This Underrated Coastal City Is One Of Spain's Prettiest With Endless Things To Do

We're right in the depths of winter, and it's the perfect time to start planning a spring or summer trip. If you're thinking of the perfect European spot to balance time in nature, lounging at the beach, and sightseeing, we have the perfect city suggestion for you. This place isn't one of the main destinations everyone and their mother are visiting. This one is in the north of Spain, and the capital of Cantabria. It's functioned as a resort town for royalty, is full of fun things to see and do, and has a wonderful beach and palace to tour.

This city is Santander, Spain, and it sits right on the Cantabrian Sea. It's smaller than a place like Barcelona, but it's very easy to get to. With the Seve Ballesteros-Santander Airport about 9 minutes from town and ferries from Plymouth and Portsmouth, U.K., and Rosslare, Ireland, it's easily accessible if you're coming from within Europe. From within Spain, you can catch the train or drive to the beach town. Let's take a look at Santander, Spain, and what to do and see on land and in the water. 

By the sea in Santander, Spain

Santander was a popular spot for royals and tourists of note in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was considered a spa town. The weather is one reason why. If you visit Santander in the summer, you'll likely have beautiful weather, with the average temperature in the upper 70s or low 80s Fahrenheit. It cools off at night, but you won't be sweltering during the day's activities, which makes it ideal.

Santander is known for El Sardinero Beach and has a lovely promenade for walkers and runners. This sea spot was very popular for sardine fishing, and it's just about perfect for surfing, scuba diving, sailing, lounging on its golden sand, and, of course, swimming. It's great for kids and tentative swimmers because the area is protected by the La Magdalena and Cabo Minor peninsulas, making the waters calm. There are plenty of places to get food and snacks, and it has bathrooms and even surf lessons. 

The Bay of Santander is a lovely place to take a boat trip, where you can see Sardenero and Mouro Island. For another great view of the bay, take the three-stop funicular (like a cable car of sorts) in the old city. It takes about three minutes to reach the end where you can take a perfect Insta pic. It runs from 6 a.m. to midnight. You should also visit the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse from 1839 for another lovely view.

What to do on land in Santander, Spain

The most popular tourist spot in Santander, with a perfect view of the entire city, is Magdalena Palace, designed by Gonzalo Bringas and Javier González de Riancho. This place was gifted to King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia in 1906, though it was built between 1908 and 1912. It was used as a summer residence for them, and these days it's open to the public. You can wander the grounds for a lovely walk, and during the summer, classes and events are hosted on the property.

If you're looking for a great stroll, you can saunter down the Avenida Reina Victoria, and visit the Gran Casino in the Plaza de Italia that was built in 1916. Keep going to see the Jardines de Piquío, a lovely section of gardens between the beaches. You can also check out La Magdalena Park, which covers 300,000 square miles at the end of the peninsula. There is a museum and a zoo there, as well as the Santander Music Festival in August. Or try El Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno, which is 750 hectares to drive through, walk, or take an e-bike tour where you can see bison, white rhinos, and even jaguars, with a cable car ride included in the fee. 

If nightlife is your jam, visit the Plaza de Cañadío, with bars and restaurants galore! (Make sure to try the seafood here, from the sardines to rabas, which is fried squid.)