Santander Tourist Attractions

La MagdalenaLa Magdalena

The port of Santander in Old Castile lies in a beautiful bay on the north coast of Spain, ringed by hills and within easy reach of the highest peaks in the Cantabrian Mountains, the Picos de Europa.


Just to the west of the Avenida de Alfonso XIII, on the eastern edge of the old town, stands the Cathedral, originally Gothic (13th century), which was restored after the fire. In its large crypt, the Iglesia del Cristo (c. 1200), are the remains of two martyred saints, Celedonius and Emeterius. In the cloister (rebuilt) is the tomb of the Santander-born writer and scholar Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo (1856-1912).


To the east and southwest of the Avenida de Alfonso XIII, extending along the Muelle de Maliaño and beyond this to the southwest, is the harbor, with the Custom House and the Marine Station (Estación Marítima). A specially cut channel allows large vessels to enter the industrial harbor of El Astillero, in the south of the bay.

Municipal Museum of Art

From the Avenida de Alfonso XIII, going west along the Avenida de Calvo Sotelo and turning right into Calle Cervantes and then left into Calle Rubio, we come to the Municipal Museum of Art, which contains a portrait of Ferdinand VII and several etchings by Goya, as well as a rich collection of works by regional artists and Italian, Flemish and Spanish painters of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Address: Calle Rubio 6, E-39007 Santander, Spain

Biblioteca Menéndez y Pelayo

The same building that houses the Municipal Museum of Art also contains the Menéndez y Pelayo Library, the library of 40,000 volumes assembled by the scholar of that name, with his study preserved in its original condition. On the far side of the garden is the house in which Menéndez y Pelayo worked and died, now a museum.
Address: C/ Rubio 6, Spain

Railroad Stations

From the west end of the Avenida de Calvo a tunnel under the hill on which the old town is built leads to the railroad stations.

Museo Marítimo del Cantábrico

From the Avenida de Alfonso XIII the Paseo de Pereda runs east, flanked by beautiful gardens, to the Puerto Chico (Little Harbor). At its east end is the Museo Marítimo del Cantábrico, an interesting museum and aquarium, with preserved specimens of marine fauna, objects and documents illustrating the life of fishermen and ship models.
Address: Calle San Martín de Abajo, E-39004 Santander, Spain

Regional Museum of Prehistory and Archeology

A little way north of the Puerto Chico the Regional Museum of Prehistory and Archeology has a large collection of finds from prehistoric caves, including the so-called ''bâtons de commandement'' made from stags' antlers, the function of which is not known. The collection includes Roman antiquities and some very interesting funerary stelae erected by the pre-Roman Celtic population of the area.
Address: Calle Casimiro Sainz 4, E-39003 Santander, Spain

La Magdalena

Calle Castelar and the Avenida de la Reina Victoria (fine views) continue east from the Paseo de Pereda to the peninsula of La Magdalena, on which is the summer palace of Alfonso XIII (1912), now occupied by Santander's International University.

El Sardinero

On the north side of the peninsula is the beautiful beach of El Sardinero, which still preserves something of the atmosphere of the Belle Epoque with its seafront terraces, and its numerous hotels and restaurants.

Cabo Mayor

3km/2mi north of El Sardinero is the Cabo Mayor, with a lighthouse and the Puente Forado, a large natural bridge in the local limestone rocks.

International Festival

This cultural event, a tradition which began in 1948, features music, dance and theater. It was originally designed as a cultural welcoming for students attending Menéndez Pelayo International University.
Address: Gamazo, E-39004 Santander, Spain

Museum of Fishing and House of Craftsmanship

The museum offers information on fishing and hatcheries, as well as the Cantabrian craftsmanship.
Address: Marqués de la Ensenada 12, Spain

Bullfighting Museum

The museum explores the history of bullfighting.
Address: Jerónimo Sainz de la Maza, Spain


The Planetarium is in the Santander Nautic University.
Address: Gamazo, Spain


Altamira CavesAltamira Caves Graeme Churchard

Altamira Caves

In a hill some 35km/22mi east of Santander and 2km/ 1.5mi from Santillana del Mar on C 6316 are the famous Altamira Caves, with 15,000-year-old Stone Age rock paintings which are without parallel for their representational skill, vivid coloring and excellent state of preservation.

Cave Paintings

The caves were accidentally discovered by a hunter in 1869. They were first explored by an archaeologist, Marcellino Sanz de Sautuola, in 1875, and four years later he discovered the underground chambers containing the paintings. His belief that the paintings were prehistoric was not shared by the learned world of the day, and it was only after the discovery of similar paintings at Font-de-Gaume in southern France in 1901-02 that the authenticity of the Altamira paintings was generally accepted. Most of them are dated to the late Magdalenian period (c. 15,000- 10,000 B.C..), though some more primitive paintings are around 10,000 years older.

Hall of Paintings

Visitors follow the course of an underground river to reach the Sala de Pinturas, the beauty and vivid coloring of which have earned it the style of the "Sistine Chapel of cave art". The ceiling of the chamber, which measures 9 by 18m (30 by 60ft), is covered with paintings of animals, including several bison (one of them over 2m/6-1/2ft high), a red wild horse, a wild boar and a hind. The Stone Age artists used the structure of the rock and the areas of shadow to achieve spatial effect and movement. The predominant colors are red, ochre and brown, obtained by the use of minerals mixed with water. The pigments were applied with a finger or a stick, or directly by rubbing the minerals on the rock. The outlines of the animals are drawn in charcoal. Some of the paintings have been damaged by the cracking or erosion of the rock.

Altamira Caves Museum

The Museum, housed in three pavilions near the caves, can be visited without prior application. It contains a variety of Stone Age material and has displays illustrating the life of Stone Age man. Particularly interesting is the third pavilion, which shows a video film on the paintings and illustrates Stone Age burial practices; one remarkable exhibit is the remains of a Palaeolithic man enclosed in a block of transparent plastic.

Stalactitic Cave

To the left of the Museum a narrow path leads through a fence to a stalactitic cave discovered some years ago which has some very fine stalagmites. The cave, like the Museum, can be visited without prior reservation.
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