Spain Guide


Santander Tourist Attractions Things to Do

Santander has many sights to see and places of interest to visit by day. It's also the perfect gateway for exploring the rest of Cantabria which offers a stunningly beautiful array of nature reserves, beaches, medieval villages, mountains and marshes.

Entrance to many of the city's historic buildings and museums is free. The Museum of Fine Arts houses Cantabria's most important collection of paintings including Flemish and Italian works from the 16th to 18th centuries, Spanish art from the 16th to 20th centuries as well as sculptures, coins, medals and stamps.

The Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology is a must for history buffs as some of Spain's most important prehistoric finds have been unearthed in Cantabria.

The Maritime Museum paints a fascinating picture of Santander's dependence on the sea here you'll find everything from the history of ship building and marine cartography to tanks of sting rays, turtles and sharks.

Visit the beautiful Palacete del Embarcadero ("Small Palace on the Quay") which stages various cultural events and exhibits, many with a maritime theme. This early 20th century Modernist building was once the customs house and still belongs to the Port Authority. From here you can take a boat ride across the bay to one of the local beaches.

If you're visiting in summer you'll probably want to head for the beach resort of El Sardinero, about 2.5 kilometres from the city centre. There are four good sandy beaches Camello, Concha, Primera and Segunda and the lovely Magdalena Park which contains a cliff top zoo where you'll find lions, seals, penguins and polar bears. This is also the place to see the galleons once owned by famous Santander sailor and adventurer Vital Alsar.

The Magdalena Peninsula is home to the splendid royal palace, now the headquarters of the International University of Menendez Pelayo.

The Cabo Menor cape forms the northern border of El Sardinero. Here you can visit Mataleñas Park, one of Santander's biggest and loveliest parks extending over 230,000 square metres. The park is a mix of meadows and woods and gives wonderful views of the city. It includes a public golf course, an athletic track and a small zoo with kangaroos and deer.

If the main beaches and tourist areas become too crowded for your liking in high season, take a 15 minute boat ride to the lovely beach of El Puntal which has some of the most spectacular dunes in Spain. Fishing, watersports and beach activities are available here but the beach rarely gets crowded, even in August.

For interesting out of town excursions, try the fascinating prehistoric Caves of Altamira to the west of the city. The paintings, in the deep recesses of caves far out of the reach of the destructive forces of wind and water, have undergone little change since their creation between 11,000 19,000 years ago.

Be warned, however, that the caves are fiercely protected and only 25 people a day are admitted. The best way to ensure entry is to request written permission in advance from the Altamira Museum in Santillana del Mar.

If you can't get into the caves, the village of Santillana del Mar is well worth a visit itself with its cobblestone streets and delightful medieval homes.

Take a day to visit Bilbao, 116 kilometres east along the coast, with its spectacular Guggenheim Museum which houses some of the world's greatest art treasures.