Santillana del Mar, Cantabria – A Stunning Old Town

The main square in Santillana del Mar is a lively, colourful place, preserving the traditional feel of an old Cantabrian town.


Santillana del Mar was recommended to us by our friends in Begur who spoke of its quaint, quiet beauty. And they were not wrong. The little town is a cobbled wonder of traditional architecture which has been beautifully maintained over the centuries, adorned with ivy, colourful hanging baskets and flower boxes on balconies, set against the backdrop of rolling green hills and forest walks.

Although the ‘del Mar’ would indicate a seaside town Santillana is in fact around 4km from the nearest beach but that doesn’t detract from the place in the slightest.

We spent two three nights in an out of the way parking spot (see our “Wild Camp at Santillana del Mar” article by clicking here) during midweek and spent much of the time in the lovely park opposite the tourist information centre, soaking up the sunshine and relaxing to our heart’s content.

The town is a nest of duality; the exterior an aged but well preserved homage to its original design with shops selling authentic homemade preserves, breads and leather goods, all made in the time old way, while the free wi-fi in the square and modernised practises that hide behind the archaic walls breathe new life into the place.


The museum gardens are filled with sculptures such as this. Santillana del Mar takes on a slightly surreal feel at times and there's a lot hidden beneath the surface.


Coach loads of tourists on constrained guided walks hustle and bustle through the town but there is enough space between the old churches, galleries (exhibiting the history of sex and the close up world or insects while we were there) as well as the museums of torture, wooden toys and religious paraphernalia.

There are also decent walks in the surrounding areas and plenty of farm land where cattle graze lazily and horses spend their lives irritated by flies.

The tourist information office is a very helpful place with interactive guides and multi-lingual staff who were friendly enough.

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