Santillana del Mar is a picturesque town of 4200 people (2018) in Cantabria, Spain, renowned for its medieval architecture. The village is a bit of a tourist trap, and is so swamped with new developments around the outskirts, that on arrival you might be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about.
However, the original kernel of the medieval village survives in the centre, although the beauty of the winding streets and yellow sandstone buildings is rather marred by the abundance of shops selling tourist nick-nacks that have proliferated into almost every doorway.
For the more adventurous, there are some lovely walks in the small hills around the town that afford stunning views of the Picos de Europa, the mountain ranges, and the coast of the Bay of Biscay.
The area around Santillana del Mar has been populated for thousands of years and there are traces of some of the earliest inhabitants at the Altamira Caves about 2 km from the town.
There is a very modern and helpful tourist office in the town that provides lots of useful information.
Santillana is 24 km (15 miles) from Santander.
The next FEVE railway station is Puente San Miguel, about 4 km (2.5 mi) from Santillana-del-Mar.
The next RENFE railway station is Torrelavega, about 10 km (6.2 mi) from Santillana-del-Mar. Autobuses Garcia operate bus services from Torrevelaga to Santillana del Mar and back.
There are buses to Santillana del Mar from Santander, with the journey taking about half an hour. There are up to seven buses a day in July and August, although fewer outside of these months.
- La Cantabrica, Nav 5, El Campon, Penacastillo, tel 42342701, 942720822 fax 942346988 operates bus services from Santander Bus Station (estación de Autobuses de Santander)  to Santillana del Mar from Sep 1 until Jun 30 at 10:30 and 11:30, 13:05, 17:00, 18:15, 19:15 and 20:30. Journey time: 40 minutes, price: €2.25 single (December 2009).
The bus from Santander drops you just outside of the town. When leaving beware that, although there is a bus shelter just outside the town where you will be dropped off on your way in, the bus back departs from the steps in front of the town hall, about 50 m closer to town.
The bus station is at Av, Cantabric s/n, ☏.
- Autobuses Garcia operate services to and from Altamira and Torrevelaga.
- from Santander: take the highway to Torrelavega - exit “Requejada”, go ahead to Barreda, turn right on road CA-131 to Santillana del Mar, or exit “Puente San Miguel” and take the CA-133 road to Santillana del Mar.
- from Asturias: take the “Autovía del Cantábrico” (Cantabrian Highway) or N-634 to Puente San Miguel, then the CA-133 road to Santillana del Mar.
- from Madrid, Bilbao, Burgos, Palencia or Valladolid: take the highway to Torrelavega, then as above
- from Comillas: take the CA-131 road.
Distances from Santillana del Mar:
- Suances 6 km
- Torrelavega 6 km
- Comillas 16 km
- Santander 30 km
- San Vicente de la Barquera 30 km
- Parque de Cabárceno 30 km
- Picos de Europa 70 km
The whole town, old and well-preserved, is worth visiting.
- [dead link] Museo Diocesiano de Regina Coeli, El Cruce, ☏ , . 10:00-13:30, 16:00-18:30, in summer to 19:30, in winter closed on M. €2.50.
- Museo Jesús Otero, Plaza de Francisco Abad, ☏ . winter: 09:30 to 13:30, 16:00 to 19:00, summer: 10:00 to 13:00, 16:00 to 19:30. Museum of the Cantabrian scultpor Jesús Otero. free.
- [dead link] Museo y Centro de Investigación de Altamira, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. from Jul until Sep: Tu-Sa 09:30 to 19:30, Su 09:30 to 17:00, rest of the year: Tu-Su 09:30 to 19:00, duration of the visit: one hour. €2.50.
- Museo de la Inquisición el Solar, Escultor Jesús Otero, ☏ . winter 10:30 to 20:00, summer 10:00 to 22:00. museum displaying torture tools and "instruments for public humiliation" €3.50.
- El Museo de la Tortura or Torture Museum contains an impressive collection of instruments of torture from around Europe, including those used in the Spanish Inquisition. The museum is interesting and rich in history, but be warned that it is not for the faint of heart!
- [dead link] La Cueva Mitológica, Calle El Cantón, ✉ email@example.com. summer 11:30 to 14:00, winter: short visits in the morning only. €4.
- Collegiata de Santa Juliana. Tu-Sa 10:00 to 13:30, 16:00 to 18:30; in summer to 19:30. The highlight of the town is a lovely medieval Romanesque church with a walled cloister that can be found in the heart of the town. The abbey dates to the 12th century, when it was one of the most powerful monasteries of Spain, attracting many noble families who built their houses in Santillana del Mar. €3.
- Claustro de la Colegiata, Plaza del Abad Francisco Navarro, ☏ . 09:30 to 13:00, 16:00 to 18:00, in winter closed on Sundays. Romanesque cloisters dating to the 12th and 13th century with scenes from the Bible and fighting scenes €2.50.
- Convento de las Clarisas, Rúa Jesús Tagle. 16th century monastery.
- Convento de las Dominicas, Calle Antonio Niceas.
Houses and palaces
- Casas del Águila y la Parra, Calle Juan Infante, ☏ . winter: 10:00 to 13:00 and 16:00 to 19:00, Sa Su 10:00 to 13:00, M closed. Free.
- Casa de los Sánchez Tagle, Calle de Velasco, ☏ . Passion Week and from Jul until Sep 10:30 to 13:30 and 16:30 to 20:30PM, M closed, rest of the year weekends only.
- Palacio de Velarde, Plaza de las Arenas. 15th century palace.
- Casa de los Quevedo, Calle del Río.
- Palacio de Peredo - Barrera (Palacio de los Benamejís), Santo Domingo, ☏ . From Tu-Su 11:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 20:00. 18th-century palace with expositions organized by Caja Calabria. €2.50.
- Casa de los Hombrones, Calle Cantón. A 17th-century noble house decorated with Baroque coat of arms saying 'Un bon morir es onra de la vida' - "A good death honours life".
- Casa del Marqués de Santillana, Calle Cantón. Gothic house, 15th century, home of doña Leonor de la Vega, mother of López de Medonza, later Marqués de Santillana.
- Casa de los Bustamante, Calle de la Carrera. A house from the 18th century.
- Casa de los Villa, Calle Santo Domingo. House, rebuilt in the 18th century .
- Plaza Ramón Pelayo o del Mercado (Calle Racial con Calle Juan Infante). A former market place.
- Casa de los Barreda - Bracho, Calle Santo Domingo. A building from the 18th century, today Parador de Turismo.
- Torre del Merino, Plaza Ramón Pelayo. Gothic tower, 15th century, today exhibition centere. Free.
- Torre de Don Borja, Plaza Ramón Pelayo. 10:00 to 13:30, 16:00 to 20:00. Gothic tower, 15th century.
- Casa de la Infanta Paz, Plaza Ramón Pelayo. House of the infant Paz de Bourbon, princess of Bavaria .
- Casa de la Archiduquesa, Calle Río Cantón. Plade of exile of Princess Margaretha of Hapsburg.
- 1 Altamira (3 km). A cave with prehistoric paintings, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Santillana zoo (2 km).
- Comillas (17 km). Sobrellano Palace, chapel-mausoleum of the Marquises of Comillas, Pontifical University, Capricho of Gaudí.
- San Vicente de la Barquera (29 km). Santa María de los Ángeles Church and Castillo del Rey Castle.
- Oyambre National Park (20 km).
- Queveda. Torre de Don Beltrán de la Cueva, 18th century, Virgen de las Quintas Hermitage.
- La Barca de Calderón, Carretera de Santillana del Mar a Viveda. House of the Calderón de la Barca family, 15th century.
- Santa María de Viaceli (Cisterciensian Abbey), Cóbreces, on the road from Santillana del Mar to Comillas.
- Complejo del Monte Castillo, Cuevas del Castillo. fFom May 1 until Sep 30: 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 20:30, maximum 380 persons per day in groups of 20, duration of the visit 45 min. Rock paintings from the Upper Paleolithic.
- Cueva de Covalanas, Ramales de la Victoria, ☏ . from May 1 until Sep 30: W-Su 10:00 to 13:00 and 16:00 to 19:00; M Tu closed, maximum 60 persons per day. Rock paintings, more than 15,000 years old.
- Cueva de Chufin, Riclones (Rionansa), ☏ . 10:00 and 16:00.
- Ecomuseo Saja-Nansa, Puente Pumar (Señorial Valle de las Poblaciones) (more than 1000 km², up to altitudes of 2000 m).
- Suances, Ría de San Martín.
- Torrelavega (Palacio Municipal, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Church), N-611. Consolación Church with the Gothic picture of the city patron La Virgen Grande.
- Zoo, Ctra. Puente de San Miguel, ☏ , . 09:30 to sunset. Adult €8, child €4, guided tour €7.
- Epiphany: Santillana, 5 January.
- Medieval Festival: June.
- Folia: Variable, San Vicente de la Barquera, 30 km.
- Procession for Santa Juliana: 28 June, Santillana del Mar. San Roque: 16 August.
There are beaches at
- Ubiarco (5 km),
- Cobreces (10 km),
- Comillas (17 km),
- Oyambre (20 km) and
- Suances (10 km)
Typical pastries include sobao pasiego and quesadas (a light sort of cheesecake).
- Los Blasones, Plaza de la Gandara 8, ☏ . An old-fashioned restaurant. €25.
- Casa Cossio, Plaza Abad Francisco s/n, ☏ . €22.
- Café Concana, Calle los Hornos, ☏ .
- La Joraca ((Hotel Colegiata)), Los Hornos, ☏ .
- Altamira, Cantón, ☏ . €12.
- Taberna del Chus, Calle del Río, ☏ .
- Los Nobles, Calle Carrera, ☏ .
- El Catillo, Plaza Mayor, ☏ .
- Casa Ángel, El Cantón, ☏ . € 24.
- Parador Gil Blas, Plaza de Ramón Pelayo, ☏ . €30.
A trip to northern Spain must include a sampling of sidra, or hard cider, which is typical of Cantabria as well as Asturias and Basque Country. It is traditional to pour the cider into the glass from a height of about 1 m (3 ft). Your bartender will know how if you are hesitant to try the feat yourself.
- Altamira, Calle Canton 1 (32 rooms), ☏ , fax: .
- [formerly dead link] Parador de Santillana - Gil Blas, Plaza Ramon Pelayo 11 (on the main sqare, access via the Travesía Santander-Comillas), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The ancient mansion of the Barreda-Bracho family, with wooden floors, traditional furniture and 28 rooms. €70-110.
- Posada Araceli, Calle La Robleda 20 (12 rooms), ☏ , fax: .
- Tourist Information (Oficina de Turismo) Calle Jesus Otero 26, ☏ .
- Guardia Civil, Avda. Antonio Sandi, s/n, ☏ .
- Centro de Salud Altamira (Health Center), Barrio La Teja, s/n, 39530 Puente San Miguel, ☏ , .
- Hospital de Sierrallana (Hospital), Ganzo, s/n, 39300 Torrelavega, ☏ , , , (urgencies), fax: .
- Farmacia (Pharmacy), Jesús Otero, s/n, ☏ .
The bus to Santander departs from the steps in front of the town hall.
- La Cantabrica operates bus services from Santillana del Mar to Santander Bus Station (estación de Autobuses de Santander) from Sep 1 until Jun 30 M-F at 07:15, daily at 10:15 and 15:45, M-F at 18:00, Sa Su at 1930. Journey time: 40 minutes, price: €2.25 single (December 2009).
- Autobuses Garcia C/H.Alcalde del Rio, 2 Bajo, Torrelavega, ☏ , operate bus services from Santillana del Mar to Torrelavega.