The city of Santander, open to the Cantabrian Sea and known as the gateway to Castile, is the capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria, located in the north of Spain.

This was the site of the Roman colony of Portus Victoriae, which was later inhabited by the Visigoths. In the Middle Ages, Alfonso VIII of Castile granted the city several charters which bore significant commercial privileges.

It was Cantabrian sailors, led by admiral Bonifaz, who broke the chain that the Moors used to seal off the Guadalquivir river with the bow of his boat, making it possible for Fernando III, nicknamed “the saint”, to conquer Seville. This heroic feat is portrayed in the city’s coat of arms with a picture of the Tower of Gold and a ship on the Guadalquivir river, breaking the chain. After the Middle Ages, several plague epidemics decimated the city’s population.

Centuries later, two dramatic events stand out in history: the explosion of the Cabo Machichaco ship, which was loaded with dynamite, destroying the port and adjacent streets, and the devastating fire of 1941 which razed the city’s Old Town to the ground.

Under King Alfonso XIII, the city of Santander became the summer residence of the court.

In the city itself, we can enjoy the cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the town hall square, the Plaza Porticada, in the neoclassical style,  the Magdalena Palace and its gardens, the Paseo de Pereda, and very nearby, the Botín Centre, which seeks to promote the social and cultural development of Cantabria. These are some of the city’s most iconic sites, as well as the El Sardinero and Magdalena beaches.

Stone houses in the mountains are typical in this region, with their large heraldic coats of arms, as are “caprichos”, mansions built mainly by Spanish emigrants who left to make a fortune in Latin America and returned very wealthy.

Near Santander is the town of Santillana del Mar, with the Romanesque Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana and a beautiful main square. Another medieval gem is Liérganes, with its country houses and stone bridge. Other examples of Romanesque architecture in Cantabria are the collegiate churches of Santa Cruz de Castañeda and San Pedro de Cervatos.

Along the Cantabrian Mountains are the valleys of Liébana, Nansa, Besaya, Pas, Miera and Asón, among others. In the Liébana region is the town of Potes and its Torre del Infantado tower, which is very near the Romanesque monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana and the Fuente Dé cable car in the Picos de Europa mountain range. Also in these mountains is the Campoo valley, where we have the source of the river Ebro in the town of Fontibre, and the village of Bárcena Mayor in the Saja-Besaya Natural Park.

There are many examples of cave paintings in the province, such as the Puente Viesgo caves and the most famous example, the Altamira cave, considered a genuine treasure of cave art.

On the coastal strip, we have towns like Castro Urdiales, with a port and the Saint Mary of the Assumption church, San Vicente de la Barquera with a bridge over the estuary and the Santa Maria de los Angeles church, and in Comillas we have Gaudi’s “Capricho”. Other noteworthy towns in the area are Torrelavega, with its Palace of Demetrio Herrero, Santoña, Laredo, Reinosa, with the Church of San Sebastián, Cabezón de la Sal, with the Palace of the Count of San Diego, and Suances.

There are six natural parks: the Picos de Europa, the Dumas de Liencres, the Saja-Besaya, the Oyambre, the Collados del Asón and the Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes natural parks.

Cantabrian cuisine includes such delights as clams from Pedreña, anchovies from Santoña, as well as squid and meats, such as sirloin steak, from Tudaca. Typical stews include the cocido montañés, made with beans, the cocido lebaniego, which includes chickpeas, and the tuna pot or Sorropotún. Desserts include Quesada, a traditional cheesecake, and sobaos pasiegos, cakes made with delicious milk from the Pas Valley, polkas de Torrelavega, a puff pastry cake, and Pantortillas de Reinosa, a puff pastry round. Its most popular cheeses are the semi-hard Quesucos de Liébana and the Picón de Bejes blue cheese.

Documented by Luis Díez de los Ríos y Valle

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites