hotel from 40 € to 175 €, but most often it is 80-130 €;
  • Apartments with one bedroom, living room and kitchen from 50 €.

How to get to Santander

The most convenient way is to fly to Spain to Madrid or Barcelona and from there to Santander.

From Madrid, from the bus station Madrid, you can take the bus with the carrier Alsa: travel time is almost 6 hours, the fare costs 35-50 €. Tickets must be purchased at the ticket office or on the website of the bus station, or on the website of the carrier: https://www.alsa.es/

Bus Alsa

A more comfortable way to get from Madrid to the airport is by train:

  1. At Madrid-Puerta De Atocha station take the Alv train, which is a direct train from Madrid to Santander. Travel time is almost 5 hours, ticket price 29-40 €, carrier Renfe Viajeros.
  2. From Sol station take the C4 train (Renfe Cercanias) to Chamartin station. The trip takes 10 minutes and costs 5-7 €. From Chamartin walk to Madrid-Chamartin station (distance 116 m) and there take the Alv train to Santander. The journey time is 4 hours and 10 minutes, the fare is 28-35 €, the carrier is Renfe Viajeros.

From Madrid there are 7 trips per day in this direction. Check the Spanish Railways website for exact train schedules and tickets: http://www.renfe.com

The most convenient, fastest and cheapest way to get to Santander from Barcelona is by lowcost airline Ryanair. The flight takes 1 hour 15 minutes and tickets prices start from 20 €.

Ryanair in Santander

Important: In Barcelona it is better to make a long stopover, because the flight connections are not very convenient and besides, flight delays are possible.

The airport in Santander is located 7 km from the center. From the airport to the bus station at Plaza Estaciones, a shuttle bus takes 15 minutes. Buses run at 30-minute intervals from 6:45 to 23:00. At the exit of the terminal you can take a cab, the trip will cost about 15 €.


This article contains only the most important information about Santander (Spain). It remains to add that this city invariably attracts the attention of numerous tourists with a huge number of different options for spending time. In this city, every traveler will find something to do.

The prices on the page are for December 2019.

What to see in Santander in one day:

Author: Irina Kovaleva

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