A city packed full of surprises, Cantabria’s capital is a quaint fishing town with a difference. Top-notch beaches, picturesque seaside promenades, historical buildings and an electric atmosphere are just some of what you can expect when you spend your next mini-break visiting Santander. Here’s nine of the best things to see in the city.
The city’s newest architectural feat, the Centro Botin is located in the stunning Jardins de Pereda, projecting out into the Bay of Santander. Built by Renzo Piano, the space-like monochrome building is dedicated to showcasing art and culture and has quickly become an emblem of Santander. Covered in over 300,000 pearlescent discs, the exterior of the exhibition hall is a real sight for sore eyes. Spend the afternoon wandering through the halls decorated with some of the best local and international artworks and take part in an educational workshop. Finish off the experience with a coffee and croissant at El Muelle on the ground floor and look out over the water. An experience out of this world, Centro Botin is most definitely one of the best things to see in Santander.
Since 1909, the breath taking former summer palace of the Spanish royal family has sat on the highest point of the Magdalena Peninsula watching over the waters below. Establishing Santander as a tourist destination among the Spanish bourgeoisie due to its grandeur, the palace is a key piece of architecture in the city. Resembling an English country house, the building is a mixture of styles with impressive Tudor former stables, extravagant interiors and well-kept gardens. Nowadays, the palace is part of the International University of Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP) and offers 45 minute tours of the inside and grounds.
Visit the museum and study the rich archaeological history of the surrounding area at one of the best attractions in Santander. Showcasing palaeolithic artefacts from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, the exhibits include stone tools, carved horns, utensils, bones, as well as incredible reconstructions of 15,000 year old paintings of bison and horses. With almost 1,200 artefacts on display, the museum is divided into two sections of history and pre-history making the collection easy to navigate. Dating back to the 20th century, this museum is a definite must-see when visiting Santander.
For stunning sea views, go just past Santander’s northern outskirts where you’ll reach the headland of Cabo Mayor. Marked by a lighthouse built in 1839, grassy clifftop trail boasts some of the best panoramic picture spots in the city. Venture further out past the monument to the Civil War Fallen and descend down the steps to the Cabo itself where you can walk right out to the very edge of the cliff. A true gem, this little hideaway is one of Santander’s best kept secrets.
Not a typical Spanish cathedral, the gothic structure in the centre of the city is much more understated and has stood its ground since the 1100s. Despite having undergone much reconstruction, the cathedral has kept some of its original features such as the cloisters which still holds its trapezoidal layout from the 1300s. Walk around and marvel at the lower Iglesia del Cristo with its original gothic vaulting and glass floor through which you can look down onto the remains of the Roman Portus Victoriae.
Former home to Santander’s fishing community, Puerto Chico is the waterside district of the city located alongside the marina. Boasting a youthful, lively atmosphere, the area is made up of narrow streets and winding staircases giving way to a plethora of neighbourhood bars and restaurants. Head to the water’s edge, nestle into a bench and watch the ancient fishing boats mingle with today’s super yachts. A little oasis amongst the business of everyday life, the port is one of the best places to visit in Santander, without a doubt.
There’s no better place to do your grocery shopping in Santander than at Cantabria’s largest central market, Mercado de la Esperanza. The market is not only worth a visit for the array of mouth-watering food stalls but also for the spectacular Belle Epoque architecture and iron and glass hall that was built in the 1940s. Located just behind Santander’s city hall, you won’t find a more authentic mouthful of food anywhere else in the city.
Named after the 19th century writer, Jose Maria de Pereda, the Gardens of Pereda run alongside the seafront promenade and pay homage to the author’s work. Laced with walkways and paths throughout the green space, the gardens are the ideal setting to take an after dinner stroll. Notice the sculptures dotted around the garden which highlight scenes from the novel, Escenas Montanesas and relax in a rare moment of peace and quiet.
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Flights to Santander
- Lucy Norris