Around the same time last year, we went to Northern Spain, somewhat skirting the coast of the Bay of Biscay for a week. We flew into Bilbao, took a bus to San Sebastián and spent most of our time there, then another bus to Santander, before returning to Bilbao to see the city for two days then flew back to London. This post has photos from Santander and a previous post featuring Bilbao, so I’m obviously going backwards — it was a bit easier to sort out the photos this way!
Santander, in case you were not aware, is not part of the Spanish Basque region; it is actually the capital of Cantabria, a different region, but still lies along the coast, and is roughly 2 hours by bus from Bilbao. If you live in Europe, you will be familiar with the bank named Santander and this is actually where the bank was founded, as well as the place for its current headquarters.
We were travelling out of season, but unlike in Bilbao where our luck with good weather ran out, we had nice sunshine while in Santander. We stayed in a Hotel Bahía Santander, which is a four-star establishment and not what we normally for as budget travellers, but like I said, it was out of season, and the prices were shockingly cheap enough for us to afford. It was the best one we stayed at in terms of comfort, and I honestly did not want to leave the room because the bed was comfy and we had a nice view.
Okay, you can make the argument that the bay view would’ve been better (the hotel has a great, unobstructed view of Bahía de Santander), but I liked seeing the streets from our windows. It made me visualise where I’d go exploring because, as per usual, we did not do much research other than how to get here and where to stay. We like playing things by ear, okay?
That afternoon was randomly walking around the nearby streets, checking out where the pharmacies were (always helpful, in case!), where to get stamps and postcards, the usual.
We arrived around lunch time, so after dumping our bags in the hotel, we went off walking, and then had a late lunch at a random pub on one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares. A colleague I used to work with recommended Cadelo (she’s a local, and they’re always the best for recommendations!) but they were closed for the season! I was so disappointed. Ended up in nearby Bodega del Riojano in their bar area, having some pintxos and killed some time reading. More walking randomly around the streets before ending in a random pub along a main pedestrian thoroughfare. One of the most memorable things I did during this trip was sitting outside that establishment, having vino while reading an enjoyable book!
Anyhow, can’t spend the all of the day reading, so went off walking again after an hour or two, browsing some cute shops in the area, then hunted down the bookshop near our hotel.
Estudio is right across the massive post office building. I really liked the interior design of the shop; very modern but classy. It was a predominantly Spanish collection of books, although I spotted a few English ones here and there, and some Spanish versions of contemporary English books. They also sold some bookstagram-worthy stationery too! (You’ll only understand this if you’re on bookstagram)
I remember also accidentally finding Librería Gil but we were on our way back from a massive walk, and I just wanted a quick look ’round. I quite liked it better than Estudio, but unfortunately have no photos to remind me as to why! Bah. If you do find yourself in Santander, don’t miss Librería Gil!
We only had one full day in Santander, and that’s usually sightseeing day. We took the bus to Península de la Magdalena, where obviously, the Palacio de la Magdalena stands. It was originally constructed for the use of the Spanish royal family as a summer residence. It is now used as a conference and meeting hall, and no one is allowed inside. I did not know this prior to coming, so was kind of miffed. It looks quite beautiful outside and I was really keen to see what it looked like indoors. You can do a virtual tour on their official website, but honestly — I’d rather see it in person!
Thank goodness the grounds surrounding the palace were quite interesting. There were random wooden sculptures dotted here and there, of trunks turned into intricate little chairs, which made me imagination go wild — what happens at night when the peninsula is empty and devoid of people? Are there ~spirits taking their thrones? *shudder* I’m a scaredycat!
I’m a book blogger/bookstagrammer — of course I took books with me for purposes like these! 😉
Santander is a port city, so there was a small part in the peninsula about its seafaring vessels as well.
Standing on the peninsula and looking/walking back to the main land, their famous Playa del Sardinero gives a nice view on your right.
Despite a leisure walk around the peninsula, we still had a lot of time in our hands so we walked back towards the direction of our hotel, ending up at Nobrac Soulfood for lunch. The hubs loved their hamburgers and fries, and I couldn’t disagree. Best one I’ve had in a long while, and it tasted so fresh!
We went back to the hotel for a nap but, again, we still had so much time! We decided to take the bus for the second time and went further, up to Cabo Menor for some more walking. There’s a nice park there, and there are paths going around the peninsula ending up somewhere Playa de Mataleñas. If you love seeing the azure of the sea, the very easy walk.
Heading back, we took the bus and got off to search for this restaurant that was apparently known for its seafood. But — you guessed it — they were closed for the season! We walked the rest of the way to the hotel and ate there, and we were (to my surprise) not disappointed!
Now, if you’re wondering why I keep mentioning all these places I’ve eaten and have ZERO PHOTOS of the food or the interiors, I get quite uncomfortable taking photos of such. Also, the lighting indoors tends to be really off and I only use my phone which has limited lighting capabilities. It’s just too stressful trying to get it right whilst under pressure from possibly being stared at by strangers and from the hubs who is usually eager to dig in!
Anyway, for a city that is not usually visited by tourists, I found Santander quite charming in its laidback way. I guess it didn’t hurt having a comfortable bed to get back to at the end of the day!
Let’s have a chat!
Have you ever thought of visiting Santander? Or maybe you’ve been to other parts of the Cantabria region — any recommendations?