A city undoubtedly known above all for its famous and widespread bank, Santander is in fact a rather untouched corner of a country beloved by all manner of traveller. Overshadowed by surrounding mountains, overwhelmed by the Atlantic out beyond – one particular zone of Santander is well worth the visit. Held as ‘uno de las zonas mas elegantes en todo de España’ or ‘one of the most elegant zones in all of Spain’ – El Sardinero calls year round.
What is Sardinero?
Sardinero itself, is a popular beach zone stretching from the Magdalena Peninsula to Mataleñas. About a quarter of the way along, ‘los jardines de Piquio’ divide the wide promenade running its entire length. The waterfront is lined with hotels, restaurants and a casino. Beaches of golden sand lye smoothly as the moderately sized waves descend upon them - many a local fisherman casts in hope from the shorelines. From dog walkers to surfers, the zone attracts all manner of individual. The beaches altogether are about 1,300 meters long, with the water being around 80 meters deep. Rather packed in summer, El Sardinero could make the perfect getaway in Spring as its proximity with Santander city centre would provide the substitution for a Summer beach holiday.
A Spanish friend of mine, a citizen of Santander himself – told me of the change from Winter to Summer. Jesús described how ‘en el veraño mucha gente de el interior donde no hay playas – vienen aqui’. Spaniards from the interior regions of northern/central Spain come up to Santander specifically looking to vacation at the Sardinero. This is a place popular amongst Spaniards meaning it should appeal to those who’ve little or no interest in a ‘full British onslaught – Costa del Sol style holiday’. Therefore, that preserved feel of a real Spain accompanied by the beauty of golden sanded beaches overlooking towering mountains in the distance is surely desirable – as many think.
Wildlife is all over the area, Seagulls, Terns and seabirds in general are the most noticeable. The ‘bahia de Santander’ is of course filled with all kinds of fish – sea bass being a common sight. The mountains in the distance are home to many a fascinating creature from the endangered Bears to more plentiful yet shy and secretive wolves and wild boar. They (the mountains) make an extremely stimulating sight from El Sardinero’s waterfront especially if one has a knowledge of the history and wonderful wildlife of las sierras. It was far up into these remote parts of Cantabria for instance, in which anti-Franco guerrilla fighters conspired against the infamous general for many decades. All this to be taken in, whilst strolling comfortably along the beach promenade.
Where to stay and what to taste
The hotels can vary in prices and indeed style. The best in the city are located within the Sardinero naturally, as tourist attractions from El Palacio de la Magdelena to the football stadium of Racing Santander F.C - border the zone. The former is an English influenced grand palace built by public subscription as a gift to the Spanish royal family in 1909. El Hotel Real sits nearby, dating back to 1917, its privileged location overlooks the bay. Most hotels like the ‘Real’ are four/five stars and not exactly economical… However there are many hostels and hotels of decent prices – yet located slightly further into the city or its centre. I stayed at the ‘Hostal Del Carmen’ on Calle de San Fernando for €30 a night - a private room with on suite bathroom, wifi and television. Excellent.
The Casino, completed in 1916, is one of the great symbols of the city. Located in central Sardinero, it’s a perfect rendezvous point and most attractive for an evening stroll after dinner - per say. The restaurants are well-priced with many local dishes on offer. Sea food plays a large part in Santander’s’ cuisine with ‘Rabas’ or fried Calamari and sea food Paella being two such popular choices. The gastronomic tour of the city features and recommends El Sardinero.
The city centre can be reached with ease, Santander buses are constantly available day and night. Walking along the promenade and into the city is perhaps the nicest way to go. Santander has become an ethnically-diverse city [with a noticeably heavy Latin American presence] and is therefore most intriguing on walking its streets. The weather in Winter in this part of Spain is noted for its rainfall and cold blights. With the turn of the year coming, planning in advance for a Spring break here is what I myself, would personally recommend. A Ryanair flight could go from Stansted for as little as £7.99 return! This is what it cost me on a Christmas flight. It is hard to come by direct flights however, most travellers fly into either Bilbao or Madrid and then take the Spanish ‘Renfe’ trains – or even a connecting flight across to Santander. Iberia and British Airways are the leaders here. If you are hoping for direct routes from the UK to Santander – look sooner than later.
A royal palace, casino, golden beaches and the fine promenade with gardens - are to name a few, some of the highlights that make Sardinero an ‘elegant’ destination. In the words of a local I spoke with - ‘todo es muy guapo aqui’ or ‘all is very handsome here’.