Top 10 things to do in Cantabria

Les incontournables à faire en Cantabrie

Wondering what to see and do in Cantabria, one of Spain’s most beautiful regions? Here are the 10 must-sees in this beautiful region!

Welcome to the heart of green Spain! Despite its many attractions, Cantabria is a little-visited region. Wild and authentic, it boasts a wide variety of landscapes: beaches, marshes, mountains, meadows… but also numerous towns with a rich cultural heritage. Ornate caves and age-old traditions trace the history of this very special region. Would you like to discover it? Here are the 10 must-see places to visit in Cantabria!

1. Santander

Santander

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Lukasz Janyst

Santander, the capital of Cantabria! Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, it doesn’t attract many visitors, yet it’s brimming with riches. The city center is bordered by superb beaches such as La Magdalena and El Sardinero. Discover this historical and natural heritage along the pleasant maritime trail. The town is home to the Centro Botín, a cultural center of astonishing architecture. Its exhibitions are always worth a visit. And don’t miss the Archaeology Museum, where you can discover the origins of the Cantabrian culture.

Looking for an evening out? You won’t have to stray far from the waterfront. Head to the sparkling Plaza Cañadío for a night of Spanish-style entertainment!

2. Santillana del mar

Santillana del mar, incontournable à faire en Cantabrie

Photo credit: Shutterstock – J2R

Sartre described Santillana as « the most beautiful village in Spain ». And we can understand him… This small medieval town is particularly well preserved. It still has a warm, authentic atmosphere. As you stroll along its pretty cobbled streets, you’ll come across numerous casonas. These are vast stately homes, their facades adorned with coats of arms and flower-filled balconies. A veritable open-air museum.

3. Altamira cave

Grotte d'Altamira

Photo credit: Shutterstock – EQRoy

Just two kilometers from Santillana lies the Altamira cave. It contains one of the most important pictorial ensembles of prehistoric times! Some 15,000 years ago, its galleries were covered with works of art by our ancestors. Dozens of animals were depicted in a strikingly realistic style. On your way to the site, you can visit a replica of the cave, as well as a highly educational museum.

But Cantabria is also famous for its ornate caves! Altamira is the most famous, but the El Monte Castillo caves are also well worth a visit. Moving visits that plunge you into the heart of a distant and mysterious past…

4. Woodpeckers of Europe

Picos de Europa, Espagne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Lukasz Janyst

What can you do in Cantabria to enjoy the region’s beautiful nature? Head for the Picos de Europa, the highest peaks in the Cantabrian Mountain Range. They form a tortuous landscape, shaped by torrents and glaciations. Here, you can enjoy superb hiking. These wild, snow-capped lands are also a cradle of Cantabrian mythology. They are home to sacred sites such as Torre Bermeja and Peña de Santa.

You can take the Fuente Dé cable car up to an altitude of 800 metres. Breathtaking views await you at the top.

5. Comillas

Palace Sobrellano, Comillas

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Migel

Comillas is a must-see when visiting Cantabria. This seaside resort has a formidable cachet. It is bordered by coastal marshes that are home to numerous species of aquatic birds. But it’s above all its historic center that makes Comillas so famous, a destination for the Spanish aristocracy since the 19th century. It is home to Gaudí’s El Caprichio, one of the famous architect’s earliest works. We also recommend a morning stroll to the fishing port and ramparts. To the sound of the fishermen’s cries and the laughter of the seagulls, there’s a lovely atmosphere here.

6. Castro-Urdiales

Castro-Urdiales

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Joaquin Ossorio Castillo

Let’s stay on the coast with the beautiful Castro-Urdiales, a not-to-be-missed town when visiting Cantabria. A former fishing village, it too became a popular vacation destination in the 19th century. The grand mansions lining the seafront promenade bear witness to this.

Whether you’re strolling through its cobbled streets, along its pretty beaches or along the fishing port, you’ll be charmed. The town’s atmosphere is both tranquil and lively. Last but not least, it’s home to a veritable architectural gem! The lighthouse castle and Santa María church. They are perched on rocky facades overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

7. Langre

Langre

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Walking Nature World

Wondering what to do in Cantabria to enjoy the sun? Then don’t miss the beach at Langre. This haven of peace is encircled by grey and green cliffs. Here, nature is unspoilt and wild. To get there, you’ll have to follow a long, winding path, but it’s well worth the effort. Especially since the beach is never crowded. The best time to visit is when the tide is out! Coves are revealed and Langre becomes an ideal surfing spot.

8. San Vicente de la Barquera

San Vicente de la Barquera

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Jon Chica

Located at the gateway to Asturias, the town of San Vicente de la Barquera offers a picturesque landscape. Its old village, a former fishing village, is bordered by beautiful white sandy beaches. In the background, the peaks of Europe form a theatrical backdrop. The light that catches the mountains’ relief gives them a different appearance throughout the day.

But it’s also San Vicente’s rich historical heritage that makes it a must-see when visiting Cantabria. Its squares, bridges and churches offer a glimpse into the region’s history. In between visits, drop into one of the restaurants to sample Cantabrian specialities. These are, of course, based on seafood.

9. Carmona

Village de Carmona

Photo credit: Facebook – Los Pueblos Más Bonitos de España

Are you looking for authenticity and wondering what to do in Cantabria? Then don’t miss Carmona. Nestling in the hollow of the Nansa valley, this tiny village is a perfect example of Cantabrian mountain architecture. As you stroll through its narrow streets, you’ll pass by the old stone buildings of the peasants and bourgeoisie. Carmona’s traditions live on, and it’s not uncommon to come across albarqueros, the region’s typical woodworkers. The clatter of their tools mingles with birdsong. Carmona’s abundance of trees and flowers is an added bonus. A timeless escapade.

10. Noja

Noja

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Lukasz Janyst

The small town of Noja lies in an extraordinary natural and wild setting. Its long white beaches, notably Trengandín and Ris, stretch along the Cantabrian coast. They are bordered by marshes that are home to huge colonies of birds. A true paradise for birdwatchers! In this flat landscape with an infinite horizon, the sunsets are to die for. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air in Cantabria, Noja is an ideal destination.

But the town center is equally interesting. Here you’ll find traditional stone buildings, a hermitage, a medieval bridge, a sand mill and several pretty fountains.

How to get to Cantabria

By car

Visiting Cantabria by car is a great option. You’ll be able to explore the entire region without difficulty. To get there, take theA63 to the Spanish border. This becomes the AP8, then the A8. From Bayonne, it’s about 2h40 to Santander.

Looking for a carpool? To optimize your chances of finding a ride, make a stopover in Bilbao.

By train or bus

The best way to visit Cantabria by train or bus is to head for the capital, Santander.

You can also take the Transcantábrico tourist train. It crosses the whole of green Spain: Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia.

By plane

Santander airport serves many European cities. In particular, there’s a direct Paris-Santander route with very attractive fares. Looking to save money? Use a flight comparison service like Ulysse. It will help you find the best flight deals for your dates.

Where to stay in Cantabria

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a place to stay in Cantabria! Of course, Santander is ideal for exploring the region. Especially if you’re looking for a night out! The capital offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Use this hotel comparator to find the most attractive offers and select your exact preferences.

However, you may be looking for somewhere a little quieter. You’ll find plenty of hotels and Airbnb overflowing with charm in Cantabria. For that, head for the smaller towns, such as Santillana or San Vicente.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Spain