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Visit Santander

How to Spend Your Downtime in Santander

Though perhaps lesser known than the nearby cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian, Santander is another coastal treasure that should not me missed nor dismissed. If you are thinking about Santander as a possible location for a Spanish language course then I think it is fairly safe to say that you will not be disappointed. More compact than its coastal counterparts, it still maintains a lot of the charm of a city by the sea with a host of pretty architecture, deliciously fresh seafood and a lively cultural and social scene. Any time spent at a Spanish school in Santander will be time well spent as you are reaping the benefits not only of learning the Spanish language, but you are also getting to know the people and the customs of this pleasant city and the surrounding, unique region of Cantabria.

Must-See Santander

One of the glorious things about Santander is that nearly all of the city is easily explored on foot, and that which cannot be is reached on their modern and reliable bus network. The city stretches along one side of the Santander Bay in the Northern tip of Cantabria, jutting out into the Bay of Biscay. A lot of the sights you will want to see within the city are to be found in the Old Town. Although much damage was done in this area by the 1941 fire, what remains and what has been built back up, is a vibrant and comely centre for you to stroll around during the day and sip on a wine or two at night.

The Cathedral of Santa María de la Asunción was one such building that had to undergo much reconstruction following the fire, but what stands today is a wonderful Gothic style building where you can enjoy a free guided tour of during the months of July and August. Beside the Cathedral you will find the Church of Santísimo Cristo, which also offers free guided tours during the summer months and glass covered displays within reveal recently excavated Roman parts of the city of Santander. Also nearby is the historic founding building of the Santander Bank, right on the edge of the Old Quarter. A large proportion of the Museums that Santander has to offer are also to be found here in the Old Town. A particularly interesting one is the Museo de Prehistoria y Arquelogía de Cantabria (the Prehistoric and Archaeological Museum of Cantabria), home to one of the most valuable Paleolithic collections in Europe. Aimed at perhaps a more specific group of people, but very informative and interesting nonetheless is the Museo Marítimo del Cantábrico (or Maritime Museum). It is a Museum dedicated in its entirety to the sea and includes a small aquarium. If you have by this time built up an appetite then a popular stop off is the Mercado de la Esperanza, a short walk from the Old Town. It has been recently restored and is now a pretty construction of glass and iron that gives a light and airy feel in amongst all the stands of fresh fish, meat and baked breads. All foodies and picnickers alike should put this on their list.

For walking off that belly full of market food, look no further than the Peninsula de la Magdalena, location of the Palace built for holidaying Royals in the early 1900s and now home to the summer school of the University of Menéndez Pelayo. Around it are 70 acres of lush green parkland for you to explore, all lined on one side by huge stretches of sandy beach. There is even a tourist train zipping about should you be feeling a little less active.

Must-Do Santander

Going to Santander and not spending some time on one of the magnificent beaches to be found in and around the city would be something like going to Paris and simply ignoring the Eiffel Tower...or something like that. Santander's beaches contrast sharply and beautifully with its green mountains and dark grey rocky peaks. The city boasts a number of urban beaches as well as those in its surroundings, so why not take timeout from your Spanish studies in Santander and relax in the sand or take a few surfing or sailing lessons while you are at it. Playa de la Concha and Playa Sardinero are both popular urban beaches that are well worth a visit, whilst Playa Mataleños, Playa de los Bikinis and Playa de la Magdalena a re all close by. Most have full facilities on the beach and are surrounded by cafes and bars for your refreshment after a hard days bathing or boarding. The beach and in general the sea is so much of what life is all about in Santander. Its port was what turned it into the thriving city you see before you today and what established it as one of the most important cities in Spain at one point. Don't miss the opportunity to head out in the opposite direction of Magdalena and check out the Cabo Mayor lighthouse and catch some spectacular views of the bay.

If you fancy getting off dry land then there are boat trips from Santander to various different spots, such as El Puntal, Somo or Pedreña (birthplace of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros), all thoroughly pleasant spots for a meal of freshly fried fish and a bit of exploring. If you have a taste for the wonderfully varied selection of seafood on offer in Santander then don't forget to have a look around the Fishing Quarter and source out some of the region's tasty specialty fish.

Must-Visit Santander

Santander is in a prime location to do a bit of exploring with your new International friends from your Spanish classes at the weekends. It would be a sin not to take a trip to San Sebastian or Bilbao when both lie so close and have so much to offer. You could spend a weekend in Oviedo in Asturias if you felt like it too and get the FEVE narrow gauge railway which is slow and a bit rattly but altogether thrilling and with some astounding scenery.

Closer to Santander you can head off to Laredo, town just 30 minutes away and home to the Batalla de las Flores festival where floats covered in thousands of intricately placed and designed flowers parade through the streets in the last week of August. It also has historic, rambling streets that merit a ramble through and some relaxing beaches that are a lot less crowded and touristic than those in the city. Nearby Comillas boasts a palace deigned by famed architect Antoni Gaudíand Puente Viesgo, just 30 kilometres away attracts visitors from all around who come to see its famous historic cave drawings.

So whether you stick around the city, go a bit further afield, or combine a bit of both during your stay at a Spanish school in Santander, you will undoubtedly make the most of your stay and experience what life is like in this pleasant and colourful northern city, another representation of the diversity and contrast present in the land of Spain.