Santander, the capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria is elegant, full of cozy cafés, and compact enough to explore in a day; making it perfect for a weekend getaway in Northern Spain, or as a base to explore the Cantabrian countryside. Its sights are few, and it’s not particularly famous for anything–but it has gorgeous beaches and was once the summer destination of choice for Spanish royals. Though I didn’t know much about Santander before visiting, I figured if it was good enough for the Queen, I was sure I’d find its allure!
Upon seeing rows of blue bikes throughout the city (offered to locals and tourists alike for laughable prices), a spontaneous bike ride seemed like the perfect way to hit all of the sights while fitting in a great workout to burn off all the tapas and wine I’d indulged in. Here’s the route I took:
Santander, thanks to the bike rental program through the tourist office, is super bike-friendly and bike paths are located all over the city. I started my route from where I rented: at the waterfront, and snapped this pic of the storm that was on its way out of the city.
Stop: Playa de la Magdalena
Here, you’ll see why Santander’s beaches are talked about so much–while it’s not considered the city’s best beach, Playa de la Magdalena is still a beautiful stretch of golden sand that will have you cursing the fact that it’s not summer yet. Added plus: checking out all of the beautiful beach houses and ritzy summer residences in the area–they sure beat the hotel you’re staying in!
Next Stop: Palacio de la Magdalena
Since Franco’s dictatorship in the 1930’s, the royal family hasn’t vacationed here. Not a shabby vacation home, is it? The architectural style of the palace is all over the place: with elements of French, English and regional design incorporated into it.
Explore the sprawling grounds and take in some sweeping views of the coast. This is some serious prime property.
Next Stop: The Zoo!
Yes, there’s a small zoo in Santander featuring, sea lions, seals, and penguins located right on the beach down from the palace. The best part? It’s free, and the animals are free to come and go as they please…except for the penguins.
Next Stop: Urban Green Space
This is the part of the ride where you get to sit back and enjoy: take in the beautiful residences that line the ocean-front avenues, stop for a café con leche, or rest your legs (these bikes are pretty heavy!) in one of Santander’s many park you’ll find along the bike paths.
Next Stop: Parque de las Llamas
You’ll continue through yet another Santanderino park–this one situated on 27 acres with a lake and wetlands surrounding it.
The End: Near the Train Station
Finally–you’ve arrived! Though there are stations to drop off the bikes all over the city, I decided to do almost the complete bike path, and ended up by the train station–just outside the center of town.
To rent a bike for the day, head to any of the bike stations and rent it through the machine (accepts major credit cards). The price for 2013 is a base price of 1.56 euros, a free first hour, and the second hour and each after only 63 cents! After spending all day touring Santander, I spent a whopping 3.50 euros! I couldn’t recommend this service more. More information on bike rentals in Santander: look here (in Spanish)