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The belle-époque elegance of El Sardin­ero aside, modern Santander is not the most beautiful of cities. A huge fire raged through the centre back in 1941, leaving little that’s old or quaint. Still, Cantabria’s capital is an engaging place, making the most of its setting along the northern side of the handsome Bahía de Santander, and the city's forward-facing outlook is epitomised in the striking modernist Centro Botín, which opened on the waterfront in mid-2017.

Santander is a lively spot to spend a night or two, with fine urban beaches, busy shopping streets, a heaving bar and restaurant scene, plenty of surf, and some intriguing cultural attractions. It’s a popular summer holiday resort for Spaniards.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Santander.