Going for a walk, picnicking, bathing, admiring the Palace, attending any of the UIMP courses or cultural activities, practising sports, visiting the Marine Park, enjoying concerts in the summer…, all these activities can take place in the same space: La Magdalena Peninsula. This vast park, totalling 24.5 hectares, is one of the favourite recreation areas of Santander for its residents and visitors. Here, we must put the watch aside and forget the rush to just walk, get lost and enjoy.
Royal Society of Tennis
☎ Telephone 942 273 016
Private Club. Not open to the public.
Founded in 1906, ‘El tenis’ (The Tennis), as it is familiarly known, is the result of the emergence of social and sports life of noble birth in the city. It is deeply linked to the Spanish Monarchy, since it owes its foundation to the presence of the Royal Family in Santander. Monarch Alfonso XIII was the first Honorary President of the Club and now his grandson, King Juan Carlos I, is the one who holds that position. It has a good range of sports and leisure activities in general, as well as a restaurant.
El Magdaleno Tourist Train
☎ Telephone 942 291 044
Those wishing to enjoy a good view of La Magdalena Peninsula may take the ‘Magdaleno’ tourist train, whose ticket office is situated at the entrance of the enclosure, on the left. This option is ideal for those accompanied by children or elderly people or simply for those who want to save themselves the walk and, at the same time, listen to some explanations peppered with historical facts and anecdotes about the place. The visit with comments on board this tourist train can be made from 9 am to 22 pm during the summer and from 9 am to 8.30 pm the rest of the year.
The gardens of La Magdalena Peninsula are the work of French landscape architect Forestier and they have, among other monuments, a Memorial to the Victims of Terrorism created by Basque sculptor Agustín Ibarrola, which is located right at the entrance of the enclosure, and a sculpture in honour of the environmental broadcaster Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, who is depicted caressing an Iberian wolf a little further on, near the playground area.
The grounds of La Magdalena have a free-of-charge Marine Park among its attractions. It is built in the open air and it makes good use of the rock of the cliff and the entrance of the sea water to create natural pools inhabited by seals, sea lions and penguins.
‘The Man and the Sea’ Outdoor Museum
This museum in the open air was created in recognition of Vital Alsar, sailor of Santander. On display here we find the three galleons he used for his expedition through the Atlantic Ocean, emulating the expedition of Orellana. There is also a replica of the wooden raft in which he crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1970, the longest journey in history in such a fragile boat. Salvador Dalí, who even painted a sail for the craft, was its Spanish patron.
Island of Mouro
The island of Mouro can be admired from the Northeast façade of La Magdalena Palace. A rock formation which is particularly outstanding for its unique construction, a lighthouse inaugurated in 1858 which announces to ships that they are about to enter the Bay of Santander. On stormy days, Cantabrian rough waters heavily beat against this islet and waves even equal the lighthouse in height creating a spectacular postcard. A curative plant called ‘Sea parsley’ grows in this place.
La Cerda Lighthouse
Descending from the previous point, we reach La Cerda Lighthouse, built on steep cliffs. In this place there was a castle of the same name, founded in the 17th century to protect Santander from its enemies. Currently it is technically a buoy and its facilities are devoted to the ‘Aula del Mar’, an educational initiative backed by the University of Cantabria, the Menéndez Pelayo International University and the Port Authority.
Following the path in the same direction we come across the Tide Gauge, a small square construction made of stone which served to collect all kinds of marine data, and also the so-called ‘Jetty of the King’, very used by the Royal family during their usual maritime tours and now frequented by fishermen and young swimmers, who take advantage of its height to jump into the water.
The Bikinis beach is located almost at the foot of the Palace. It got its name for being the sandy area where this garment was seen for the first time. The girls responsible were foreign students who, at the beginning of the 1960s, attended the summer courses of the University and spent their breaks in the beach. Their swimsuits, very daring for the time, caused great stir.
The Royal Stables
The Royal Stables, a set of English-style buildings built a decade later than the Palace to keep animals and vehicles, are located very close to the sea. Today they are rooms used by students, teachers and accredited press during the UIMP summer courses. The area also comprises a bar which is open to the public the rest of the year and an auditorium where all kinds of activities are held such as lectures, screenings, seminars, etc.
From the Stables, overlooking the sea, we can see La Horadada, a rock which according to legend was drilled by a stone boat carrying the heads of the Martyrs San Emeterio and San Celedonio. These two soldiers of the Roman army were beheaded in Calahorra for not giving up their Christian faith. Their heads were placed in a boat made of stone which floated down the Ebro River, went around the Iberian Peninsula and arrived in these shores. When the boat bumped into this rock, it bored through it without any problems, so the heads of the Saints finally arrived at the place today known as Santander in honour of one of them (San Emeter). Unfortunately, the stone was broken due to a strong storm.
Campa of La Magdalena
Next to the Stables there is a large green area, La Campa, which extends from this point to the door of the enclosure. It has a children’s play area a catering establishment. In the beginning, this green and flat area was used to play polo. Today, it houses various equestrian competitions, concerts and other activities.
La Magdalena Beach
Its calm waters, thanks to the protection of the Bay, attract families with small children. In addition, the beach is ideal for sunbathing since it is sheltered from the wind and it offers all the services. Its proximity to the large grass area of La Campa makes it a sought-after place for those who love the sea but prefer the lawn.
La Torre Island
This island (the ‘Tower Island’), also known as Isla de Los Ratones or ‘Mice Island’ -notice how the people of Santander are fond of changing the names of places-, has a surface area of approximately half a hectare. It currently hosts the Isla de la Torre sailing school, but some time ago it was used as an enclave in which those ships arriving with crew suffering from infectious diseases were kept in quarantine. In days of low tide it is possible to get to the island walking almost half the way.
Resort of La Magdalena
Walking along the beach of La Magdalena in the direction to Los Peligros there is a part of the beach known as ‘The Resort’. This area is very special in Santander since it was the place where every day of the year Cioli could be found, a vocational and unofficial lifeguard who saved the life of, at least, 140 people struggling in these waters. Cioli is a character really beloved by the Cantabrian. He was honoured before and after his death and there is a popular movement which calls for a monument in his honour.