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The northern Spanish city of Santander, the capital of the Cantabria region, makes for an ideal short break. It’s not too big, is easy to get around and has an array of attractions sure to please everyone. From palaces and cathedrals to arts centres and great restaurants, here’s how to spend the perfect 24 hours in Santander.
Make your way to La Gallofa for breakfast, a trendy chain bakery found across the city and the larger Cantabria area. Inside, the bakeries have a hipster-like industrial chic feel and serve a delicious variety of pastries, breads, doughnuts and cakes.
Once you’ve had your fill, make your way to the Magdalena Peninsula, a huge area to the west of the centre filled with parkland, forests and plenty of attractions. The highlight of these is the Palacio de la Magdalena, which was used by King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia as their summer residence between 1913 and 1930. Other attractions to see on the peninsula include the old Faro de La Cerda lighthouse and the zoo. The peninsula also has two beaches to the south – the Playa de los Bikinis and the Playa de la Magdalena, which are perfect for sunbathing in summer or strolling along in winter.
Make your way back towards the centre of the city. If you’re feeling flush head to Michelin-starred restaurant El Serbal for lunch. It serves beautifully-presented traditional Cantabrian dishes with a modern twist. Try their signature plates of steak tartare and steak flambé.
If you want something a little lighter on the wallet, then head to Bodega del Riojano, a traditional tavern-like restaurant with old rafters, exposed brick walls and filled with old wine barrels. Go for the classic Cantabrian-style hake, salt cod or snails ‘a la Riojana’.
After lunch, walk south of the centre towards the coast and stroll along the plant-filled Paseo de Pereda, next to the harbour, watching the ferries come in. Continue your walk along until you reach one of the city’s newest attractions – the Centro Botín. This large arts centre is housed in a futuristic spaceship-like building and features works by international contemporary artists such as Julie Mehretu, Carlos Garaicoa, Joan Jonas and Mona Hatoum.
Just a few steps north of the impressive arts centre you’ll find something equally impressive yet many years older – the Catedral de Santander. Head inside to marvel at the interior or continue north to the atmospheric Plaza Porticada.
A few blocks west of here, you’ll find another charming square – the Plaza Pombo, where you can stop for a bit of a pick-me-up at the historic Café de Pombo.
El Serbal, Calle Andrés del Río, 7, Santander, Spain +34 942 22 25 15
Bodega del Riojano, Calle Río de la Pila, 5, Santander, Spain +34 942 21 67 50
Café de Pombo, Calle Hernán Cortés, 21, Santander, Spain +34 942 22 04 66
Head back to your hotel for a bit of a rest before the evening begins – as with many Spanish cities, things in Santander don’t get started until late.
For dinner, go to the trendy Cañadίo restaurant and tapas bar, located on the lively Plaza Cañadίo. It serves traditional Cantabrian cuisine with a contemporary twist and also has excellent seafood dishes. For something lighter, visit the bar, which features a dazzling array of tasty pintxos bites.
Cañadίo, Calle Gómez Oreña, 15, Santander, Spain +34 942 31 41 49
Still wide awake? Head to the bars and clubs along Calle de Santa Lucía and Calle del Río de la Pila for Santander’s lively nightlife scene. Start with a fruity cocktail at Little Bobby, a 1920s speakeasy, and one of the city’s best cocktail bars.
Next, make your way to classic and popular Malaspina. This trendy bar and club will keep your toes tapping with its mix of classic, rock, blues and pop tunes. Another classic Santander hangout is Sala Rocambole, going strong for over 20 years, this is one of the best places for live music in the city.
Little Bobby, Calle Sol, 20, Santander, Spain +34 690 99 25 27
Malaspina, Pje. Jesús Revaque Garea, Santander +34 942 31 33 93