Santander, the elegant seaside resort in northern Spain


A city trip or a beach holiday? You often have to decide on one or the other. But not when it comes to Santander. The Spanish city is situated in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria, which lies between the Spanish regions of Asturias and the Basque Country. You probably do not immediately associate northern Spain with long, fine sandy beaches. But that is exactly what holidaymakers will find in and around Santander. Another thing that makes it so special is that the beaches are almost always accessible on foot from the city centre. Lying on the beach here, if you look towards the water, you have a wonderful view of both the bay – Bahía de Santanderas – and the mountainous hinterland – Peña Cabarga. And if you look towards the land side, you will see splendid, colourful town houses. So it is of no surprise that visitors very quickly feel content here.

Cantabria offers fine sandy beaches, nature reserves, and mountains

The region of Cantabria features fine sandy beaches, high mountain ranges, and lush nature reserves. If what you look for in a holiday is a wide variety of landscapes and unspoilt nature, then Cantabria is the place to visit. You will, for instance, be able to go hiking in the mountainous hinterland in the morning (e.g. Saja-Besaya nature reserve) and then spend the afternoon on one of the beautiful beaches on the Cantabrian Sea. The mountains of Cantabria are a paradise for climbers, hikers and nature lovers. A magnificent destination is the Picos de Europa nature reserve, a limestone mountain range more than 2,000 metres high that you can reach by taking the funicular railway. In the north of Cantabria, you can walk on a part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s way – the Way of St James. This section of the way, called Camino del Norte, traverses a varied landscape with many little chapels and churches.

Santander is a real beach paradise

The summers are pleasantly warm and the winters are mild. If you love the sun, you will not be disappointed here. The next beach is never far away in Santander. The beaches are clean, have very good facilities and, in particular, are not as overrun as those on the Spanish Mediterranean coast or on the Costa Brava. The water is calm and generally well-protected against the strong Atlantic wind. Wonderful places to go sunbathing and swimming are the city beaches, such as Playa de los Peligros, Playa de la Magdalena, Playa de Bikinis, and Playa del Camello. When conditions are right, the El Sardinero beach quickly fills up with surfers. It is definitely worthwhile going on an excursion outside Santander as well to explore the surrounding areas. Particularly to the west of the city you will still find secluded romantic beaches, some of which are rather hidden and only accessible on foot. An insiders’ tip for you: check out the very quiet Playa de Oyambre.

Explore the charming old town of Santander

The old town of Santander is situated on steep slopes and features narrow streets, little squares and colourful building facades. The best thing to do is put the map aside and simply wander the streets. That will give you a chance to discover the special charm of this northern Spanish seaport. A good place to come into contact with the locals is one of the many corner bars. The Santanderinos are very welcoming and friendly towards visitors – which no doubt also has something to do with Santander’s long tradition as a port and seaside resort. The city begins to get especially lively during the evenings on the Plaza Porticada, the square in the city centre with many bars, cafés and restaurants. Nearby are the Gothic church and the cathedral of the city – Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

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Visit the palace on La Magdalena peninsula

Another beautiful route for going on a walk takes you along the Bay of Santander to the La Magdalena peninsula. A palace similar in style to Buckingham Palace in London is located there. It once served as the summer residence of the Spanish royal family. Now it is a summer university with a beautiful park and a small zoo. It is well worth a visit, even just for the stunning view of the city and the Atlantic. You can go on a one-hour guided tour of the palace or simply enjoy the splendour of the building from the outside.

Explore the city by boat and visit the Cave of Altamira

In a seaport like Santander, you should not only go into the water but take the opportunity to venture out on the water too. From Paseo de la Pereda, a small public ferry travels across the Bahía de Santander to Pedreña, Somo, and the beach Playa del Puntal. From the boat you have a wonderful view of the city and Santander’s lovely green surroundings featuring beaches, mountains, and little villages. Another highlight not far from the city centre is the Cabo Mayor lighthouse, which affords a magnificent panoramic view of Santander’s coast. Around 30 kilometres to the west of Santander is the famous Cave of Altamira and its Stone Age rock paintings. Discovered in 1868, the cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing rock paintings of animals, some of which are more than 14,000 years old.

Getting there / airport

From 3 September 2016, the Irish low-fares airline Ryanair will offer flights from Berlin to Santander. The route will be served three times a week from Berlin Schönefeld – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The airport is situated on the Bay of Santander, around five kilometres to the south of the city centre. A public bus running every half an hour takes you from there to the centre of Santander. There are also longer-distance bus connections available to Bilbao (Basque Country), Gijón and Oviedo (Asturias).

Airport Info

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