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What to see and do in Santillana del Mar? The 5 essentials.


On your visit to Cantabria you cannot leave without first passing through Santillana del Mar, one of its main tourist centers.

This town of just 4,200 inhabitants was declared a historic-artistic complexor in 1889 and is part of the list of the most beautiful towns in Spain.

If you want to know what to see and do in Santillana del MarRead on and we will tell you the 5 essential activities 😉

5 Things to see and do in Santillana del Mar

Small town but known among other things, for its surroundings, for the importance of its cultural heritage and for being the town of the three lies; It is not holy, it is not flat, nor does it have a sea. Quirky, right?

For lovers of inland, rural, cultural, historical or monumental tourism, Santillana del Mar should be one of the mandatory stops on your route through Cantabria or northern Spain.

First of all, do you already have your planned getaway and your reserved accommodation? If you still don’t know where to stay, a very good option for this area is to opt for rural accommodation. You can find yours in this listing.

Once you have accommodation, take note of what to see and do in Santillana del Mar:

Strolling around the town and visiting La Colegiata

Walking around the town and touring the Historic Center of Santillana del Mar will not take you long, as it is a very small town. However, this walk through cobbled streets and historic buildings is not wasted.

The Historic Center is very well preserved and it highlights the Romanesque monument of The Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana, declared a National Monument of Spain and included as one of the individual assets of the Camino de Santiago de la Costa.

Inside you will find the Church of Santa Juliana, one of the jewels of Romanesque art both in northern Spain and in the province of Cantabria. And the Cloister, which has 43 capitals engraved on different themes.

Other representative buildings are; La Casona de los Barreda-Bracho, from the 18th century, Las Casas Del Águila and La Parra, the Town Hall, the Torre de Don Borja, built at the end of the 14th century, La Torre del Merino, from the 14th century, the wonderful set of mansions from the XV to the XVII centuries; The Gothic House of Leonor de la Vega and La Casa de los Villa.

You can also stop and enter the Museums that are in the same town; The Museum of the Inquisition, the Diocesan Museum or the Barquillero Museum.

Take a route through nature

In general, rural and nature tourism in Cantabria is very popular.

The landscapes and the enclave allow you to enjoy activities such as hiking trails, cave visits, adventure activities, horseback riding, river descents, farm visits and active tourism in general.

And specifically, the good communications of the Santillana del Mar environment make it an ideal starting point for excursions, sports activities or visits to the region.

Depending on where you want to go, you can find routes on the Altamira side, on the Peredo Palace, on the Santillana Sea, on Queveda and Mijares or on going up to Monte Castillo or on the Camino de Santiago.

If you coincide with clear days, you will be able to enjoy some very good views of the whole environment, even spotting Los Picos de Europa, which are only 70 km away.

What more could you want?

Visit the Altamira Cave

Probably the most important and well-known place in Santillana del Mar.

Considered as the “Sistine Chapel of Rock Art”, his paintings date from about 36,000 years ago, almost nothing! and it is the most extraordinary manifestation of paleolithic art, as well as unique in the world. It is also declared as World Heritage by Unesco.

Currently you are not allowed to visit the Altamira Cave in Santillana del Mar, but you can enter the Altamira National Museum and Research Center.

This houses inside the Altamira Neocave, the most faithful reproduction that exists of the original and very similar to how it was known about 15,000 years ago. In fact, the same drawing, engraving, and painting techniques used by Paleolithic painters were used in this reproduction.

what to visit Santillana del Mar

Get close to the sea

We already mentioned at the beginning that the town of Santillana del Mar has no sea … then?

The reality is that it is not a coastal town, but it is located very close to some of the best beaches in Cantabria and some of the most emblematic coastal towns in the north. Therefore, endless leisure possibilities are added to the offer of the villa.

Some of the closest beaches are;

  • Santa Justa beach, small, rocky and just 7 km away. It has the Hermitage of Ubiarco nestled in the cliff.
  • Tagle beach, El Sable, with blue flag and about 8 km away. It is a good option if you are looking for a quiet beach of great scenic beauty.
  • Playa de los Locos, 12 km away and one of the best beaches in Cantabria for surfing.
  • Playa de la Concha, located in the municipality of Suances, about 10 km from Santillana del Mar. It is a very wide beach, with many services and easy access but also more crowded.

Get your strength back with a good meal

If you already have your list on what to visit in Santillana del Mar, you just have to take a break and enjoy the gastronomy of the place.

As in all tourist trips, the best way to finish off an intense day of visits and routes is with a good dish. And for this, in Cantabria you will have no problem.

Within Santillana del Mar, we can recommend any of these restaurants:

  • The Parador de Santillana del Mar.
  • The Passage of the Nobles.
  • The Castle.

As typical local dishes, we can recommend:

  • The tuna marmitako.
  • The mountain stew.
  • Beef, wild boar, venison and suckling lamb.
  • Anchovies from Santoña.
  • Squid squids.
  • Seafood and fish from the Cantabrian Sea; sea ​​bass, bream, sea bream, hake, sardines, monkfish, clams, mussels …
  • Cantabrian cheeses; Cream cheese, cheese from Valle de Liébana and cheese from Bejes-Tresviso.
  • Cantabrian desserts; sobaos, quesada, ties from Unquera, polkas from Torrelavega, calves from Reinosa …

And to drink, you may want a good Cantabrian wine as an accompaniment or a pomace of herbs to finish the meal.

Have you signed up the 5 essentials about what to see and do in Santillana del Mar? Now all you have to do is pack your bag and hit the road!