Santander, Spain

El Sardinero Segunda beach, Santander city beaches, Cantabria, Spain

Main Santander attractions are half a dozen magnificent city beaches. This one is El Sardinero Segunda.

Holidays in Santander

Santander, Cantabria’s capital city – as well as the region around it – is an easy destination for Spanish and French visitors via excellent autoroutes/autopistas while British visitors can travel there by via car ferries (plenty of motorcycles on them too) from Plymouth and Portsmouth.

Visitors come not only to hang on Santander city beaches, but also to day trip to around 50 great beaches on the Cantabrian coast between 15 minutes and an hour’s drive away on fine roads, with varied features and facilities.

But first, Santander city sights…

Paseo de Pereda seafront, Santander city, Cantabria, North Spain

Paseo de Pereda, one of the city’s main streets, lined with cafés and ice-cream parlours and backed by a hilly ridge loaded with apartment blocks.

Santander city sights away from the sand

Plaza de Cañado, Santander city, Cantabria, North Spain

Some nicely typical, bulging-balcony, northern Spanish architecture (there’s probably a technical term for it! ) in Plaza de Cañado.

Santander is not a place packed with must-sees, basically it’s a beach resort with a few things to do if pushed, such as:

• Take a free walk around the Magdalena Peninsula, past the beaches, around the Palacio Real de La Magdalena (not inside), see four ancient ships of exploration at rest (with information) on the coast down the hill, maybe check the sea lions and penguins in their sea pens nearby. Peninsula de la Magdalena

• Tour the Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabarceno, a zoo, but well organised with lots of space for the animals such as bears, gorillas and a highly recommended ‘Birds of Prey’ show. You can self-drive around the park or take a bus.

• Drive/cycle up to the Parque de Cabo Mayor on the Cabo Menor Peninsular. This is basically a lighthouse with a small art gallery attached hosting two permanent exhibitions, one of bizarre lighthouse memorabilia and the other of interesting seascapes. The gallery is free.
There is also a pleasant walk onto the tip of the Cabo Mayor where the views of Santander are panoramic.

• Visit MUPAC, Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueología  under the Mercado del Este (Calle Hernán Cortés, 4) and near Paseo de Pereda sea front.  It covers the history of Cantabria from the first humans to the present day with interactive displays in both English and French.  Some of the archaeological treasures on display were found in Cantabria’s prehistoric caves.  Visits are self guided.
Opening 10am-2pm & 5pm-8pm.

Ayuntamiento, City Hall, Santander sights, Cantabria, Spain

Well you gotta have one of these grand Ayuntamientos (City Halls) in any Spanish town, what else are you going to do with leftover palaces?

Best seasons

The best time to visit Santander are the three driest, sunniest months of June, July and August, when a little rain can still be expected, high temperatures will hover between 23C – 26C and lows around 14C.
Santander has a breezy and often humid climate with neither too much heat in the summer nor too much cold in the winter. Don’t expect to see much of the sun in winter but even so low temperatures won’t go much below 6C with highs around 14C.

Santander Cathedral

Santander Cathedral, Cantabria, North Spain

Santander Cathderal on the right, also known as the ‘Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Santander‘ but is almost equalled in grandeur by the local Oficina de Correos, the post office on the left.

Santander is a bit short of great ancient architecture is due to a massive two-day fire in 1941 that wiped out the city’s medieval town as well as the old Romanesque cathedral.

The cathedral is an odd place as the main steps up to it actually lead to the Iglesia del Cristo, a short, low, old church sporting some glass-covered Roman remains. Meanwhile the cathedral (originally 13thC but mostly burned in the Great Fire of ’41) is hidden around the back. Touristically-speaking, neither the old church nor newish cathedral offer any must-see features or treasures.

Domestic Transport

Buses are reasonably cheap (1. 30 euros any distance) and frequent, including night buses, but a car is useful here to permit easy exploration of the region’s magnificent attractions on superb roads, ranging from extraordinary towns, caves and Los Picos de Europa mountain group to some exquisite beaches if Santander doesn’t supply enough sand or space to meet your needs.

Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail markings, Santander sights, Cantabria, Spain

One of the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trails runs thru the centre of Santander and is marked as such with wall and pavement signs.

Santander views and beaches

Looking west from Peninsula de la Magdalena across Santander's main bay, Cantabria, Spain

Looking west from Peninsula de la Magdalena across Santander’s main bay, Mar Cantabrico, and four El Sardinero beaches to Faro de Cabo Menor (lighthouse). On the other side of this peninsula, to the east, is Bahia de Santander and several more fine beaches including. . .

Playa de los Peligros, Santander city, Cantabria, North Spain

. . . Playa de los Peligros, looking across Santander harbour (aka Bahia de Santander) to Somos town and its wild peninsula.

Peligros beach is a popular stretch of soft sand with a full range of facilities including showers, toilets, cafés, kid’s playground and lifeguards, easy parking nearby (but get there before 10am to be sure), a dedicated bus stop or a reasonable walk from the cheaper parts of town.
Peligros is, however, washed by significantly colder waters than El Sardinero’s beaches around the corner, probably due to the water flow and depth in the harbor.

Peligros means hazards in Spanish, the hazards being occasional strong currents which is presumably why there are a series of floating barriers to contain excitable kids. Another hazard may be. . .

Santander’s harbour entrance is to the left and the port is to the right so large ships including ferries and cruise ships pass through the gap between Peligros beach and the peninsula; but the gap is actually larger than it looks and large ships infrequent.

Siesta Time

Don’t forget that the traditional Spanish day, that is observed here, runs roughly 9. 30am – 1. 30pm/2. 30pm, followed by lunch+siesta (shops close apart from supermarkets) then 4. 30pm/5. 30pm – 8pm. This does take a little adjustment as cooked food is unlikely to be prepared before 1pm (so it’s boccadillos/sandwiches for lunch then! ) or 8pm+ for dinner. Many locals start dinner after 10pm.

Playa de los Peligros, Santander city, Cantabria, North Spain

The renovated Jardine de Pereda is adorned with brilliant statues but also horrible, half-assed musical instruments for kids to make noise on. Really, terrible, sh**rackets completely lacking in tone, melody or rythm. No peace for the wicked strollers then tho’ we can’t imagine locals – especially the old folk – tolerating that for long.
The park is beside Paseo Pereda and the ferry dock that goes to Somo and Playa del Puntal.


We were sadly disappointed by tapas offerings in Cantabria, most of which involved modest amounts of protein served on hunks of bread with a distinct shortage of wow factor, though ordering off the menu (after 8pm! ) as opposed to what’s on the counter can yield better results.

Paseo Pereda

Paseo Pereda sculpture of raqueros, Santander sights, Cantabria, Spain

Along the waters edge of Paseo Pereda is this famous sculpture of old-time raqueros, kids diving for coins.

Apparently the raqueros did more than just diving for coins, they were also paid to rescue things that fell or were blown into the water, plundered sinking or sunken boats and when times were hard turned their little hands to a little light thieving.

monument dedicated to the city's sailors, Santander, Cantabria, Spain

This stone monument dedicated to the city’s sailors is on the sea front, Ave Reina Victoria.

Gran Casino del Sardinero, with Plaza de Italia, Santander, Cantabria, Spain

Gran Casino del Sardinero, with Plaza de Italia out front.

Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria, Santander sights, Spain

Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria located on the harbour coast roughly between Playa de los Peligros and the marina.

Attractions near Santander: beaches, mountains and towns