The capital of Cantabria, the port city of Santander is one of the most beautiful places to explore when vacationing in Spain. Much of the historic architecture which comprised structures made of small stone and wood were destroyed during the Great Fire of 1941, so much of what you will see today has a more modern design. Famous tourist sites that shouldn’t be missed are the Cathedral of Santander, the Lighthouse of Cabo Mayor, El Sardinero Beach, and the Palacio de la Magdalena. Our list also has a great number of restaurants where you can try authentic Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, making it the perfect addition to any trip in Santander.
1.Palacio de la Magdalena
Over 60,000 people visit Palacio de la Magdalena annually and each one of them leave with an amazing and memorable experience that really stands out from their trip to Spain. It is one of the most iconic attractions in Santander and was built in the early 1900s as a home for the Spanish Royal Family. You’ll love exploring the eclectic architecture of the building which combines French, English, and regional styles. Also, keep an eye out for the stables built by Javier Gonzalez de Riancho which emulate a medieval English village. Inside the palace you’ll see numerous works of art, including paintings by renowned artists such as Fernando Alvarex Sotomayor and Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida.
Address: Av. de la Reina Victoria, s/n, 39005 Santander, Cantabria, Spain
2.Museo Marítimo del Cantabrico
© Museos de Cantabria
The Museo Maritimo del Cantabrico, or the Maritime Museum of the Cantabrian Sea, is a Santander museum dedicated to the maritime heritage of the city. The collection was initially formed in the 18th century and has been added to over the years by famed institutions such as the School of Navigation of Santander, the Free Institution of Education, and the Museum of the Royal Shipyard of Guarnizo. You’ll be able to explore the museum’s four main sections: Fisherman and fisheries, Life in the sea, Technological vanguard in front of the city, and the Bay of Biscay and the sea in history.
Address: Av. de Severiano Ballesteros, s/n, 39004 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-27-49-62
© Centro Botín
The Botin Foundation is the brainchild of creators Marcelino Botin and his wife Carmen Yllera, and the Centro Botin is a renowned art center in the heart of Santander. It’s housed in a marvelously building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano; the structure truly stands out as it hovers on columns and is suspended partially over the sea. The constantly evolving exhibitions are sure to attract all sorts of art lovers; some of their current displays include The Reconfigured Landscape, Portraits: Essence and Expression, and The Silent Scream. Thousands on Paper. To make the most of your experience, go on a unique guided tour that will go into detail about the wonderful architecture and exhibitions.
Address: Muelle de Albareda, Paseo de Pereda, s / n, 39004 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-04-71-47
4.Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria
© Museos de Cantabria
The Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria is a wonderful museum that shows the evolution of man all the way from prehistoric times up to the conquest of Cantabria by Augustus Caesar. The exhibits are beautiful and gives visitors a chance to really delve into Cantabria’s rich history. It is recognized as one of the best museums in the area; the displays and the videos are explained in Spanish, French, and English so that all visitors can make the most of their experience. Don’t miss the opportunity to view artistic expressions from rich cultures all over Spain.
Address: Calle Bailén, s/n, 39004 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-20-99-22
The Santander Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary of Santander, is a Roman Catholic place of worship which dates back to the 12th century. The mainly Gothic building complex has been renovated and extended several times over the years, but you can still see some of the original structure. Be sure to allocate enough time to explore the cathedral fully, especially the well-preserved doorways, columns, and the portal with the coat of arms of Castile and Leon. Other aspects also include the beautiful stained glass on the windows and the chapels, especially the first one by Fernando Herrera Calderon which dates back to 1624.
Address: Calle Somorrostro, s/n, 39002 Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Found along the north coast of Spain, the Magdalena Peninsula can be found near the entrance to the Bay of Santander. It stretches for nearly 70 acres and is a popular recreational destination for both locals and tourists. You’ll find many things to see and do on the peninsula, including the cultural heritage site, Palacio de la Magdalena which is also on our list. Other aspects include two stunning swimming beaches, a small zoo, a lighthouse, and gorgeous gardens near the palace. You can spend your time sunbathing or taking a dip on the beach, enjoying a picnic in the gardens, or taking the little ones to see the animals at the zoo.
7.Jardines & Paseo de Pereda
© franky 28/stock.adobe.com
Named after the 19th century Cantabrian writer Jose Maria de Pereda, the Jardines & Paseo de Pereda park in Santander is a great family friendly attraction for visitors in the area. You’ll be able to see sculptures and paintings resembling scenes from the author’s work; for example, the mountain life sculptures in bronze and stone are from his seminal works Escenas Montanesas. Other places you can explore within the park include the Puerto Chico marina and the bayside promenade winding through the gardens. Architecture aficionados will enjoy seeing the stunning buildings with its unique architecture and glassed-in balconies.
8.Faro de Cabo Mayor
The Faro de Cabo Mayor, or the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse, is one of the most iconic examples of Santander’s civil architecture. The first attempt to build the lighthouse dates back to 1778 but it wasn’t lit for the first time until 1839. Today, visitors can find the lighthouse at the entrance to Santander Bay; the exemplary structure is one of the area’s best kept secrets. The breathtaking views alone are worth the visit so be sure to take your camera along. You’ll be able to explore the staggering 30-meter-high tower, the lush green space, and the museum complex along with the exhibition halls while you’re there.
Address: Faro Cabo Mayor, 21, 39012 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-20-36-48
9.Mercado de la Esperanza
© Anibal Trejo/stock.adobe.com
The Mercado de la Esperanza is housed in an iconic building that was designed in 1897 and is now a prime example of well-preserved 19th century iron architecture. Today, the structure is a declared historical-artistic monument, but what you’re really there to see is the amazing market housed within in. The market is mostly dedicated to food and is the largest of its kind in all of Cantabria. On the main floor, you’ll find an expansive array of seafood and fish, much of which were freshly caught that very morning. On the upper floors, visitors will find other meat products, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
Address: Mercado de la Esperanza, Plaza de la Esperanza, s/n, 39002 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-20-30-87
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10.Restaurante El Serbal
© Restaurante El Serbal
The Restaurante El Serbal is a Michelin star dining establishment that was created in 1999 in one of Santander’s most vibrant neighborhoods, Puertochico. It quickly grew to fame and became renowned for transforming fresh products which are locally sourced into flavorful culinary concoctions. Some of their most creative dishes include the flambeado and the steak tartare. One of the restaurant’s most prominent features is its extensive winery which has over 500 local and international varietals, so be sure to pair your meal perfectly for an overall amazing dining experience. The delicious food, wonderful service, and memorable experience will be one of the best things you remember about your trip to Spain.
Address: Calle Andrés del Río, 7, 39004 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-22-25-15
Canadio offers a dining experience unlike anything else you will come across in Santander, Spain. The restaurant prides itself on its professional and enthusiastic staff who all work together seamlessly to create unique culinary concoctions that are unlike any other. Patrons come from far and wide to enjoy the delicious meals from their Santander kitchen. Their menu comprises cold and hot starters, fish and seafood dishes, meat dishes, and vegetarian entrees as well. Popular choices patrons love includes the milk veal chowder with truffle puree, the sirloin with potato and foie cream, and the monkfish with mussels sauce and shrimp.
Address: Gómez Oreña, 15 (Plaza Cañadío), 39003 Santander, Phone: +34-942-31-41-49
12.Bodega del Riojano
© Bodega del Riojano
Just a short walk away from the Palacio Real de La Magdalena, Bodega del Riojano is an upscale dining establishment that offers a delicious array of Mediterranean, Spanish, and European cuisine. The restaurant is revered by locals and visitors alike, all of whom rave about not only the food but also the amazing atmosphere and the impeccable service. Patrons with any dietary restrictions or those who prefer vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options will be glad to see so many different choices on their extensive menu. Dishes from their menu that are definitely worth trying are the tuna tataki, ravioli with oxtail, and their famous croquettes.
Address: Calle Río de la Pila, 5, 39003 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-21-67-50
13.Restaurante La Ventana
If you’re looking to have an authentic Mediterranean and/ or Spanish meal during your trip to Santander, then there’s no better place to visit than Restaurante La Ventana. One of the more upscale dining establishments in the neighborhood, it’s a great place for a romantic meal with your significant other or an intimate get together with friends or family. La Ventana has a number of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options on their menu along with an array of meat and seafood entrees. Some of the items that shouldn’t be missed are the seafood-stuffed merluza, the bonito tataki, and the vegetarian paella.
Address: Calle el Somo, 114, 39012 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-33-70-35
© Cadelo Restaurante
Specializing in fusion cuisine which combines the best of Mediterranean, Spanish, and European cuisine, Cadela Restaurante can be found just a mile away from the Palacio Real de La Magdalena. The dining establishment is renowned by their patrons and rates extremely high not only with their food, but also value, service, and atmosphere. You can choose from an array of meat, seafood, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. People come from far and wide to have a friendly, relaxed meal; popular options include the zamburinas, which is a rich dish of queen scallops, lasagna made with the house sauce, and some of the best chicken wings in the area.
Address: Calle Río de la Pila, 18, 39003 Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Phone: +34-942-22-10-51
After a day of sightseeing and exploring attractions such as the Palacio Real de La Magdalena, Restaurante Vors is the perfect stop for authentic European, Mediterranean, and fusion cuisine. The boutique restaurant has won several awards over the years for its cuisine, service, and atmosphere. If the weather is nice out, then enjoy your meal on the charming terrace, but if you’re looking for a more romantic ambiance then pick a spot indoors. Patrons often rave about the fresh and extremely well prepared seafood, steak tartare, the seafood lasagna, and the grilled sea bass. Be sure to pair your meal with one of their famous cocktails or one of their mouthwatering homemade desserts.
Address: Calle Castelar 5 Bajo Dcha, Zona de Puerto Chico, 39004 Santander, Spain, Phone: +34-942-22-39-75
© Vermuteria Solorzano
Located right in the heart of the city, Vermuteria Solorzano is a wonderful dining establishment for visitors to have an authentic tapas dining experience. Everything from the restaurant’s decor to the carefully-chosen items on the menu focus on being more traditional so that visitors can enjoy a bonafide dinner during their trip to Santander. Some of the most favored items on the menu include their snails and mussels in their special house-made sauce, rabas, and an array of tapas that is sure to please even the most particular palate. Be sure to pair your meal with a nice glass of vermouth, which is also a popular patron favorite.
Address: Calle Peña Herbosa, 17, Santander, Cantabria, Phone: +34-942-21-85-63
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© Gregory Lee/stock.adobe.com
Famed for their menu of over 300 pinchos, Casa Lita is a popular dining spot with both locals and visitors. You can choose between hot or cold, and with your choice of Iberian sausages, cheeses, asparagus, and other toppings to make your pincho your very own. The restaurant has been around since 2003 and has gained immense fame for the gastronomic adventure they take patrons on. It is the best place for you to feast on Spanish cuisine in its most traditional form. So, grab a couple of friends and head over to the Casa Lita Pinchos Bar for a culinary journey that is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip.
Address: Paseo Pereda, 37, 39004, Santander - Cantabria (Spain), Phone: +34-942-36-48-30
18.Taberna El Machi
© Taberna El Machi
Taberna El Machi is the oldest fishing tavern in Santander and is renowned for its delicious array of fish and seafood. All of their fish is sourced from local fisherman and is guaranteed to be of utmost freshness. The tavern has a fish display on ice to showcase the most recent catches, and you can choose what you’d like and how you like it cooked. Some of their most popular dishes include baked sea bass, scorpion fish pie, Russian salad, the potato omelet and much more. Patrons who aren’t in the mood for fish or seafood can opt for a burger, beef taquitos, or organic veal meatballs from their varied menu.
Address: Calle Calderón de la Barca, 9, 39002 Santander, Cantabria, Phone: +34-942-21-87-22
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18 Best Things to Do in Santander, Spain
- Palacio de la Magdalena, Photo: beyo_pl/stock.adobe.com
- Museo Marítimo del Cantabrico, Photo: Museos de Cantabria
- Centro Botín, Photo: Centro Botín
- Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria, Photo: Museos de Cantabria
- Santander Cathedral, Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com
- Magdalena Peninsula, Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com
- Jardines & Paseo de Pereda, Photo: franky 28/stock.adobe.com
- Faro de Cabo Mayor, Photo: RuslanKphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Mercado de la Esperanza, Photo: Anibal Trejo/stock.adobe.com
- Restaurante El Serbal, Photo: Restaurante El Serbal
- CANADIO, Photo: CANADIO
- Bodega del Riojano, Photo: Bodega del Riojano
- Restaurante La Ventana, Photo: Ivan/stock.adobe.com
- Cadelo Restaurante, Photo: Cadelo Restaurante
- Restaurante Vors, Photo: Kalim/stock.adobe.com
- Vermuteria Solorzano, Photo: Vermuteria Solorzano
- Casa Lita, Photo: Gregory Lee/stock.adobe.com
- Taberna El Machi, Photo: Taberna El Machi
- Cover Photo: carloscastilla/stock.adobe.com