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Santander, Cantabria

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After a week in both Bilbao and San Sebastián, I guessed it was time to hit the road and get back on track. I only visited San Sebastián as so many people recommended that I do. That meant I headed East from Bilbao when my plan was always to head West. So thanks everyone for screwing up my meticulously planned adventure. It was time to visit Santander!

Getting To San Sebastián To Santander

So after an about turn, I left San Sebastián this morning, briefly stopping back in Bilbao before boarding the ALSA bus to Santander. Being Easter Sunday it was packed. Next to me was a young lad called Rodrigues, a flight attendant for the Spanish low-cost carrier Volotea who spoke Canadian English… that was very good English with an occasional Canadian-style expletive thrown in! Over the 90-minute journey, he gave me a brilliant insight into the region of Cantabria and Santander.

Where To Stay?

On arrival, I checked in at the lovely Hotel Chiqui at the far end of town. This small welcoming hotel was very nice with an excellent bar, restaurant, immaculate rooms and an infinity pool that afforded views out to the main beach.

I did not hang around at the hotel so headed straight out as I was only here for 24 hours and I wanted to use Rodrigues’s information and discover the town. That idea was thrown into disarray as just yards from my hotel on the city’s signature beach, the Playa del Sardininero, I stumbled across the Red Bull-sponsored Racing Santander Ladies Beach Volleyball Doubles team in action. Six hours later I continued my visit to Santander.

Art To Brighten Up The Day

The weather was overcast so sadly my photos are not so enticing. Perhaps I need local artist Lorea Hoya to spruce them up! Lorea was on the promenade painting a watercolour of the shore. Incredibly by the time I got back to my hotel, her Instagram showed this very painting ready for sale. I do love watching a talented artist at work!

Santander Town

Santander is not as pretty as San Sebastián. It is however rich in cultural and historical heritage and in parts is beautiful. One of the must-visit landmarks in Santander is the breathtaking Magdalena Peninsula. This scenic headland boasts stunning views of the Bay of Santander and is home to the majestic Palacio de la Magdalena, a former royal residence turned conference centre. Visitors can explore the palace’s ornate interiors and wander through the surrounding parkland, enjoying picnics amidst lush greenery overlooking the sea.

Centro Bodin

For those seeking a taste of Santander’s rich cultural heritage, a visit to the Centro Botín is highly recommended. This contemporary arts centre, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, hosts a diverse array of exhibitions and events showcasing both local and international artists. With its striking architecture and waterfront location, the Centro Botín serves as a cultural hub where visitors can immerse themselves in the creative spirit of Santander.

Santander Cuisine

No trip to Santander would be complete without sampling the city’s delectable cuisine. From fresh seafood caught daily in the Bay of Biscay to traditional Cantabrian specialities, such as cocido montañés (a hearty bean stew) and rabas (fried calamari), Santander offers a culinary experience not to be missed. Visitors can dine al fresco at charming seaside cafes along the picturesque waterfront or savour gourmet delights at Michelin-starred restaurants showcasing innovative interpretations of regional dishes.

Santander Beaches

Of course, Santander’s pristine beaches are among its biggest draws, attracting sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts alike. Playa del Sardinero, with its golden sands and azure waters, is the city’s most famous beach, ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and strolls along the promenade. For a more secluded escape, Playa de la Magdalena offers a tranquil retreat surrounded by lush vegetation and rugged cliffs, perfect for unwinding amidst nature’s splendour.

Two great ways to experience the city are via a hop on hop off bus tour or you can go on one of the boat trips that take you around the bay including a view of another key attraction, the Cabo Mayor and Parque de Matalenas which is home to a lighthouse as well as a beach, children’s adventure playground and golf.

Santander Royalty

Given the size of the city and the fact my hotel was at the far end of town, I took a taxi back. This happened to be none other than Manuel who in his eighties, is still working in town after a lifetime offering a VIP taxi service to the stars. In 1986 he worked in London and picked up Princess Margaret from Kensington Gardens no less.

I loved Manuel – we played Louis Armstrong’s Mack the Knife (one of my faves) on the journey back and he gave a little dance on the steps of the hotel insisting he had his pic for Instagram in front of his new Mercedes. People like this are few and far between these days. God love them!

Pre-bookable Excursions


With its wealth of attractions and natural beauty, Santander promises an unforgettable holiday experience for travellers seeking adventure, relaxation, and cultural discovery on Spain’s enchanting northern coast.

I am pleased I visited not least for the volleyball action and to meet Manuel but I am also glad to be moving on this morning to a place none of the locals can give me any information on at all…. this could go very wrong!

For more information on visiting Santander in Northern Spain contact the Cantabria Tourist Office or Visit Spain or contact your local travel agent or tour operator.

All photos were taken by myself and should be credited, if used, to @justonefortheroad 



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