Santander, the capital of Spain's Cantabria region in Northern Spain, is blessed with beauty. This beautiful Spanish town provides a great base for touring the highest points of Europe.
The city's location, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, forced it to develop in a peculiarly elongated manner along the northern rim of the bay which opens out onto the Cantabrian Sea.
There are two distinct sections to the city of Santander- the busy commercial centre where you'll find the majority of shops, historic buildings and tourist attractions and the beach resort of El Sardinero which is home to the city's classiest suburbs, the former royal palace and the casino.
City lovers interested in history, architecture, culture or simply the discovery of what lies beyond the harbour of one of Spain's major ports will not be disappointed in Santander.
With many historical buildings in the city such as the Cathedral, the Palacio de Pronillo and the Edificio del Banco de Espana as well as many galleries and museums, such as the Galeria El Cantil, the Museo Tarino and the Museo de Bellas Artes, even the most seasoned traveller will be spoilt for choice. Unfortunately, due to a fire in 1941, Santander is missing a very old section of the town. The town lost much of its city center for ever and with it a great deal of ancient heritage.
The Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay, where Santander is situated, is undoubtedly one of the city's most recognizable icons. Its calm water changes colour depending on the wind which creates an almost magical ambience. From the bay visitors can also take in the Barrio Pesquero, a fisherman's area lined with gritty taverns and earthy restaurants.
Farther along is a street called the Paseo de Pereda, locale of Pereda Gardens and known as the 'lungs of the city'.
Reina Victoria (Quen Victoria), Santander's main avenue and among the most beautiful maritime avenues in Spain, takes visitors to the Magdalena Peninsula, home to the English-style Magdalena Royal Palace.
For the more adventurous, the best way to get an orientation of the city is to board one of the bay's sightseeing motorboats and take a trip to the lighthouse of Cabo Mayor, located on high, steep cliffs. The bay also hosts The International Festival Hall of Santander, a modern, box-like building that has the capacity to drop a wall and open itself to the bay for performances held beneath the stars and night sky.
Some of Spain's most talked-about sites are right on Santander's doorstep. For instance, in Bilbao, in the Basque region - you can take a day trip to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and sample the famous local tapas called pintxos. Not far from Santander is the town of Santillana del Mar, a romantic medieval town and one of the best preserved in Europe. Here you can also visit one of the highest mountains in Europe, the Picos de Europa, which soar more than 7,500 feet to its rugged peak. This is just a three-hour drive from Santander and along the way there are numerous villages to visit, breathtaking gorges to see and tiny inns at which to dine and relax.
In the early part of the 20th century King Alfonso XIII chose this part of the Cantabrian coast as his summer retreat and many fine buildings sprung up to accommodate the needs of the aristocracy and court officials who followed the King and Queen.
Modern day tourist attractions include two zoos, a planetarium, several good museums and a dynamic arts centre which hosts various cultural events throughout the year and is the venue for Santander's major international festival in August.