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Santander, Spain | © Public Domain Pictures / Pixabay
Santander, Spain | © Public Domain Pictures / Pixabay

11 Reasons Why You Should Visit Santander at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Picture of Esme Fox
Updated: 25 September 2017

The capital of Spain’s region of Cantabria is the coastal city of Santander. It is not the prettiest of Spain’s cities, due to a huge fire that destroyed most of it in 1941, but it still has lots of fascinating sights. Here are 11 reasons why you should visit Santander at least once in your lifetime. 

To Visit the Beach

Santander has many great city beaches to enjoy, for sunbathing and swimming in summer and for walking along in winter. You can choose between Playa de Mataleñas, Playa de Los Molinucos, Sardinero Beach and Playa de la Magdalena.

To Learn About the Past

The Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria is a fascinating place, which houses over 1,200 objects dating from the Upper Palaeolithic period to the Iron Age. There are also artefacts from Roman and medieval times. Some of the most notable objects on display are the huge pieces of prehistoric rock art and the finds from the Santa María de Hito archaeological site.

Calle Bailén, Santander, Cantabria, Spain +34 942209922

To Marvel at the Palacio de la Magdalena

Santander’s magnificent royal Magdalena Palace has become a symbol of the city. The palace was constructed between 1908 and 1912 and sits on a peninsula, looking out to sea. King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia and their family used it as a summer home from 1913 to 1930, enjoying the seclusion and the green countryside surrounding it. The palace was totally renovated in 1995, and today it is used for congresses, events and visits.

Palacio de la Magdalena, 39005 Santander, Cantabria, Spain

To Explore the Península de la Magdalena

Surrounding the palace sits the Magdalena Peninsula, a vast green parkland. Filled with green meadows and dense forests, it is surrounded by coves and beaches. In summer you can spend time here picnicking, swimming and relaxing.

Magdalena Peninsula, Península de la Magdalena, Santander, Cantabria, Spain

To Stand in Awe Before the Catedral de la Asunción

The huge cream-coloured cathedral is an impressive sight in the centre of the city. The lower section was built in the 13th century, while the upper section is from the 14th century. Inside, you’ll find elegant 15th-century cloisters, columns, various chapels and pointed arcades. It also houses the grave of Menéndez Pelayo, a scholar, historian and literary critic from the city.

Catedral de Santander, Calle Somorrostro, s/n, 39002 Santander, Cantabria, Spain

To Browse the Books at the Biblioteca de Menéndez Pelayo

The immense Library of Menéndez Pelayo is definitely worth a visit while you’re in Santander. Constructed in 1915 by the architect Leonardo Rucabado Gómez, the library houses a whopping 42,000 books and 1,032 manuscripts, which once belonged to the writer. Inside you’ll find a vast room, filled from floor to ceiling with oak book shelves, beautifully carved columns and wrought-iron balconies. Don’t forget to look up at the stunning stained-glass window above.

To Shop in the Mercado La Esperanza

Santander’s main covered market dates back to the 19th century and is made from cast iron, brick and glass. Inside, you’ll find stalls selling everything from fresh seafood to fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses. It’s the ideal place to pick up the ingredients for your picnic on the Magdalena Peninsula.

Mercado La Esperanza, 39002 Santander, Cantabria, Spain

To Visit Spain’s the Centro Botín

The Centro Botín is Santander’s newest attraction and Spain’s newest arts centre, having opened in June 2017. Designed by the award-winning architect Renzo Piano, it features two huge pods joined together and fronted by glass. A vast space, it showcases the Fundación Botín’s contemporary art collection, as well as changing exhibitions from world-famous artists such as Francisco de Goya.

Centro Botín, Santander, Spain

To Drink on the Lively Plaza de Cañadío

To get to the heart of the action, head for the city’s Plaza de Cañadío. Surrounded by many cafes, bars and restaurants, this is the place to go if you’re looking for a lively night out.

Plaza de Cañadío, Santander, Spain

To Snap a Photo in the Plaza Porticada

Also known as the Plaza de Pedro Velarde, the Plaza Porticada is located in the centre of the city and is close to the town hall. It was built after a devastating fire destroyed most of the city in 1941. It is nicknamed Plaza Porticada because it is surrounded by 64 porticoes. Both grand and elegant, it’s definitely worth stopping here to take a photo.

Plaza Porticada, Santander, Spain

To See the Old Medieval Walls

Also in the Plaza Porticada, you’ll find the Interpretation Centre of the Medieval Wall of Santander. Built on the site of Puebla Nueva, the old medieval village of Santander, it displays sections of the wall from the 12th century, as well as ceramics, paved streets and ancient towers.

Find out where to eat out in Santander.