A 1941 fire destroyed much of Santander's old-world charm, but this port city on Spain's northern coast still retains its seaside beauty. Golden beaches, salty breezes and a few notable historical sites make the Cantabria regional capital worth a weekend's stay – or two.
The beaches of Santander are a year-round draw, be it for sunbathing or leisurely strolls along the coastline. Sardinero Beach is a popular spot for lounging in the summer and surfing in the winter, thanks to its sheltered sands and offshore winds. Playa de la Magdalena is another picturesque beach on Magdalena Peninsula, where you'll also find acres of parkland, gardens and the stunning Palacio Real de la Magdalena. The former seasonal royal residence has since been transformed into a historical monument that's open for tours.
Despite the loss of its medieval core, Santander still offers a handful of monuments from its past. Santander Cathedral is perhaps the city's most impressive landmark – a Gothic masterpiece dating back to the 13th century featuring cloisters, chapels and pointed arcades. For a glimpse of even early history, check out the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria, whose collection includes Paleolithic, Iron Age and Roman-era artefacts.