Santander is situated west of the Basque Country in the neighbouring region of Cantabria, around 390 km North of Madrid and 115 km North West of Bilbao. A bustling regional capital and a popular holiday resort, Santander offers award-winning sandy beaches, outstanding shopping facilities and a host of restaurants, bars and hotels. Santander ferry port is situated in the centre of town; however, the stunning surrounding countryside and mountains are well worth exploring. Santander provides good road connections to the whole of Spain, Portugal and the South of France, making it an ideal gateway for UK travellers. Brittany Ferries, which has two departures a week to Plymouth, is a regular operator from the port of Santander.
On average 140,000 passengers a year pass through the Port of Santander. With excellent facilities for ferries and cruise ships, including a passenger terminal in the heart of the city, the ferry port of Santander offers a wide and attractive range of leisure options.
Santander History. The port activity in Santander dates back more than 2,000 years. The Port of Santander was founded by the Romans in 19BC and became an important centre for the export of minerals to the Roman Empire. The first written reference to the Port of Santander is in a document of Sancho II of Castille in 1068. The Port of Santander became a key element in the commercial and maritime network of the Kingdom of Castille in the early Middle Ages and 16th century. Felipe II designated the Port of Santander as the main naval base for Cantabria on 1570. In 1639 the Real Astillero de Guarnizo (Royal Dockyards) on the outskirts of Santander, were created. In 1765 the Royal decree governing free trade, which allowed the Port of Santander to trade with the Spanish colonies, was enacted. In 1785, the consulate of Santander was built. Midway through the 19th century Santander became one of the nation s leading port cities as a result of colonial trading. Throughout the centuries, the sea and the port have been the fundamental elements of a community which, through fishing, defence, shipbuilding and maritime trade, has maintained a constant presence on the world stage.
Santander was badly damaged by a fire in 1941 which destroyed the old quarter and most of its dwellings. The town was later rebuilt along original lines, with wide boulevards, a waterfront promenade, sidewalk cafes, shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Santander Shopping and Dining. Many of the boutiques and stores of Santander aren't in the city at all but within a 50-unit shopping centre three kilometres from town, beside the road leading to the airport. Fundación Marcellino Botín is an antiques gallery richly stocked with old furniture and paintings with rich veneers.
If you are feeling lucky, head for the gaming tables of the Gran Casino del Sardinero and afterwards relax in Lisboa, a bar/restaurant/café in the same complex.
Santander Attractions. The seafront of Santander is home to many attractions. The royal Magdalena Palace is near the Sardiniero beach and next to some pretty gardens and a casino. The Altamira Cave, to the South West of Santander, has famous drawings of bison Stone Age paintings.
Santander has some of Spain's best beaches, including Playa de Castaneda, Playa del Sardinero, and Playa de la Concha. Less crowded is El Puntal, a beautiful beach only accessible by boat. Santander s lighthouse, situated 2km from El Sardinero, has extensive views and a restaurant.
Other attractions include the Biblioteca Menéndez y Pelayo, Casa Museo, and Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes, with an array of works by Flemish, Spanish, and Italian artists. The Museo Regional de Prehistoria y Arqueología de Cantabria has interesting artefacts discovered in the Cantabrian province. Meanwhile, Roman ruins were discovered in 1983 beneath the north aisle of the 13th century Cathedral, a famous Santander fortress which was rebuilt after the 1941 fire. Holidaymakers should also visit the art gallery Artesantander, and architectural buildings Casa Pombo, Palacio Real de La Magdalena, Centro Cultural Caja Cantabria&