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Santander city guide

Santander, the capital of Cantabria, is an elegant city stretched across a wide bay with many stunning beaches.

Surrounded by mountains and countryside, the streets wind up through the hilly landscape to afford fantastic views of the Cantabrian Sea, which supplies the city's restaurants with the fantastic seafood for which Cantabria is renowned. A shopping hub, the best shopping can be found on the Alameda de Oviedo Boulevard, bustling with street vendors, and the stylish and completely pedestrianised Calle Burgos.

Alfonso XIII's summer residence, the splendid Palacio de Magdalena, is built on the beautiful La Magdalena peninsula looking out to sea and is a great place to spend a family day out. Enjoy the greenery of the Jardines de Piquío, which separate the two golden beaches of El Sardinero with glorious views over the beautiful blue sea. These beaches of El Sardinero are Santander's most popular beaches but there are others such as El Rostro, for a more quiet, relaxing experience.

Santander is also a perfect gateway to exploring the Natural Parks of Caberceno, the largest animal park in Europe with lots of space for the animals to roam freely; the stunning mountains of the Picos de Europa; and Parque Natural de las Dunas de Liencres, the largest dune system on the Cantabrian coast. To the north of Santander you'll find some great bird watching opportunities on the steep and rocky coastline whilst to the south, the summit of Peña Cabarga provides astounding views over most of Cantabria.

Other places not to miss are the stunning Gothic cathedral which was restored after a fire in 1941 that destroyed most of the old town, the Romanesque Church of the Holy Christ where the remains of an ancient Roman settlement have been found and the Church of the Annunciation, which is possibly the most beautiful example of Renaissance architecture in the region. The popular entertainment area of El Sardinero, has some great attractions such as the glamorous Gran Casino Sardinero and the modern Palace of Sports stadium, made of striking stainless steel.

Take a stroll around the Fishing Quarter, Barrio Pesquero, and Puerto Chico to find the best restaurants and bars in town, selling succulent fresh fish, with squid a local speciality, and Cantabria's famous mountain stew, cocido montanés, along with traditional tapas. During the day, enjoy an ice cream from one of the many street parlours, selling an array of flavours to help you stay cool in the sun.

Nearby places of interest


The extraordinary landscape of this seaside village with the mountains of Picos de Europa in the background, perfectly frames the incredible architecture within. El Caprichio is a majestic building designed by Antoni Gaudí and has an orientalist feel to it. There are also many interesting medieval buildings in the town centre around the Plaza de la Constitucion.

Castro Urdiales

A pretty seaside town, Castro Urdiales has many good beaches, including the beautiful Brazomar beach, and is popular with local Spanish tourists. The 13 the century church, the Iglesia de Santa María, is well worth a look - a striking example of Cantabria's Gothic architecture - along with its neighbour, the Castle-Lighthouse, which can be seen from anywhere in the town. Castro Urdiales is also famous for its cave paintings found in the Cave of Peña del Cuco depicting deer, horses and goats.


Famous for its anchovies in olive oil, Santoña is one of Cantabria's oldest fishing towns. However, it also has a strong military past with 3 forts around the town that show the town's importance in defending the coast. The Fort of El Mazo (sometimes called 'Napoleon'), on top of Mount Buciero, affords magnificent views of the surrounding area.

Natural Parks

Cantabria's natural parks really are areas of outstanding natural beauty. Caberceno Natural Park is only 30 minutes from Santander, a conservation park that is home to a hundred species of animals from across 5 continents as well as being full of trails and picnic areas for a great family day out. The Picos de Europa Natural Park contains the Picos de Europa ('Peaks of Europe') mountains where rivers and valleys created by glaciers that have carved their way through the soft limestone weave around the 3 mountain peaks.