I had no clue what the Cantabria region would offer before touring Santander, from stunning beaches and architecture to homely Mediterranean food.
Do you recall hearing anything about Santander? Santander, the seat of the Cantabria region, lies tucked along Spain’s northern coast close to Bilbao and a bit further from San Sebastián.
The northern Spanish city of Santander is a blend of lush mountain scenery, white-sand beaches, opulent palaces and palatial architecture, avant-garde structures, and the undeniable legacy of its nautical heritage. Santander is a fantastic coastal spot for a long weekend away and is best renowned for its rugged La Magdalena Peninsula.
Santander is a simple city to get around, both on foot and via wheels. With so little traffic, there is ample parking. Driving in the city felt spacious and comfortable – The city’s roadways are generally broad, but as you start driving up hills and along the coast, things get a little narrower. I’d suggest hiring a car if you map to drive out of the city, just so you can explore as you wish, But only if you’re comfortable steering a left-hand car!
Enjoy the Views at Magdalena Peninsula
The Magdalena Palace, the city’s crown gem, is undoubtedly the greatest tribute to this illustrious history, which is brought to life for us as we wander through the ancient quarters with their majestic architecture.
This rocky peninsula is the ideal location to take in serene seaside views and get your heart pounding with a trek through nature since it is full of flora and flanked by the roaring ocean.
The 69-acre Magdalena Peninsula is one of Santander’s best-known locations, with an entrance that leads you across leafy gardens and up towards the old Palacio de la Magdalena. The peninsula, designated as a cultural heritage site, has two beaches, a lighthouse, and a tiny zoo.
Sunset at the Faro De Cabo Mayor, an 1800s Lighthouse
It’s time to glimpse the sunset! The Parque de Cabo Mayor‘s tree-lined paths led to a gate where people made their way uphill toward a lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1839 within a park, a rare yet popular location in Santander for sunset views and for walks along the cliffs and beaches.
It’s an Instagram-worthy location with fantastic views. Take in the feel and enjoy yourself with either a picnic or a cup of hot chocolate – which I did!
Go to Centro Botin, Santander’s Architectural Masterpiece
Similar to the Guggenheim in nearby Bilbao, this spectacular structure is poised to become a significant art destination. It is separated into two sides by linking bridges, covered with more than 300,000 pearlescent discs, and has several vantage points. The edifice on Santander Bay connects the Bay with the city centre and the ancient Pereda Gardens.
The structure itself is fantastic, and the inside has a sizable, beautiful, and light-filled room. The windows offer breathtaking views of the Bay, and there is a free viewing platform on the rooftop.
Morning Coffee and Try the Tapa!
Few things evoke the spirit of “Spanish summer” one such is waking up early, making your way to the local café, and ordering an espresso or latte. Tasting one of those whilst watching dawn break over the sea feels like the ultimate holiday wake-up. Most “newer” or hipster cafés provide dairy-free milk substitutes, including soya, oat, and almond if you have a lactose intolerance like my friend.
The tapas is one of the main reasons I go around Spain! Funny, but trust me, these are just delicious! The unique method of preparing calamari (squid) in Santander, known as Rabas, is something you really must try. The Santander style of serving calamares is battered and cooked with lemon juice. And anyone ever gone wrong with some seafood paella?
Plunge at El Sardinero Beach
El Sardinero draws visitors from all around through its golden sands and pristine waters. El Sardinero would rank among the greatest urban beaches in the world if it were located in Sydney or Rio.
El Sardinero beach embraces two large, golden swathes of sand, each nearly a kilometre long, split by a beautiful lookout point. Spending the day on this golden beach, soaking in the deep blue Atlantic and doing some sun therapy is one of the most incredible things to do in Santander.
Mouth-melting Ice Cream on the Paseo De Pereda Promenade
I recommend going to my favourite place, Monerris Helados, which serves delicious, creamy gelato. My top two picks are the nougat and dark chocolate flavours. Or, get yourself a crazily large and delicious ice cream from Santander favourites Regma (my favourite was raspberry cheesecake); if you are an actual ice cream lover like me, I am sure you’ll love and finish it!
Then head to the lovely Pereda Promenade, the ideal location to enjoy your flavours while basking in the summer sun and seeing how the locals spend their weekends.
I believe in this quote wherever I go, that is, don’t be a tourist, be a traveller!