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.
Santander was a considerable port in Roman times, and is still one of the leading ports of northern Spain, handling a large export and import trade. In the Middle Ages it shipped the agricultural produce of Castile, and from the 16th to the 19th century it was involved in the American trade, particularly in the export of flour. Nowadays its economic importance depends on the export of ore and coal and on the industry which has been attracted by the port. Its beautiful beach and mild climate also make Santander a popular holiday place - a tradition which began in the 19th century when it became a fashionable bathing resort and a summer residence of the Spanish royal family; and with the summer courses run by its University and its International Festival of music and drama Santander is also one of Spain's cultural metropolises.
After a great fire which destroyed forty streets in the city center on the night of February 15th-16th 1941 the area was rebuilt with wide streets and buildings restricted to a height of five stories. The central feature of Santander is now the broad Avenida de Alfonso XIII, which runs inland from the harbor, crosses the town's main traffic artery, the Avenida de Calvo Sotelo/Paseo de Pereda, and ends in Plaza Porticada.