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Photo of Santillana del Mar

Visit Santillana del Mar

Santillana del Mar is in the Cantabria province of the Asturias and Cantabria region of Spain, 30km from Santander.

Santillana del Mar is a wonderful little town, once said by the French philosopher Satre to be 'the most beautiful town in Spain'. Built of a golden sandstone there is a wealth of churches and 15 to 17th century mansions.

At the heart of the town is a monastery, 'La Colegiata' which was built to house the bones of Saint Juliana. The church dates back to the 12th century and has a superb Romanesque cloister.

If you can visit the town out of season (in the summer there are lots of tourists) it really is like stepping back in time. It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.

Explore Santillana del Mar

The main plaza, Plaza Mayor is a delight. One of the mansions on the Plaza is now a parador, the Parador Gil Blas, one of two in the town! The parador is so named as the hero of the novel 'The Adventures of Gil Blas' by Alain-René Lesage was born in Santillana del Mar. This parador is one of the best and so if you are looking to try some of these wonderful Spanish hotels this one is a good choice.

The town hall and the Don Borja's tower and Merino's tower are all superb.

One of the best of the mansions is the Casa de los Hombrones close to the Plaza Mayor, but there are many mansions and all have interesting details.

The Colegiata de Santa Juliana is a Romanesque cathedral and contains lovely 12th century cloisters. It costs about 3 euros to enter the cloisters.

At the other end of the main street from the Colegiata is the Convent of the Poor Clares. This houses a good art collection which started when the nuns were encouraged to collect and restore paintings abandoned during the Civil War in Spain.

There is a small museum of torture in the village, the Museo de la Tortura, full of instruments of torture.

Places to visit in the Santillana del Mar area

As well as ambling through the town the coast is only 3 km away and the UNESCO World Heritage Caves of Altamira are only 2 kms away. The unusual town of Comillas with its Modernista architecture is just a few kilometers to the west of Santillana del Mar.

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

See also: 

Map of Santillana del Mar and places to visit


Santillana del Mar places to visit

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


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

Comillas guide
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


Santander is the lively capital of Cantabria and has a popular seaside suburb of El Sardinero.

Santander guide
Barcena Mayor

Barcena Mayor

Barcena Mayor is a picturesque village with lots of the typically balconied houses of the region. Situated in the Cabuerniga Valley.

Barcena Mayor guide
Alto Campoo

Alto Campoo

Alto Campoo is a small ski resort in the Picos de Europa. It is particularly suited to beginner and intermediate level skiers.

Alto Campoo guide

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

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