One Day In Santander

“And are you going to Santander?” my dad asked when I told him about my trip to Basque Country.

I didn’t know anything about Santander except that they have an airport there. “Should I?”

“It’s a beautiful town on the coast. It was your Abuelita’s favorite city in Spain.”

I felt like it would be shame to come all the way to Spain and not see my Abuelita’s favorite city, especially when it was only an hour and a half from Bilbao by bus. It’s not actually part of Basque Country, it’s just over into the next region, Cantabria.

It was originally mean to be a grey rainy day, but it turned out absolutely gorgeous. (So gorgeous that I went home with a rouged nose and a band-aid tan line as a souvenir. Man, band-aid tan lines are not cute.)

I had done minimal research. My plan was to bike up the coast, see the famous summer palace, wander around a little, and go home.

I ended up having such a great day, I can’t believe I almost didn’t go. Here are some highlights from my day in Santander, in chronological order:

I fell head over heels for Gallofa & Co. cafe

  Gallofa Cafe Santander
You know me, paint anything turquoise and I have to have it. This cafe was so cute and delicious that I wanted to move to Santander just so I could become a regular. I went back three times. They were even nice enough to charge my phone at the end of the day.

Biking up the coast

I rented a bike at a blue public bike station for a few euros and road up the coast, growling at lethargic pedestrians stringing across the bike path. The beaches are a bit of walk from the city center, so many people drive, bike, or take a ferry. I passed three bike stations before I found one with an open spot. I was cranky about it at the time, but later I was glad that I had ridden further up the coast.

Santander La Vie En C RoseSantander La Vie En C Rose

I strolled along the beaches until I reached the Península de la Magdalena. (I shared more photos of the breathtaking coast in my last post on Santander.)

Península de la Magdalena

Peninsula de la Magdalena

This little peninsula has a lot going on. Not only does it have the royal summer palace overlooking the ocean, but it also has a nautical museum and a small marine zoo with penguins, seals, and sea lions. Apparently the seals and sea lions can swim in and out freely.

Sea lion Santander
Not only does Cantabria’s rocky coastline resemble that of central California, the marine life looks familiar too!

Seal Santander

Marine zoo Santander

Santander La Vie En C Rose

The wind was blowing so hard I was worried it would rip the iPhone right out of my hand. I circled the Palacio de la Magdalena and gazed down at the waves crashing into white foam on the rocks.


Palacio de la MagdalenaPalacio de la MagdalenaPalacio de la Magdalena

All of a sudden, I realized time had grown short to catch my 5 o’clock bus back to Bilbao. I decided to walk back, but vowed to take fewer pictures in the interest of time. (That was a challenge.)

Speedwalking down the coast

This part would have been better if I hadn’t been in such a hurry. But I still stopped to put my toes in the water and snap some colorful murals.


Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C RoseSantander La Vie En C Rose

The bus station miracle

I had thought five hours in Santander would be enough. (That was back when the weather was going to be gross.) It wasn’t nearly enough time, and as I hurried back I wondered if it was worth it to just buy another bus ticket for later in the evening. I got to the station ten minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave. I didn’t think it would be possible to exchange the ticket, but I asked anyway. The gentleman behind the glass looked at me incredulously.

“No, no. For five o’clock? Not possible. You have to change your ticket two hours before departure.”

I felt deflated. I could have changed the ticket that morning if I had known! I asked him if there was availabilty to leave later if I bought a new ticket.

He looked at me. “When do you want to go? Seven, eight?”

“Umm… how about eight?”

Vale. It’s 60 cents to change the ticket.”

I was thrilled. I had three extra hours in Santander! Not enough time to go back to the beach, but enough time for a good wander (and some more juice from Gallofa).

Wandering in Santander

The city of Santander is really charming. There are loads of little boutiques and cafes.

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C RoseSantander La Vie En C Rose

Watching the storm roll in

Soon I realized that 8 p.m. was the perfect time to leave. The sea had become choppy and the wind whipped the map out of my hand.

Santander La Vie En C Rose

IMG_7135-0

Santander La Vie En C RoseIMG_7100

No one seemed terribly bothered. Everyone carried on strolling and eating ice cream. (6 p.m. is apparently ice cream o’clock in Santander.)

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

I stopped by a local artisan fair and then grabbed one last Gallofa snack before grabbing the bus. I was tired. It was just the right time to go home. Home for the night, anyway. The next day I was off to San Sebastian.

Practical details

The bus ride from Bilbao to Santander was an hour and a half and cost around 6.50 with Alsa, a major bus operator in Spain. The tourist office in the bus station provided me with a map. I got the idea to bike from this post by Christine in Spain.

Sorry about all the pictures – I’ll restrain myself next time! Congratulations if you’ve made it to the end. Thanks for reading 🙂 

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22 thoughts on “One Day In Santander

    1. I know right?! I’m glad I’m not crazy for being so obsessed with it. It was the ultimate cute hipstery cafe, down to the wallpaper. The goodies were delicious, I wanted to eat everything. Every town should have cafes like that one 🙂

  1. This place looks so good! Of course, the weather also looks in your favour so it all looks so pretty and beautiful. And the thought of a band-aid tan sounds pretty funny I have to say. I understand that it would not be fun to go around with that tan on my face but it was still funny to read about..haha..😆

  2. I often find it hard to limit photos when writing about a place I loved. I love all your photos, so glad you shared them all! We went to Bilbao many years ago and took a bus to San Sebastian, but now I see that Santander is a place worth visiting! #farawayfiles

  3. I never realised it was such a pretty place with great beach and so much to do. Love that you went back to the same cafe so many times! Thanks for sharing with #farawayfiles this is real inspiration!

  4. I’ve always wondered about Santander: for me too it was always just the name of a stop-off place or a bank. I can see it’s worth going to, looks ace! Definitely brilliant for a lovely long weekend. Thanks for the tips.

  5. I made it to the end! 🙂 Gorgeous photos of our absolute favourite part of Spain. We have visited Cantabria and Asturias quite a few times, but never, oddly, made it into Santander. We’ll have to rectify that next time we go. Thanks! #FarawayFiles

  6. Absolutely beautiful, Catherine. That blue is swoon worthy! Don’t worry about limiting your pictures when they’re as gorgeous as these. I really need to visit this part of Spain. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  7. THIS is what I LOVE about #FarawayFiles – I didn’t even know that I needed to lust after this place! What a beautiful gem and I am smitten with that cafe as well! Thank you thank you for sharing, it is lovely. And thank you to your Abuelita! Cheers, Erin

    1. Thank you Erin!!! I am so glad I shared this one with #FarawayFiles, I had actually forgotten that Santander isn’t well known internationally (even though I had never heard of it before I planned this trip). And I love discovering new beautiful places through blogs too! There are so many places I didn’t know I needed to go until I read a blog post about them 🙂

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