Santander is divided into two main areas: the one facing south, its bay, and the Sardinero area, in the east, facing the sea. Santander is full of landscapes: beaches will draw your attention from the very beginning. Some of our favorites are Los Peligros, La Magdalena, El Camello, La Concha, Mataleñas and the first and second beaches of the Sardinero. Thus, we would recommend starting your trip in the Sardinero’s Big Casino (1916).
You shouldn’t miss walking through the Hotel Real (1917), another one of the most symbolic buildings in Santander. However, the Magdalena Palace (1909-1913) is indeed the most emblematic building. It was built to accommodate Alfonso XIII and his family. After the Civil War, the building was granted by the Royal Family to be used as the headquarters of the University Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP), and finally sold to the town hall for a very reduced price. In this area you can find the Bikini Beach, named after the fact that it was this beach the first one where bikinis were worn by foreigners.
You will be amazed by the number of people walking in Santander. One of the most recommended walks is from the lighthouse in Hotel Chiqui to the end of the second beach. Once you go through the Mataleñas beach you will reach the Lighthouse, in Cabo Mayor, where the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse Art Center is located.
Another path that you might want to take is the walk from the Magdalena to the city center via the Reina Victoria Avenue, which was built in the early 20th century and has amazing views of the bay. The Festivals Palace is a bit more modern. Built in 1991, it is an avant-garde pieces that holds the Santander International Festival. Next to it you will find the Cantabrian Maritime Museum (MMC), which introduces you to the museography of the area.
On Castelar street, on the way to Puerto Chico, we recommend the Siboney Building (1931) and the Royal Maritime Club. Next to the club, we find the assembly of sculptures Los Raqueros by J. Cobo Calderón in order to commemorate the humble young people who dived into the water to collect coins thrown to the sea by people.
Inside Puerto Chico, on Tetuán street, you can still see how the fishermen’s houses have been kept, which were not affected by a fire that happened in the area. On the ground floor of those houses, you can enjoy delicious fish and seafood in one of the many restaurants there. This district is becoming a semi-pedestrian populated area now.
If you keep going through the quay heading the center, you will find a row of houses representing the city’s beauty, with big lookouts. There you’ll find the Santander Bank, built at the end of the 19th century. Opposite to the bank, the monument Concha Espina is located in the Pereda Gardens. The Embarcadero Palace, by González de Riancho, is an exhibition center now. The Maritime Station is a few meters away: an area which is under remodeling now in order to build the Botín Center (a new space dedicated to arts).
The Magdalena Palace, headquartes of the UIMP
The oldest building in the city is Christ’s Crypt from the early 13th century. Below the ground you can observe some of the remains of the San Emeterio and San Celedonio Temples. Above the crypt you will find the Cathedral, built in 1941 after the fire. We highlight its Sepulcro de Don Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo inside. Next to the cathedral we can see the Post Office Building that achieved to overcome the fire. In Calvo Sotelo street, we see the famous Porticada Plaza. In the surroudings you will find the Church of the Company of Jesus, a site of Cultural Interest. Nearby, behind the Town Hall Plaza, you will find the Hope Market (1904), a beautiful example of the iron and glass architecture.
Going up via Miguel Artigas street you will arrive at the Menéndez Pelayo Library. This library houses some bibliographical masterpieces such as a copy of the Alfonso X’ Chronicles of the end of the 14th century and the Trojan Chronicle (13th and 14th centuries). The Santander and Cantabrian Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAS) is here as well, which compiles works by Goya, Valdés Leal, Zurbarán, Van Schoor and José Gutiérrez Solana among other artists.
If we go back to the Porticada Plaza and turn to the Hernán Cortés Street, we will find the Botín Foundation, which organizes the most important cultural activities in the city, and the Santander Cultural Center next to the Santa Lucía Church (1852).