Spain is one of my favorite countries in the world. There’s something about the vibrant culture of the people, the rich history, the delicious food and the diverse beauty of this country that draws me in. I have visited Spain on numerous trips over the years, but I had never been to the northern coast of Spain until very recently. During a long summer vacation in the UK, I was chatting with some locals about their upcoming holiday, and they told me they were planning a trip to Santander, an idyllic beach town in the Cantabria region of Spain. The more I learned about Santander, the more I wanted to go see it for myself.
So I made a split-second decision to say farewell to the rainy coast of the UK and trade it for the sun-soaked beaches of Santander. As I headed to the airport, I pulled up the HotelTonight app and booked a great last-minute hotel in Santander. With a room waiting for me in a centrally located Santander hotel, I boarded my flight and prepared for warm weather, gorgeous beaches and great Spanish cuisine.
One of my favorite parts about visiting new cities is exploring sights off the beaten track and really getting a feel for a city’s culture, but I’ll admit it–sometimes I just want to relax. Since Santander is known for its golden beaches and bright teal waters, I wanted to soak in as much time on the beach as I could. I headed straight to Sardinero as soon as I arrived in this Spanish beach town. Sardinero is a wide, sandy beach that is quite popular among both tourists and locals, and it is adjacent to a long promenade where you can find great hotels, restaurants and even a casino. If you want to experience the energy and the excitement of Santander’s beach scene, you’ll definitely want to spend some time at Sardinero.
Since Santander is a relatively small beach town, there’s not too much city to traverse, which makes it easy to see all of the best sights in a day or two. No matter how long you stay in Santander, you will definitely find yourself in the city center at one point or another. This charming center is full of pretty old buildings and lively commercial streets where you can find great shopping and dining. I spent the afternoon walking down streets like Arrabal and el Cubo, wandering into picturesque squares like Plaza Porticada and marveling at the beautiful architecture of buildings like the Cathedral. And, of course, the city center boasts some of the best restaurants in town, and you’re going to love the cuisine in Santander–especially if you love great seafood.
This seafront promenade ends at one of the most beautiful spots in Santander, the Jardines de Pereda. This long, wide boulevard is the perfect place for an evening stroll, and you can watch the sun dip over the sea on the horizon. Then, of course, the beautifully manicured garden is a great spot to sit, relax, and enjoy the laidback atmosphere of Santander. Interestingly, this stretch is named after famed Cantabrian author, Jose Maria de Pereda.
Since I came to Santander in search of beautiful beaches, I woke up the next morning and threw on my swimsuit. After applying a heavy layer of sunscreen (I learned my lesson about the strength of the Cantabrian sun the day before), I headed to the Estacion Maritima Los Reginas to catch a ferry to Somo. Located just across the bay from Santander is Playa de Somo, one of the most beautiful beaches in the region. The ferry is quick and cheap, and it takes you directly to the golden, sandy beach of Somo. This beach is a hot spot for surfers when the waves are up, and it’s also a great place to catch sweeping views of the Santander shoreline in the distance. I spent most of the day enjoying the calm, easy vibes of Somo and even hopped in the water and tested out my (very rusty) surfing skills.
My trip to Santander took me by surprise. Not only had I not originally planned on traveling to Santander, but knew relatively little about this Spanish coastal town before visiting. I was pleasantly surprised by the charm and easygoing vibes of Santander. I was glad I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to visit. That’s the beauty of being flexible when you travel–you never know where your adventure may take you. Plus, spontaneous travel has never been easier now that we have HotelTonight, which makes it so simple to book great last-minute hotels in cities all over the world. Next time I have a craving to lounge on a beautiful European beach, I know I’ll look to HotelTonight for a great hotel room. Maybe I’ll even return to the beautiful shores of Santander in the near future.