Get to know the main things to do in Santander in one day, the beautiful capital of Cantabria by the sea.
Santander is one of the most beautiful regional capitals in Spain. Its seaside location gives it that charming touch, with its wide beaches, viewpoints, colourful houses and excellent gastronomy.
Whether you visit the city in summer or winter, you will be surprised by the amount of activities you can do in Santander in one day, whether for children or for those travellers who love culture, history or nature. Let’s discover below all that the capital of Cantabria has to offer.
🔝 Check out this article on things to do in Northern Spain with kids.
📜 TABLE OF CONTENTS
Map of places to visit in Santander in one day
1) Sardinero Beach, the best known beach in Santander
The extensive Sardinero beach is the most renowned in the city. It stretches for more than a kilometre, from the Hotel Chiqui to the beginning of the Magdalena Peninsula. In reality, there are several beaches in one, but you won’t even realise it when you walk around the place.
In front of the Sardinero beach there are many green spaces to rest, such as the Doctor Mesones Park. One of the most beautiful places are the gardens of Piquío, a natural space adorned with flowers and benches to sit on. From here the views of the beach and the Bay of Biscay are truly fascinating.
📷 Visit the main attractions of the city with the Santander tourist bus. You can hop on and off as many times as you like!
2) Cabo Mayor Lighthouse and views of the Bay of Biscay
Built at the beginning of the 19th century, the Cabo Mayor lighthouse is one of the symbols of Santander. Its location could not be better, on the shores of the Bay of Biscay and in the cliffs area, is ideal for contemplate the sunset, to start a hiking route along the Senda Litoral, or simply to sitting in the next bar to have a bite to eat while listening to the sea waves crashing on the cliffs.
Inside the lighthouse there is a small exhibition hall with the lighthouse as its main theme. For children, the Forestal Park Santander with zip lines in the middle of nature is just a short walk from the lighthouse.
💯 To the right of the lighthouse begins a path along the cliffs by the sea that is well worth the walk.
3) Mataleñas Beach, a natural swimming pool
It is probably the most beautiful beach in Santander and rightly so. Mataleñas beach is a natural cove with fine sand and a water colour between turquoise and deep blue, which will surely make you fall in love with it. Although you have to go down some steep stairs to get there, the reward is a real paradise.
As it is a cove, the sea water has practically no waves, which allows you to enjoy bathing as if it were a swimming pool, ideal for children. Next to it is the Mataleñas park, a natural space with lots of greenery, a pond with ducks and a children’s playground with beautiful views.
💯 We advise you to go to Mataleñas beach at low tide. The difference in sea level between low and high tide is considerable. If you visit at high tide there is less space on the sand and more crowds.
4) The promenade in Santander
A stroll along the Paseo de Pereda is one of the things you have to do in Santander in a day. You can start from the Tourist Office, passing through the emblematic Palacete del Embarcadero, which houses an exhibition hall, until you reach the marina.
Along the way you will meet the curious statues of the Raqueros, mythical characters of Santander in the 19th and 20th century, who dived into the sea to collect the coins thrown to them by curious onlookers.. To round off the walk, relax at the Duna de Zaeraat the end of the marina, a corner for contemplating the Santander Bay at sunset.
💯 For fresh fish, we recommend the Posada Del Mar Restaurant, opposite the marina. Excellent dishes and homemade desserts.
📷 Book a boat trip in the bay of Santander and see the city from the sea.
5) Maritime Museum of the Cantabrian Sea
An ideal things to do in Santander with children is a visit to the Cantabrian Maritime Museum, especially on rainy days. The complex is not large, so it can easily be toured in half a day. Its facilities include an aquarium with a wide variety of marine species, life-size cetacean skeletons and an entire floor dedicated to the first fishermen, their traditions and clothing.
📌 Admission to the Cantabrian Maritime Museum: 8 euros for adults and 5 euros for children from 5 to 12 years old. Children under the age of five are admitted free of charge. On Sundays after 2 p.m. access to the museum is free of charge. In all cases you must make a reservation in advance to be able to enter through the official website.
6) Magdalena Palace, a must-do in Santander in one day
The Magdalena Palace is in the heart of the peninsula of the same name, to the right of the Sardinero beach. At the top of the hill and surrounded by a large park with playgrounds for children, it is one of the jewels to visit in Santander in one day. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, it was the official summer residence of King Alfonso XIII and has beautiful rooms and compartments inside.
Among the many sites to see on the Magdalena peninsula are the Man and Sea Museum, with small boats on display in the open air, the Magdalena Marine Park, the old royal jetty and the familiar Bikini Beach.
You can reach the Magdalena Palace by car or on foot from the Sardinero beach. In high season we recommend you to do it on foot or with the tourist train that goes up the hill and leaves you at the palace gates.
📌 To visit the Magdalena Palace: you must make a reservation by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, indicating name, ID number, date of the visit, number of people and telephone number. It is advisable to book 72 hours in advance.
7) The historic centre of Santander and the Cathedral, a return to the past
Santander suffered a major fire in 1941 that devastated many of the historic buildings in the city centre. Many of these buildings were rebuilt, but some were lost.
Among the most emblematic places to see in the historic centre is Santander Cathedral, built between the 12th and 13th centuries. It is actually two churches in one, the older one is small. Its Gothic style is very marked with the cloister as one of the central protagonists.
The arcaded square is another symbol of the historic centre. In truth, it is not so historic, because it was built in 1950, after the great fire. Below the arcaded square are the remains of the medieval city walls. Next door you can visit the Civil War air-raid shelter. If you are interested in museums, the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria is another interesting place to visit in Santander in one day.
8) Rio de la Pila Funicular and its viewpoint
The funicular covers a short 50-metre route that crosses a difference in height and connects the upper and lower parts of Santander. It is free to use and, although it has no tourist purpose, it is the means of elevation that reaches the Rio de la Pila viewpoint.
The viewpoint has one of the best views of the centre of Santander against the backdrop of the bay.
9) The Botín Centre, things to do in Santander in one day
When it comes to eye-catching, modern buildings, the Botín Centre takes all the prizes. With its avant-garde architecture on the shores of the bay, it houses temporary art exhibitions. It also has a cafeteria with wonderful views.
The Botín Centre is surrounded by the Pereda Gardens, where the monument to the fire and reconstruction of Santander is located.
💯 Do you want to have nice views of the bay of Santander? On the rooftop terrace of the Botín Centre there is a viewing platform with free access. Don’t miss it!
Practical information for visit Santander in 1 day
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🚑 Take a look at these tips for choosing the best travel insurance (updated to 2023 and with juicy discounts) for the type of traveller you are, and they will also help you clear up the most common doubts. Travel safe!
– Where to stay in Santander
Santander has plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets scattered around the city. Our recommendations for where to stay in Santander are as follows:
- Hotel Chiqui: modern, in front of the Sardinero beach. Stunning views from the rooms, infinity pool and modern style.
- Silken Coliseum: in the heart of the historic centre, it occupies the site of what used to be an old cinema. Spacious and comfortable rooms.
- Santander Central Hostel: if you are backpacking, it is one of the most reputable hostels in Santander. Shared rooms and kitchen, common areas, good cleanliness and library.
🏨 Find here the best hotels in Santander.
And if the plan is to stay in a place further away from the city, we leave you with these options of rural houses:
🔝 Take a look at this article about Rural Houses in Asturias and Cantabria.
– How to get to Santander
As well as arriving by car from anywhere in Spain, other ways to get there are:
- By plane: Seve Ballesteros-Santander airport is only 5 km from the city centre and receives both national and international flights. Another possibility is to travel to Bilbao airport, which is only an hour’s drive away.
📷 Book your transfer from the airport to your hotel in Santander here.
- By train: if you choose this means of transport, you will see that it arrives right in the centre of Santander, next to the Plaza Porticada and the Botín Palace. There are two lines that connect it with the rest of the Spanish cities: one is the Renfe, which connects it with more distant cities such as Madrid, and the Feve, which connects it with other cities on the Cantabrian coast, such as Bilbao and Oviedo.
🚊 Buy here your train tickets to travel in Europe.
You can also get to Santander with your Interrail or Eurail pass!
🚊 Buy your Interrail and Eurail pass! This pass is a train ticket with which you can travel on almost all trains in Europe. With it you have access to 40 rail and ferry companies in 33 countries. Absolute freedom to discover Europe at your own rhythm. See our Interrail and Eurail Guide here.
- Buy Interrail Pass here (for those with residence in Europe)
- Buy Eurail Pass here (for those NOT residing in Europe)
- By bus: The station is next to the train station, so you can arrive and leave to explore Santander in one day.
- Ferries: And yes, you can also arrive or leave Santander by ferry. Although it crosses into Ireland and the UK, it does not go to other parts of Spain.
🚢 Search here for ferry tickets with OMIO, buy yours and travel!
Discounts and useful resources to save on your trip
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- Interrail Pass
- Eurail Pass
- Train Tickets with OMIO
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- Ferry tickets with OMIO
- Asia tickets with 12Go
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