Photo of Santander

Visit Santander

Santander is the capital of the Cantabria region of Spain. It is an attractive seaside town and a busy working port.

Explore Santander

Santander grew up and became wealthy because of its naturally deep harbour which led to it becoming an important port town. In the early 1900s the Spanish Royal family started coming to Santander for their holidays and built the Magdalena Palace. Wealthy and noble Spanish families followed and Santander gained a reputation as an elegant seaside resort which it retains today.

As well as being an excellent resort in its own right Santander is close to two UNESCO World Heritage sights; the Altamira Caves and the pilgrim route of the Camino de Compostella.

la Plaza de Pombo

The Paseo de Pereda is the main boulevard running down between the old centre of Santander and the Bay of Santander. Here you will find attractive houses and gardens. Among these are the Church of the Annunciation and the Santander Bank's headquarters

Nearby is Santander's cathedral. The original cathedral was largely destroyed in the 1941 fire. It has been rebuilt in the Gothic style but still has its 12th century crypt.

Both the Paseo de Pereda and the nearby Plaza de Pombo, full of chic cafés, are the places to head for first in Santander.


From here wander towards the headland. You will pass Puerto Chico, the marina of Santander, and also the excellent Festival Hall, the Palacio de Festivales where Santander holds an annual International Film Festival. Not far from here are the excellent beaches of Playa de la Magdalena and Playa del Bikini. These are sheltered from wind by the headland making them very calm and pleasant.

At the tip of the headland is the Magdalena palace built as a Summer Palace by King Alfonso. This has been built in an English style and is surrounded by gardens.

On the other side of the headland is the most popular part of Santander - the seaside suburb of El Sardinero. Here there is the Sardinero beach and a beautiful beach front promenade. On one side the sea and on the other buildings from 'La Belle Époque' such as Santander's Casino, an imposing white building. The chic Plaza de Italia is a good place to stop for a drink or lunch.

Take a walk along the Paseo de Perez Galdos to admire the beautiful buildings of the Casa Pardo and the Hotel Real.

There are a number of museums in Santander. The Belles Artes Museum contains works by Goya and Mengs, the Museo Provincial de Prehistoria has many exhibits from local caves and the Museo Maritimo has skeletons of whales and lots of maritime exhibits.

Places to visit nearby

The famous Altamira caves are just a short drive from Santander.

Santander is part of the northern route of the historic pilgrimage - the Camino de Compostella - as are the nearby towns of Comillas, San Vicente de la Barquera and Santillana del Mar.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Asturias and Cantabria guide.

See also: 

Map of Santander and places to visit


Santander places to visit

Puente Viesgo

Puente Viesgo

Puente Viesgo is a lovely village in a beautiful setting and has some excellent caves full of stalagtites, stalagmites and lots of prehistoric paintings.

Puente Viesgo guide
Santillana del Mar

Santillana del Mar

Santillana del Mar is perhaps the highlight of a visit to this part of Spain. It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.

Santillana del Mar guide
Altamira Caves

Altamira Caves

Some magnificent pre-historic art is in these UNESCO-listed caves. The wonderful paintings are amongst the best prehistoric paintings in the world.

Altamira Caves guide


Santona is a fairly busy holiday resort and fishing town. It has a nice sandy beach and its bay is surrounded by hills.

Santona guide


Laredo has a lovely beach and an attractive old town. It is a thriving holiday resort.

Laredo guide


Comillas is a very good resort which has lots of Modernista buildings including the El Capricho designed by Antoni Gaudi.

Comillas guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Asturias and Cantabria