Santillana del Mar is said to be one of the prettiest villages in Spain because it's so well taken care of. It's a pleasure to walk through the streets and see the pretty houses with their flowers and balconies. The best plan is to visit the town during the Renaissance festival when the plaza fills up with medieval stands and people in period dress. It's like going back in time! Since it's only a few streets wide, you can see Santillana del Mar pretty quickly, but it's best to take your time and enjoy all the history that happened there.
I've explored the medieval village of Santillana del Mar on several occasions and I would say that the grand Colegiata is one of its most unforgettable sights. It’s a really representative work of Romanesque art and a must if you’re in the area. The €3 entry price gives you access to the courtyard and the interior of the temple.
When I went for a walk on the beach, I discovered a strange shrine embedded in the rock along the banks of the sea. To access it, you have to go when the tide is out, when the water reveals a shrine in a cave that is believed to have been inhabited between the eighth and tenth century. The humanist Ambrosio Morales cites the shrine in his book "Ghost Tour": "Half a league from Santillana, in a rock that enters the sea, is a church inside a cave bearing the name of Santa Justa and Rufina, who are His blessed body".
The Zoo de Santillana del Mar is located on the outskirts of this pretty village, but is within walking distance from the village center. So many different animal species can be found here, meaning that it appeals to everyone from animal lovers to those who just want to see some new species. There is terrarium, Insectarium and a small aquarium, and a venue where butterflies fly freely and you can visit if you don't mind a bit of grime. It also has a picnic area, and a restaurant. The zoo is quite large, it takes at least 3 or 4 hours to visit with calm. I had some mixed feelings, because I love animals and some of the zoo enclosures are tiny, so they gave me a lot of little pain. Also, I did not think much money was spent for proper enclosures. Admission is € 17, but we visited for free thanks to Travel Club points.
This museum provides information on the methods of torture used during the Inquisition, with samples of the objects that were used for this purpose. The worst part is not seeing the objects themselves, it is reading the descriptions of how they were used and the effects they caused. A museum for strong stomachs and you should go well before lunchtime.
When I visited the Cave of Altamira in 1976, I didn't imagine that I’d be one of the last ones privileged enough to see this Sistine Chapel of rock art. In 1977, it was closed to the public to curb the rapid deterioration of the paintings, and when it reopened there was a 2-year waiting list.
In 1998, they began studying how to make an exact replica of the cave, the final result of which opened in July 2001. This "neocave" measures 15x9 meters and is now open along with the Altamira Museum. Rafael Alberti in The Lost Grove describes perfectly the feeling that one had leaving the original cave. He wrote: "It seemed that the rocks roared. It was like the first Spanish bull run; crammed with bulls struggling to get out...they were free of cowboys and herders. Bellowing, bearded, and terrible after centuries of darkness. I left the cave full of angels and entered the light."
From Santillana del Mar, where I was staying, there is a delightful uphill walk of about 2 miles during which you can watch the cows graze in the green pastures of Cantabria. When I reached the area of the museum, I thought my memories of my visit 28 years ago must be mistaken...it was all different and much, much bigger.
The gardens and the museum itself with its souvenir shops, cafe, and library form a modern and very educational complex, though one couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic for the old cave, with those herds of bison now laying silent in the darkness.
The tour is free on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, so it’s advisable to go early to avoid a lengthy wait since only 20 people can visit the neocave at a time. You are assigned an exact time to visit the new cave when you enter the museum. The materials used in the construction are really of great quality, and the museum consists of a restoration workshop, laboratory, archive, and a library specializing in prehistory, and Paleolithic art. There are also workshops and guided tours for all ages.
The visit awakens all your senses: you can see, hear, touch, and almost smell and taste what our ancestors ate 18,000 years ago. As you enter the new cave, you first pass through a room where there's an exhibit about life at the time and then you access the neocave.
The Waffle Museum is in a great location as it is next to the Collegiate of Santillana del Mar. It is a traditional, mountain house where there is a small shop on the top floor and an original museum. They have exposed curious pieces of sculptures, musical scores, paintings, iron plates, objects related to the craft of waffle (hence the name of the museum) or even toys. They organize different exhibitions as traditional games and pastoral. Also, I almost forgot that on the ground floor selling various handmade sweets products in your store. Their hours are Monday to Friday evenings only from 17.00 hours to 21.00 hours, however Saturday and Sunday is open all day.
The Plaza Mayor de Ramón Pelayo is the most important square in the Cantabrian town of Santillana del Mar, which houses some of the most important monuments of the town. On one side of the square, you can see the two houses formed by the House of the Eagle and the House Square, the statue of Altamira and the fabulous City Hall of Santillana del Mar. On the other side of the square you can see the two of the town's most well known towers, La Torre de Don Borja, which is the headquarters of the Fundación Santillana and Merino Tower. This square is the most charming square in Santillana del Mar, with its traditional clock, the cobblestones lining the sidewalks and the fourteenth to eighteenth century houses, with plants hanging from the balconies.
Where better for a tourist office than at the entrance to the old town, right? In Santillana del Mar it is located just off the public car park and just before entering the historic center of town. There I order a small guide of Santillana del Mar, information about the zoo, the Caves of Altamira and the opening and closing of the collegiate church. So personally I would advise anyone who has thought about going to see one of the most beautiful medieval villages of Spain, to go through the Tourist Office in order to find out about all the secrets behind the village of three lies, as there is no "saint", or "plain" and of course no "sea" lol ...
Among the various monuments that you can find on a walk through the historic center of the medieval village of Santillana del Mar, I would recommend the House of the Hombrones. This building is located in the historic center, opposite the Museum of the Inquisition and Torture and less than 200 meters from the famous Santa Juliana Collegiate. It is a baroque mansion, with a beautiful seventeenth-century facade.
The Los Infantes Hotel is located in the beautiful and charming town of Santillana del Mar, in a privileged location that offers its guests all the charm of the beautiful and lush province of Cantabria. The hotel is an excellent base from which to visit the many local points of interest such as Casa de la Parra, el Homenaje al Hombre de Altamira and the wonderful cliffs and shores of the Cantabrian coast. The hotel will provide everything that you need for a memorable stay. It is an exemplary choice for a romantic vacation.
The museum and foundation "Jesus Otero" is located just right next to the church of Santa Juliana, specifically in the Plaza del Abad Francisco Navarro. It was founded in 1994 and is owned by the municipality. It is governed by a board consisting of representatives of the City. More than 50 pieces by Jesus Otero are featured in the museum. The artist was born in the town of Santillana del Mar, and that is where he sculpted all of his pieces in the 1980's. Their hours are: Summer 10.00 to 13.30 and from 17.00 to 21.00 hours, while in winter only open from 10.00 to 13.30 (as in summer) and 16.00 to 19.30. Most important of all, your visit and admission is free, fantastic thing in times of crisis!
Have you decided to visit Santillana del Mar? Great choice! The city has much to offer to tourists and there are countless Santillana del Mar activities. About 30 kilometers from Santander, Santillana del Mar is a living museum of a medieval village. Keep in mind that all the historical and artistic attractions in Santillana del Mar can only be visited on foot, because all streets in the old town are pedestrian only! In the center of town, the things to do in Santillana del Mar are organized around two main streets. The first street, Canton, will take you to the religious square, the first center of the town and which gives access to the college. There are seven cultural places to visit in Santillana del Mar: the Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana and Senate, the Tower of Don Beltran de la Cueva in Queveda, Viveda Palace, the Palace of Mijares, the Altamira Cave, the Villa de Santillana, and The Notary or Rule Book of the Collegiate Santa Juliana. That's right -- there are tons of Santillana del Mar attractions!
The Collegiate Curch of Santillana del Mar is a well-preserved temple from the 12th century. Also among the most visited and famous things to see in Santillana are the Altamira Cave. The cave was used over various periods, from about 35,600 years ago to 13,000 years ago. There are also many galleries to see and art-related stuff to do in Santillana del Mar. For example, there is the Altamira Museum, which is next to the cave of Altamira, Jesus Otero Museum, Solar Museum, or the Diocesan Regina Coel.
Check out minube to learn more about what to do in Santillana del Mar. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture the best memories of your visit to the city!