Santander, the capital of Cantabria, is an elegant city stretched across a wide bay with many stunning beaches.
Surrounded by mountains and countryside, the streets wind up through the hilly landscape to afford fantastic views of the Cantabrian Sea, which supplies the city's restaurants with the fantastic seafood for which Cantabria is renowned. A shopping hub, the best shopping can be found on the Alameda de Oviedo Boulevard, bustling with street vendors, and the stylish and completely pedestrianised Calle Burgos.
Alfonso XIII's summer residence, the splendid Palacio de Magdalena, is built on the beautiful La Magdalena peninsula looking out to sea and is a great place to spend a family day out. Enjoy the greenery of the Jardines de Piquío, which separate the two golden beaches of El Sardinero with glorious views over the beautiful blue sea. These beaches of El Sardinero are Santander's most popular beaches but there are others such as El Rostro, for a more quiet, relaxing experience.
Santander is also a perfect gateway to exploring the Natural Parks of Caberceno, the largest animal park in Europe with lots of space for the animals to roam freely; the stunning mountains of the Picos de Europa; and Parque Natural de las Dunas de Liencres, the largest dune system on the Cantabrian coast. To the north of Santander you'll find some great bird watching opportunities on the steep and rocky coastline whilst to the south, the summit of Peña Cabarga provides astounding views over most of Cantabria.
Other places not to miss are the stunning Gothic cathedral which was restored after a fire in 1941 that destroyed most of the old town, the Romanesque Church of the Holy Christ where the remains of an ancient Roman settlement have been found and the Church of the Annunciation, which is possibly the most beautiful example of Renaissance architecture in the region. The popular entertainment area of El Sardinero, has some great attractions such as the glamorous Gran Casino Sardinero and the modern Palace of Sports stadium, made of striking stainless steel.
Take a stroll around the Fishing Quarter, Barrio Pesquero, and Puerto Chico to find the best restaurants and bars in town, selling succulent fresh fish, with squid a local speciality, and Cantabria's famous mountain stew, cocido montanés, along with traditional tapas. During the day, enjoy an ice cream from one of the many street parlours, selling an array of flavours to help you stay cool in the sun.