The capital of Cantabria in Atlantic northern Spain, Santander is a seaside city that still makes a living from fishing, but also has a fin de siècle grace and natural scenery that will blow your socks off.
The beaches are also top-notch, and are right up your alley if you find Spain’s Mediterranean too hot in summer.
This is what brought the Spanish royalty at the start of the 20th century, when King Alfonso XIII picked Santander and its more temperate climate for his summer residence.
Lets explore the best things to do in Santander:
1. Magdalena Park
For much of the city’s history this verdant peninsula at the entrance to Santander Bay was militarised.
In the Napoleonic Wars there was a heavy battle in 1812 between the British and the French for control of this point and the little island of Mouro, visible in the mouth of the bay to the east.
Later the entire peninsula was gifted by the city to King Alfonso XIII at the start of the 20th century pine groves replaced the gun positions and an exquisite park was laid out.
Now it holds big public events like the summer “Santander Music” festival in August, and there’s even a mini-zoo here with seals and penguins.