Santander opens out to the sea. It is a peaceful, cosy city of less than two hundred thousand inhabitants; though that number swells considerably in the summer months. The city is located on the northern end of a large bay formed by the Magdalena Peninsula and the Arenal de Somo.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Santander became fashionable with the Spanish aristocracy who came to bathe in the sea and to pass the summer season on the Cantabrian coast. Around the Sardinero, with its three beautiful beaches (joined into one single beach at low tide), these aristocrats established an elegant colony of villas and mansions which still give the town its character today.
In 1941 much the old town of Santander was consumed by a devastating fire. It was then rebuilt in the modern style of te time, with many parks, broad avenues and public spaces such as the Plaza Porticada (Porticoed Square) and Paseo de Pereda (Pereda Promenade). Among the most important sights in the city is the Gothic Cathedral, characterised by its austere style. It is found on an elevated part of town which originally was the entrance to the port and which was built over the ruins of a pre-existing Roman settlement which can be observed in the Romanic chapel of Santo Cristo.
Santander combines an urban environment with what is essential in Cantabria: beaches, countryside, nature, gastronomy and culture. The city is organised around a large natural port, used since before the Roman Empire. The surrounding landscape is privileged, with wide, open, green spaces and beaches, especially the areas of Matalenas, Sardinero and La Magdalena.
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