Visiting a new city? Don’t know what to do first? This Top Ten will take you through places that might not necessarily be on the average city tour, but are definitely somewhere you should visit. If you’ve only got a few days or a whole week, these suggestions will show you the very best (and often hidden) places to visit in the city.
The capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria, Santander is home to approximately 180,000 people. Banco Santander (Bank of Santander) was formed in 1857 and the original building still stands proud in the city centre. The city is a popular destination for those wanting to explore the North of Spain as connections from the UK are very frequent (flights from London Stansted and Edinburgh everyday in high season and ferries from Portsmouth three times a week). Aside from being an absolutely stunning city, the inhabitants are so welcoming and it is relatively untouched by the tourist trade, allowing for a completely authentic Spanish experience.
1. Palacio de la Magdalena, Magdalena Palace
Inspired by British architecture, it was built in 1908 for the British wife of the then Spanish King Alfonso VIII . It was private property until it was bought by the city in the 1970s and opened up for the public to enjoy. There is a guided tour of the palace available every day, however only in Spanish. The peninsula is only accessible by one road which leads to an amazing beach and enclosures with sea lions and penguins (once the private mini-zoo of the Royal Family!).
Find out more here: http://palaciomagdalena.com/
2. Cabo de Faro, Faro Lighthouse
Giving views of the city and Cantabrian coastline, the area surrounding lighthouse is one of the best places to see the east of the city from. Walking along the path to the tip of the headland, you can see the enormity of El Sardinero beach and even the Palacio de la Magdalena in the distance. There is free entry into an art gallery but getting to the top of the lighthouse is prohibited.
Find out more here: http://www.puertosantander.es/farocabomayor/esp/2_1.html
3. Bodega La Conveniente, Calle de Gómez Oreña 9
This quaint tapas bar is the hidden gem of Santander! Founded in 1901, it has the original cobbles, a select (but delicious) menu of locally sourced foods and every wall is lined with wines. It is very popular with locals so its best to go when it opens (around 8pm) as you can’t make reservations.
4. El Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno, Cabárceno Natural Park
(11 miles from Santander but too good to leave out!)
Located in a former quarry there is around 2,000 acres of wildlife from all over the world. Lions, zebras, monkeys, hippos, sea lions and many many more! There are around 20km of roads within the park to allow you to explore at your own pace. Check out the sea lion or bird shows!
Price: around 25€ pppd but there are also yearly passes from 45€
Find out more here: http://www.parquedecabarceno.com/inicio
5. Plaza Porticada/Plaza Pombo
These two squares are in the heart of city centre, a stones throw from the main shopping street or the main promenade with views of the bay of Santander. Plaza Porticada is architecturally impressive as well as being surrounded by streets full of shops selling everything from fur coats to diamonds. Plaza Pombo and the surrounding streets come alive at night, filled with families enjoying meals or groups of friends enjoying drinks.
6. Paseo Pareda
The main promenade in the city is lined with shops on one side and the bay of Santander on the other. Bars and cafes serving tapas, ice creams and everything in between offer views of the beautiful surroundings. Walk from Plaza Porticada to the marina along Paseo Pareda to enjoy chocolate con churros at Valor! If you want to really experience Santander, this stroll and treat is a MUST.
7. Catedral de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Santander
Dating from the 8th century, this gothic-style cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The crypt on the lower floor is free to visit and a donation is required if you want to visit the cloister. Stunning architecture, history and religion all wrapped up in one impressive building!
8. Playa de la Virgen del Mar
A few miles north of the city centre you will find one of the most stunning beaches in Cantabria. This beach is iconic for its island which is only accessible by bridge at high tide. The islands only building is a chapel dating from the 13th century. It was originally used as a pilgrimage site for those lost at sea and in need of shelter.
This is without a doubt the best way to see the city. The journey is only 30 minutes and on clear days you can see for miles with the iconic sights of the city in plain view. Somo itself is a typical beach town, quiet in the winters but heaving in the summer. Numerous surf schools, cafes and bars make it perfect for a day trip to the beach.
Price: 4,85€ return
Find out more here: http://www.losreginas.com/index-i.htm
10. More beaches!
Choose from dozens of beaches all within 20 minutes of the city centre!! Whether you want a wild, rural cove or a white sandy bay there is a beach for you! Just take your pick….
Heladerías Regma is native of Santander and the yummiest ice cream ever! You can find shops on practically every street corner selling all kinds of flavours – hazelnut is my absolute favourites!
Also head to Restaurante Balneario La Magdalena for breathtaking views of the Bay of Santander whilst enjoying the freshest seafood around! Rabas (Cantabrian name for calamari) is highly recommended.
Find out more here: http://www.balneariomagdalena.com
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