A great number of people visit Santander every year. Sadly, the vast majority sit in a queue to board a ferry or drive straight out of town on their arrival in Spain. That’s such a shame as the city has so much to offer if you stay for a night or two.
The view above is the beautiful city of Santander. It’s often missed because you are either settling into your cabin or waiting to get back to your car when you are on the ferry. By walking along the seafront promenade you can get some idea of how stunning the city is, but better still, you can take a boat trip into the bay or to the sandbank beach in the middle, and that way you can make the most of the gorgeous bay. The rather unusual Centro Botín art gallery dominates the scene along the waterfront. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winner architect Renzo Piano, whose works include London’s famous Shard building, it finally opened its doors to the public in 2017 and for €4 you can visit from 10am to 8pm year round with some exceptions. You get an extra hour in the summer. It is closed on Mondays though. No prizes for guessing which day I was there!! It’s not a disaster though as you can still climb the stairs to the rooftop platform and get some great views. The promenade continues all the way to the Maritime Museum which is also closed on Mondays!
As you walk around the city you will no doubt see many statues and sculptures. They are something that fascinates me in every place I go. Santander was no exception. Close to the Club Marítimo are the sculptures of Los Raqueros depicting the boys who used to jump into the water to collect coins thrown by tourists. Further along the promenade is the Festival Palace with its odd looking green facade. In the garden next door is a great statue of a fisherman on his boat. In the gardens around the Centro Botín are several modern art pieces to intrigue you, but the man in the bowler hat near the carousel wheel was my favourite!
A real highlight was a trip up the funicular railway. It may be quite a short journey but your legs will be grateful as you can avoid walking up a very steep hill. It’s only thanks to my friend Pamela, who lives locally, that I knew about this so please take some time to read more about this on her blog. Rather than repeat the information, I’d rather you read her blog as it includes an extensive look at the history of the funicular. As far as free rides go, this one is fantastic because of the views that wait for you at the top, and be sure to glance down at the mural behind you as you go up. There’s not an awful lot more to see once you are up there but find your way to the Restaurante Bar El Mirador and try their tortillas.
So, what else will you see while wandering around? Well, the Santander Arch is impossible to miss. Nearby is the municipal market which is beautiful and contains a few places to eat and drink as well as the tourist information centre. A little out of town but just a short taxi or bus journey away is the Magdalena Palace. This magnificent building can be clearly seen from the water, and you can visit at weekends for just €3. The extensive gardens are beautiful and free to enter.
Food and drink are, of course, plentiful and delicious. Plaza de Cañadio is a great place to start as there are many bars to choose from. The streets are full of restaurants so you’re bound to find something to your taste. We enjoyed some raciones in Bodegas Mazón. The rabas (squid) were a little different to others we’ve had around Spain and had a very earthy flavour but they were delicious nonetheless. The morcilla (black pudding) was to die for! As well as the bars and restaurants, you can take a taste of Cantabria away with you by shopping for tinned seafood in any of a number of shops specialising in this local delicacy.
We stayed for a couple of nights at the Picos de Europa Hotel which is a short walk away from the main sights. It was a nice option as they serve a good breakfast and wonderful evening meals in their restaurant. There are a lot of other eating options around. Closer to the action means higher prices though, but the Abba Santander and the Bahia Hotel are very well located if your budget stretches that bit further.
If you need more information about the city of Santander and its surroundings, Totally Spain Travel have all the information you could possibly need!