Santander: The Complete Guide

Playa El Sardinero Santander
© Pixabay

Santander is a coastal city and capital of the historic Cantabria region of Spain. It has been a port city since the 11th century and it is still very active with a regular ferry service operating to the United Kingdom. The historical district of the city was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1941, and what is left is far from original or quaint, although you still can find a few charming old houses in Puertochico.   The town makes up for this lack of architectural character with a plethora of bars and restaurants with fish and seafood dominating the local cuisine.

Santander has a good range of things to do and see from the most popular beach, El Sardinero to Cabárceno Natural Park,

History of Santander

Santander, the capital of the Cantabria region in northern Spain, boasts a rich maritime history. Originally a small Roman settlement, it grew significantly in importance during the Middle Ages as a port involved in trade with the Americas. The city was nearly destroyed by a massive fire in 1941, which led to extensive rebuilding, giving Santander its modern appearance with wide boulevards and open squares. Despite this, Santander retains several historic sites, including the Gothic Cathedral of Santander, which was restored after suffering damage in the fire. The city is also famous for the Magdalena Palace, a former royal summer residence that exemplifies early 20th-century architecture.

Visiting Santander for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Santander on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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7 Best places to See in Santander

This complete guide to Santander not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Santander and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Botín Center

Centro Botin, Santander, Sapin
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Tiia Monto
The Botín Center, is a futuristic two-block building, opened to great fanfare in 2017, as an art center, located in the city of Santander.  The building forms part of a larger urban renovation project of the area aimed to establish the city as one of the cultural and leisure capitals of the Bay of Biscay region. […]
Location: Centro Botin Muelle de Albareda Paseo de Pereda, s / n 39004 Santander Cantabria, Spain | Hours: 10am-9pm Tue-Sun Jun-Sep, to 8pm Oct-May | Price: galleries adult/child €8/free | Website | Distance: 8.90km
Visiting Botín Center

Catedral de la Asunción de Santander

Catedral De Santander
CC BY-SA 3.0 / SaraGarc
The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Santander or  Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady is a Gothic cathedral located in the city centre of Santander. The cathedral is in two sections. The lower church,Iglesia del Santísimo Cristo, is from the early 13th century. The upper church is from the 14th and […]
Location: Catedral de Santander Calle Somorrostro, s/n 39002 Santander Cantabria Spain | Hours: 10am-1pm & 4.30-7pm Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm & 5-8pm Sat & Sun | Price: €1 | Distance: 8.90km
Visiting Catedral de la Asunción de Santander

Jardines de Pereda

Jardines De Pereda, Santander
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Jesús Gómez Fernández
The Pereda Gardens are located in Santander on land reclaimed from the sea that was used as a port dock in 1805. The park was officially inaugurated in 1905 coinciding which coincided with the celebration of an Exhibition of Arts and Industries. José María de Pereda The gardens are named after 19th-century Cantabrian writer José […]
Location: Monumento a José María de Pereda 39004 Santander Cantabria Spain | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 9.00km
Visiting Jardines de Pereda

Paseo de Pereda

Cantabria. Santander. Palacete Del Embarcadero. Paseo De Pereda. Spain
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Tomás Fano
Paseo de Pereda is an 800-metre waterfront walkway that stretches between Santander Cathedral and Puertochico . The promenade is lined with some of the most emblematic and beautiful 19th-century buildings of the city that now house bars and restaurants with terraces. The buildings have ashlar walls and are multi-storey and have viewpoints and balconies facing […]
Location: Paseo marítimo de Santander Paseo de Pereda, 27 39004 Santander Cantabria Spain | Hours: 24 Hours | Distance: 9.00km
Visiting Paseo de Pereda

La Magdalena Park

La Magdalena Park
CC BY-SA 3.0 / CeliaDespistada
La Magdalena Park is a park area situated on a headland 3 km east of the center of Santander. It has a large kids’ playground, wooded parkland with beaches, a small zoo with seals, sea lions and penguins, a lighthouse. There are the three caravels here, which are a monument to Félix Rodríguez de la […]
Location: Parque de La Magdalena Calle Familia Real, 8 39005 Santander Cantabria Spain | Hours: 8am-10pm | Price: Free | Distance: 10.10km
Visiting La Magdalena Park

Palacio de la Magdalena

Palacio De La Magdalena, Santander
The Palacio de la Magdalena or Magdalena Palace, is a palace located on the Magdalena Peninsula of the city of Santander, Cantabria, Spain. It is located in the place where the old Fort of San Salvador de Hano was, which protected the entrance to the bay. Built by the architects Javier González Riancho and Gonzalo Bringas […]
Location: Magdalena Av. de la Magdalena, 1E 39005 Santander Cantabria Spain | Hours: Tours hourly 11am-1pm & 4-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-noon Sat & Sun Oct–mid-Jun, 10am-noon Sat & Sun mid-Jun–Sep | Price: Tours €3 | Website | Distance: 10.20km
Visiting Palacio de la Magdalena

Cabo Mayor Lighthouse

Faro De Cabo Mayor
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Tiia Monto
The Lighthouse of Cabo Mayor presides over the entrance to the Bay of Santander and has done so since 1839. In 2001 the lighthouse became completely automated and parts of the tower and the attached buildings were converted to be used as an arts center. Located in the most north-easterly point of the city, surrounding […]
Location: Faro de Cabo Mayor Avenida del Faro Pintor Eduardo Sanz, s/n 39012 Santander Cantabria Spain | Distance: 12.20km
Visiting Cabo Mayor Lighthouse

Best Time to Visit Santander

Summer (June to August): Summer is the ideal time to visit Santander, as the city enjoys warm weather and sunny skies, perfect for enjoying its beautiful beaches and outdoor cafes. This is also when Santander hosts several festivals and events, including the popular Santander International Festival.

Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November): These seasons offer milder weather and fewer tourists, ideal for visitors interested in exploring cultural sites and enjoying nature without the summer crowds. The temperatures are pleasant, perfect for long walks along the coast or through the city’s parks.

Winter (December to February): Winters in Santander are mild compared to other parts of Spain, though it can be rainy. This quiet season is great for those looking to experience the city’s cultural offerings, such as museums and galleries, without the distractions of peak tourist activity.

Each season in Santander offers unique opportunities to explore this coastal city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural settings, making it a worthy destination year-round.

Average Temperatures in Santander

  • January 14°C 16
  • February 15°C 16
  • March 15°C 12
  • April 18°C 11
  • May 20°C 9
  • June 22°C 11
  • July 25°C 5
  • August 25°C 6
  • September 24°C 9
  • October 22°C 10
  • November 17°C 22
  • December 16°C 14

How to get to Santander

By Air: Santander is served by Santander Airport, with flights from major cities in Spain and some international destinations. The airport is located just 5 kilometers from the city center, with easy bus and taxi services available to transport visitors to the heart of the city.

By Train: Santander’s train station connects it to major Spanish cities, including direct routes from Madrid and Bilbao. The journey from Madrid takes about 4 hours, offering a scenic route through the Spanish countryside.

By Bus: Buses to Santander run frequently from cities across Spain. This is often the most economical way to travel, with the bus station centrally located, making it convenient for accessing the city’s main attractions.

By Car: Driving to Santander offers the flexibility to explore the Cantabrian coast at your own pace. The city is well-connected by the Spanish motorway network, with clear routes from Madrid, Bilbao, and other cities.