Spain Guide


Santander Spain

Santander is the regional capital of Cantabria on the northern coast of Spain. It's both a bustling Atlantic port and a fashionable seaside resort, mainly for Spanish tourists. Most overseas visitors are students on Spanish study courses, business people and tourists passing through en route to other parts of Spain. Those who take the time for a closer look will find this ancient city is home to a host of attractions.

There are some beautiful beaches within easy reach of the city centre but Santander's maritime climate means it will never be top of the sun seeking package holidaymaker's list.

Summers are moderate, winters are mild and grey skies and rain can be expected at any time of the year.

But city lovers interested in history, architecture, culture or simply the discovery of what lies beyond the harbour of one of Spain's major ports will not be disappointed in Santander.

Many visitors arrive here by ferry from the UK, anxious to press onwards to the Mediterranean costas after a 24 hour journey across the Bay of Biscay.

If you get the chance, stay a while and discover why King Alfonso XIII chose this part of the Cantabrian coast as his summer retreat in the early part of the 20th century.

This seasonal descent of the royal court on Santander transformed the city into one of the most desirable residential and holiday destinations for well heeled Spaniards.

An impressive casino, the Gran Hotel, a theatre and many fine buildings sprung up to accommodate the needs of the aristocracy and court officials who followed the king and his queen, Victoria Eugenia, wherever they went.

The Magdalena Palace, presented to the monarch by the city fathers, is now the Menendez Pelayo International University which attracts students and teachers from all over Europe and North America.

The city's location, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, forced it to develop in a peculiarly elongated manner along the northern rim of the bay which opens out to the Cantabrian Sea.

It's divided into two distinct sections the busy commercial centre where you'll find the majority of shops, historic buildings and tourist attractions, and the beach resort of El Sardinero which is home to the city's classiest suburbs, the former royal palace and the casino.

Sadly the old quarter of Santander was virtually wiped out by a fire in 1941. But there are still many historic buildings to be admired around the city which is awash with impressively grand architecture from the 19th century and early part of the 20th century.

Wide tree lined boulevards with street cafes, elegant plazas, a bustling waterfront promenade and beautiful parks and gardens add up to a city which will delight the first time visitor for days on end.

Tourist attractions include two zoos, a planetarium, several good museums and a dynamic arts centre which hosts various cultural events throughout the year and is the venue for Santander's major international festival in August.