Santander is a port city and capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria, situated on the north coast of Spain. Several beaches and harbours limit the city on its northern side, while a number of mountains and the city's Old Quarter are located in its southern side. Santander has become a popular tourist destination.
Places of Interest in Santander
This seasde city has a lot to offer tourists, such as excellent beaches, interesting museums and monuments and beautiful parks and gardens. The Sardinero beaches are situated in the northern part of Santander. They are divided into two parts, separted by the Piquio gardens. During the 19th century, the area was developed as the new tourist centre of the city and, today, it is a popular beach resort. Other beaches in the city include the Peligros beach, close to Reina Victoria avenue; Bikinis beach and Magdalena beach, beside the Magdalena peninsula; and the beach of Molinucos and Matale├▒as, close to the Cabo Mayor lighthouse.
Other popular tourist attractions include the Santander Cathedral ("Nuestra Se├▒ora de la Asunci├│n"), which is located in the city centre. Most of the building was destroyed in a fire in 1941, but was subsequently rebuilt. It is one of the oldest building in Santander, dating back to the 13th century. Especially worth seeing are its gothic cloister, the crypt of "el Cristo", and the tomb of Marcelino Men├ęndez Pelayo.
Also well worth a visit are the famous Magdalena gardens, which are located on the "La Magdalena" peninsula in the bay of Santander. The Royal Palace of the Magdalena is also located here. The palace was built by Gonz├ílez de Riancho and Gonzalo Bringas as a residence for kings and queens who came to spend the summer in the city. There is also a small zoo in the Magdalena park. The palace and its gardens were declared a Cultural Heritage Site in 1982.
Other places of interest include the Gran Casino del Sardinero, completed in 1916, and the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse, which is located at the entrance to Santander Bay on the headlands of Cabo Mayor and Cabo Menor. These headlands also contain a public park, golf course and campsites.
There are also a number of interesting museums within the city, such as The Regional Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria, with exhibits about the Paleolithic period, and the highly acclaimed Maritime Museum of Cantabria, which contains a series of aquariums with large rays, turtles and even sharks.
As Santander is located between the sea and mountains, its typical cuisine is a mixture of seafood dishes and more heart mountain fare. Popular seafood dishes include: rabas (fried squid), bocartes rebozados (whitebait) and fresh shellfish. Cocido monta├▒es (a stew made of beans, meat and cabbage) is another popular dish, and wild boar and venison are often found on the menu. Traditional desserts include: quesada (cheesecake), corbatas (puff pastry cakes) and sabaos pasiegos (sponge cakes). The Mistela sweet wine and Orujo de Li├ębana are both popular drinks made in the region.
Festivals and events in Santander
The city of santander hosts a number of events and festivals throughout the year, particularly during the summer months, many of which are of tourist interest. Some of the main festivals and events include: Cantabria Child Day, celebrated on the first Sunday of June; Pentecost Monday and the Fiestas de la Virgen del Mar; The bonfires of Saint John, celebrated on 24th June in order to mark the beginning of summer; The Festivals of Saint James, celebrated on 25th July; The Feasts of the Holy Martyrs, celebrated on 30th August; and the Fiestas de la Virgen de la Bien Aparecida, celebrated on 15th September.
One of the largest festivals in Santander is the city's International Festival, which is celebrated in late July through to late August. The Cantabrian people use the festival as a chace to celebrate their cultural heritage through music, dance and the arts.
A brief history of Santander
The history of Santander and Cantabria dates back to ancient times, as a number of prehistoric cave paintings have been found in Altamira, in the town of Santillana del Mar. A number artistic remains from the Palaeolithic times have also been found. Cantabria was one of the last regions in Spain to be controlled by the Romans and so Santander does not retain much evidence of Roman influence. However, the Romans established an important harbour in Santander, which was the origin of the current city. The Visigoths founded the Duchy of Cantabria in the area in the year 574. However, during the Middle Ages, part of Cantabria belonged to Castile and another part belonged to Asturias. Santander was an important port for Castile in the late Middle Ages and was also used for trade with the New World.
Santander officially became a city in 1755 and in 1983, the Spanish "province" of Santander became the autonomous region of Cantabria. The city's prestige as a summer beach resort was increased in the early 1900s when the city became the favoured summer residence of King Alfonso XIII, who built the Magdalena Palace as the residence of the royal family during the holidays. One of the saddest dates in the city's history was as recent as 1941, when a huge fire destroyed many of the buildings, including almost all of the medieval city centre. However, Santander remains a charming, modern city and popular summer holiday destination.