About Santander

Santander, the Bride of the Sea

Santander is the capital of the Spanish region of Cantabria. Situated along the coastline, its marine and harbor character have determined its urban appearance. Being built on hills, its steep slopes or “pindias” also characterize it in a special way, contributing to its unique personality, full of contrasts.

In recent years, the city has also become an important cultural reference point, thanks to an intensive agenda which every year attracts large numbers of visitors.

The history of the city dates back to the 1st century, although many historians take it back to the year 26 B.C. The name seems to derive from the Latin name of the monastery of San Emeterius, which was set there already in 1068. Santander was also known as one of the Four Towns of the Sea, together with San Vicente, Laredo and Castro Urdiales. In 1248, its fleet recorded an outstanding victory at the taking of Seville.

After some challenging centuries, including a plague that devastated the city, the beginning of trade with the American colonies and the nomination as head of the Santander diocese in 1755, the city increasingly started to take over as a leader over the rest of the region, becoming the capital in 1801 with the creation of the Maritime Province of Santander.

Referred to as the "Liverpool of Spain" for its busy maritime traffic, in the last third of the 19th century the city started shaping up as a destination for tourism and leisure, to the point that in the summer of 1861, for the first time, Queen Isabel II herself decided to spend a few days on the beaches of El Sardinero. Starting from 1913 until 1930, the Royal Family would spend every summer in the city.

In 1932 the Summer University was established. Today, it is named Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP).

In 1941, the people of Santander had to face up to a fire that devastated the Cantabrian city, leaving it virtually reduced to ashes. It was one of the greatest disasters suffered by Santander throughout its history. It started on the 15th of February and in less than 48 hours it had razed the historic centre of the city. Thanks to the work and efforts made by all the people of Santander, the flames were controlled and Santander was turned into the city it is today.

Another prominent date is 1983, the year when Santander officially became the capital city of Cantabria, which was established as an Autonomous Community in the same year.

At present, Santander is experiencing a moment of change and evolution thanks to the creation of new projects such as the Botin Centre, a cultural space promoted by the private sector, opened on the 23rd of June, 2017, or the Cultural Ring in the city centre that joins up the main cultural points of the city.

Also, in July, 2021, the ENAIRE collection of contemporary art was inaugurated in the Naves de Gamazo. In the near future, the Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueológia de Cantabria (MUPAC) will move to its new premises in Puerto Chico.

In this way, the Cantabrian capital city has managed to reinvent itself and become transformed into a city that is highly attractive not only for tourism, but also commercially and administratively, ranking as one of the most important centres for culture and leisure on the Cantabrian Coast.

(Text taken and adapted from the website of the Office of Tourism of Santander).


Here you can find an overview of the places of interest and key cultural institutions of the city.

Here you can find immersive, 360° views of key locations in the city, starting from its cultural destinations (there is also a live webcam!), and here a 360° video gallery.

Santander, the Bride of the Sea