Santander Car Hire
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Off to Santander? We’re talking the Spanish city here, not the bank down your high street it was named after. A pretty port city that’s the capital of the Cantabria region in the north of the country, Santander boasts beautiful Belle Epoque buildings like Gran Hotel Sardinero, striking contemporary structures like Centro Botin, and amazing urban beaches around its bayside setting. Many of the city’s most iconic buildings were lost in the great fire of 1941, but Santander has enjoyed a gradual resurgence and today its buzzing bar and restaurant scene around Plaza de Canadio, as well as its lovely setting, attract weekend pleasure-seekers from the rest of Spain and further afield.
Beaches and bars aside, Santander attractions include the impressive Magdalena Palace and its verdant surrounding parkland, the awe-inspiring Catedral de la Asuncion, and the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria – where you can learn more about this region’s fascinating past.
Hiring a car in Santander is the best way to get around the city independently and explore wider Cantabria – it’s simple with Enjoy Travel. Enter your dates and details and you’ll have a choice of low-cost deals in a click. For instance, an economy-sized car like a Fiat 500 costs £28 to hire a day, a compact Ford Focus automatic is around £33 a day, and an intermediate-sized Ford C Max is £43 a day. Let Enjoy Travel take care of your Santander car hire and enjoy a hassle-free break in the sun!
Guide of Santander
Early settlers in Santander were attracted by its sheltered and elevated location on the north side of the bay – it’s a strategic spot offering protection from the elements and potential invaders. Alfonso VIII of Castille granted the city its charter in 1187AD and during the 12th and 13th centuries inhabitants lived within two separate walled pueblas. Shipbuilding was an early industry and thanks to the Bay of Santander, the city became a crucial port for Castille and eventually established strong trading links with the Americas. The city’s Great Fire of 1941 destroyed many important buildings (including the Old Town Hall and Romanesque cathedral) but fortunately there was only one casualty. Santander has since recovered and is now a favourite summer holiday hotspot for Spaniards.
Culture in Santander
With its beautiful setting overlooking the Cantabrian Sea, Santander is the perfect place to soak up the unique ambience of the region. Stroll through the cedars of the Pereda Gardens and you’ll reach the compact Historic Quarter, home of the city’s banks and many other iconic buildings. Then you’ll feel the buzz in the air as you reach Plaza Porticada – this porticoed square was built after the 1941 fire as a gathering place to revitalise the city. The stunning El Cristo Church and Santander Cathedral are close by, while the bustling Town Hall Square is a little further down Calle Juan de Herrera. If you’re visiting the city in August, you’ll catch the Festival Internacional de Santander. One of Spain’s longest-established music festivals, it includes opera, ballet, theatre and orchestral performances.
Well-known people from Santander include Francisco Marroquin, first bishop of Guatemala, Manuel Pardo, a Spanish soldier who became governor of Spanish Texas, writer Concha Espina and banker Emilio Botin (longstanding Santander Group chairman). The city also produced renowned graphic designer Daniel Gil, musician Juan Carlos Calderon, painter Alfonso Vallejo, legendary golfer Seve Ballesteros and Olympic high-jump champion Ruth Beitia Vila.
Things To Do in Santander
Visit the Palacio de la Magdalena
If you like dramatic architecture, you’ll love visiting the gorgeous Palacio de la Magdalena. Constructed between 1908 and 1912 on Santander’s sweeping Magdalena Peninsula, it has become an emblem for the city and a symbol of civic pride. Once used as a summer residence for the Spanish royal family, it hosts major events these days and is also open to visitors fascinated by its history and aesthetic qualities. The palace has had various incarnations over the years – as a campus of the International Summer University, a temporary home for people affected by the Great Fire of 1941, and even a hospital. Extensive renovations started in the mid-1990s and now it’s restored to its former glory – as well as enjoying its magnificent interior and exterior, you can wander around its lush garden grounds.
Lap up the beach
As well as lending its name to a plush hotel, El Sardinero is Santander’s best strip of sumptuous sand. Comprising two burnished sandy beaches that are more than 1km long, it sits between Cabo Menor and Magdalena Peninsula. The sea is shallow until you’re reasonably far out and the waters are calm – it’s a nice beach for families with kids and it’s also skirted by a classic promenade and elegant buildings like the Gran Casino. If you want to while away a few hours, stroll up and down people-watching and cool off at Parque de Matalenas along the way. Otherwise, pack your cooler with ice cold beers and soft drinks, get there early to claim a prime spot on the sands, and let the good times roll.
Get your Indiana Jones on
The Cantabria region is a prehistoric hotspot. For instance, the iconic Altamira cave paintings are withing striking distance of Santander. However, if you want to see a treasure chest of ancient artefacts under one roof, the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology is definitely worth a visit. There are countless relics from the Palaeolithic era, including stone tools, bones and carved horns from the cave at El Pendo, and faithful reproductions of 15,000 year old paintings of various animals. When you want to get to grips with what Santander was like way, way back in the day, there’s nowhere better.
Eating Out in Santander
Fancy some refined dining? El Serbal is Michelin-starred and one of Santander’s must-taste restaurants for real connoisseurs. Skilled chefs here specialise in a contemporary take on traditional dishes – all made with farm-fresh local ingredients. Favourites include prawn with chili crab sauce and coriander mayonnaise, or Castilian garlic soup with black trumpet gnocchi. And it’s located on Sardinero beach – so the views are as impressive as the cuisine. If you’re a true foodie, you really should splash out on at least one slap-up meal here.
When you want terrific tapas served in a lively atmosphere, make a beeline for Canadio. Located in buzzing Canadio Plaza, this is a first-rate tapas joint and bar rolled into one and serves authentic Cantabrian flavours brought bang up to date. As well as tapas, the seafood tastes sublime and is beautifully presented, its popular with locals and visitors alike and the ambience is often enhanced by a live band playing in the bar area.
Want to spice up your palate with flavours from around the world? At Dias Desur you can take a culinary tour of Planet Earth with dishes like sushi, moussaka, samosas and more. Veggies and vegans are satisfied with delicious salads and if a stacked burger and crisp fries is your go-to meal, you can grab that too. With hip interior décor and friendly staff, this is a cool place to hang out any day of the week.
Santander Airport (SDR) is the closest to the city (4.9km away). It’s a great place to hop into your hire car and there are regular flights to destinations like Madrid, Barcelona, Beauvais, Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Paris. Carriers include Iberia, Ryanair, Vueling and Wizz Air and you’ll find all the usual facilities and amenities.
The public transport network in Spain is covered by trains and buses. Santander train station is connected by RENFE trains to Madrid and Valladolid, and by FEVE to Bilbao and Oviedo. There’s also a local bus service and intercity buses to Barcelona, Leon, Palencia and Salamanca.
You’ll be safe driving in Spain if you take your time and observe the rules of the road. In the unlikely event of an emergency, dial 112 and you’ll be connected instantly to an operator who speaks Spanish, French or English. You drive on the right here and overtake on the left, unnecessary use of your horn isn’t permitted, and seat belts are mandatory. Speed limits are 20km/h in residential areas, 50km/h in built-up areas, 90km/h – 100km/h outside built up areas, and 120km/h on motorways.