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Views of Santander and the Magdalena Palace from El Puntal beach

Santander, in full sail


A city all about the bay

The seafront promenade of Santander (Cantabria) has enough attractions in itself to merit a visit, especially since the bay, considered one of the most beautiful in the world, hosted the Sailing World Championships in 2014. This city is ideal if you’re looking to spend a few days gazing at beautiful scenery, relaxing by the sea and eating well, and also boasts a recent work by the architect Renzo Piano: the Botín Centre. Nearly at the other end of the esplanade is another impressive building: La Magdalena Palace, on a deep green spit of land surrounded by the Cantabrian Sea.

La Duna and the Botín Centre

As soon as you arrive in Santander you will notice that the bay is central to the city and its inhabitants. The restructuring of the seafront esplanade has led to modern constructions like the Duna Escalonada. Designed by Alejandro Zaera, this is a stepped amphitheatre structure, ideal for sitting and looking out at the bay, and perhaps one of the many international sporting events hosted by the city, or the traditional traineras (a type of rowing boat originating on the northern coast of Spain). The Botín Centre, on the other hand, represents a new era. As well as giving the city considerable cultural importance, the building by Renzo Piano has led to the modernisation of the area of the Pereda Gardens and around the ferry terminal. Clad with 270,000 pearlised ceramic discs which reflect the light, the Botín Centre has two exhibition galleries, an auditorium, lecture halls, and an haute cuisine tavern.

Photos of the Botín Centre

Special beaches like El Puntal

The charms of this small, quiet city include several fine sand beaches. As well as El Sardinero, La Concha, Mataleñas, El Camello and Los Peligros there is a special beach the locals keep a little quiet about. This is El Puntal, a long sandbank on the other side of the bay, which you can reach by sea (a transport service runs every 15 minutes in summer) or walk from the nearby village of Somo (which you can reach by sea or road). If your visit happens to coincide with the entrance of a ferry from England in the bay, navigating around Isla de Mouro with the Peninsula of La Magdalena in the background, there is a striking optical illusion of being almost close enough to touch the ship from this unspoiled beach. We recommend combining an appetiser beside the sea with a stroll along any of Santander’s beaches to enjoy the absolute calm of this town on Spain’s northern coast.   

First El Sardinero Beach, Santander

From Barrio Pesquero to La Magdalena

Barrio Pesquero is one of the most authentic parts of the city. Alongside the old sailors’ houses and the docks where the fishing boats unload their catch, you can find the most traditional cuisine of the region. The simple setting is made up for by the good quality of the fish of the day, fresh from the market, and the delicious platefuls of rabas (battered squid).From the everyday to the grand. The marina, the yachts in Puertochico, the marble of the Palacio de Festivales, the luxury of the casino, and finally, the Peninsula of La Magdalena. On the highest point of this beautiful natural space, home to sea lions (and even penguins!) is a palace built in 1911, in a mixture of British and French styles, which was the summer residence of the Spanish royal family. These days, as well as hosting conferences, weddings and other events, it holds the popular summer school courses of Menéndez Pelayo International University. Every summer, distinguished academic and political figures come to this institution and galvanise the cultural life of Santander.

Magdalena palace, Santander

Cliffs and golf at Mataleñas

As well as being home to poets in love with its bay (attested by monuments to José Hierro or “Pick” and José María de Pereda), the city has a special connection with sports, especially golf, thanks to one of the most internationally successful players, Severiano Ballesteros, who was born in the nearby village of Pedreña. Golfers can play in the idyllic setting of Mataleñas, where as well as the golf course there is a simple path along the cliff tops, leading to the Cabo Mayor lighthouse. There you can enjoy a magnificent view, and it will always be sunny, as long as the wind is blowing from the north-east - or so they say. Good luck!

Mataleñas beach and golf course, Santander
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