As a city of contrasts, Santander offers travellers a chance to relax admiring beautiful landscapes, practicing water sports or
getting their strengths back in any of its good restaurants, but it also makes us want to stroll and feel the rhythm of a city which is not satisfied with living on tourism. The urban centre is virtually colonized by shops, entities and professional offices and it also offers the perfect counterpoint thanks to the existence of some of the most important cultural centres in the city.
Parliament of Cantabria
☎ Telephone 942 241 060
To do the whole itinerary we must go up to one of the oldest areas of the city, El Cabildo de Arriba. To get there we can come up Cuesta del Hospital, a road with stairs which is right in front of the City Hall, so named because the building which today houses the Parliament of Cantabria was that of the late Hospital of San Rafael. This building, made of hewn stone and organized around a colonnaded inner courtyard, played a very important role at decisive moments in the history of the city, such as the explosion of Cabo Machichaco or the Spanish War of Independence. It lost prominence with the construction of the new hospital of Marqués de Valdecilla in 1928 and it did not recover it until 1987, when the restoration works were concluded and turned it into the seat of the regional Parliament. This new building preserves the most characteristic aspects of the old one and it also adds new points of interest as the nice chamber in white stone. Visits are allowed by appointment.
Convent of Santa Cruz
Opposite the Cantabrian Parliament there is a hidden gem which can go unnoticed by the average passer-by despite its artistic value: the Convent of Santa Cruz. Founded in the mid-17th century by Mrs. María de Oquendo, wife of the important shipowner Mr. Fernando de Riva Herrera, this convent still preserves its church, the cloister, the chapter house, the refectory and the dormitories. Since 1837, due to the confiscation process, it was used as a tobacco factory. It was declared Heritage of Cultural Interest in 1982.
Walking along the pavement of the Parliament of Cantabria we see, on one of the sides of the annexed car park, the access to the Water Park.
A green space stretching along the slope up to the railway lines. We can either have a rest here or continue the route by Alta Street, where we will find the Church of Consolación.
Church of Consolación
This baroque-style temple from the 18th century is one of the oldest buildings surviving in the city and it played a leading part in the life of Cabildo de Arriba, as this area is known and whose origins date back to the Middle Ages, when the city began to stretch from Puebla Vieja, where noblemen and priests lived (in Ruamayor Street).
Continuing the walk along Alta Street, we can admire the artistic mural painted on the façade of building number 29. The work was carried out by the Escuela Taller school of Santander and it reproduces the typology of some characters in the history of this neighbourhood, closely linked to the sea. In fact, the famous Cantabrian writer José María de Pereda set here his work ‘Sotileza’, a representation of seafaring life in the city.
In memory of this work was named the ramp situated a bit further away, on the right, descending to the stations. Two art interventions have recently been designed to evoke the seafaring nature of Cabildo de Arriba, a place where the sea arrived in the past times. The first of these interventions is fixed to the wall at a bend in the ramp and it consists of a reproduction of the first paragraph of Pereda’s novel. The next work is a ten-metre-high pole with the figure of a woman looking through a spyglass in search of fishermen at the sea. Next to this, we find some stairs leading to Peña passage, the tunnel which takes us directly to Jesús de Monasterio Street, in the city centre.
CDIS. Image Documentation Centre of Santander
C/ Magallanes, 30
☎ Telephone 942 203 030
Once we leave the MAS, we can walk down Magallanes Street up to number 30. Here is Villaflorida complex, which houses the Image Documentation Centre of Santander (CDIS), the ideal place for photography and history lovers. This centre recovers and displays pictures belonging to the Municipal Archives of Santander and private collections donated by individuals.
La Alameda Primera
From the previous stop on our way, we must go down Peñas Redondas Street to arrive to Burgos Street, a busy pedestrian area which was part of the late Alameda Primera, where the original bullring was. Burgos Street stretches from Jesús de Monasterio to Numancia square, with its striking 19th century streetlights containing dedications in memory of distinguished figures of the city. Despite its current physiognomy, the waters of Mies del Valle stream, with the Becedo ria (close to the City Hall) as its mouth, used to flow here.
La Alameda de Oviedo (or Alameda Segunda)
San Fernando Street, La Alameda de Oviedo and Vargas Street run parallel from the end of Burgos Street up to Cuatro Caminos. This is one of the main leisure areas of the city for its wide variety of shops and restaurants. In fact, we must highlight that this area offers the possibility to taste the famous winkles, mussels and rabas (squid fried in batter), which turn the Santander appetizer-time into an inescapable tradition. In the beginning, its nearly 750 metres of length turned it into a sort of walking hall. Here was a convent, a soda industry, large estates and detached houses, the Alameda Cinema, a foundry and a large beer factory, much larger than the present Cervezas Square, located on the right of La Alameda in the direction to Cuatro Caminos. The current appearance of this boulevard is the result of the city planning in the 1980s. During the festivities of Santiago, stalls offering snacks and drinks at a very reasonable price are set up, recovering the festive atmosphere lived for decades in this place, where patron saint’s days were celebrated and funfairs used to be situated.
At the end of La Alameda we arrive at Cuatro Caminos (literally ‘Four Ways’), a round square serving as a roundabout with a metal ball representing the signs of the zodiac. It currently connects not four, but six important roads: Valdecilla Avenue, Alta Street, San Fernando, Camilo Alonso Vega and Pedro San Martín Avenue, being this last street the one we have to take to arrive at the next point of the itinerary.
To reach the neighbourhood of Pronillo we must go up to the roundabout of Los Osos. On the way, we will walk close to Grupo Amaro, originally a working-class area, and the judicial seat of Las Salesas. Once there, we can visit the building of Traída de Aguas (Water Museum) which hosts an exhibition explaining the history of the supply to the municipality from 1874 to the present day, as well as the cycle of water (☎ telephone 942 357 399).
Palace of Riva Herrera
The Palace of Riva Herrera, the oldest civil building in Santander, is located in Pronillo. Some of the most important moments in the history of the city took place inside its walls. This palace was built in the mid-16th century near the urban centre, in a strategic location from which it was possible to visually dominate the Bay. At this time Santander was benefitting from the successful trade of Castilian wool and it was also the Royal Navy base. In this context, a key figure in Santander appears: Captain Fernando de la Riva Herrera, responsible for the construction of ships for the Crown and owner of this palace. The defeated Spanish Armada returned to this place, and the French troops of general Merle, winners of the War of Independence, lodged here. The building has been restored and today it is a brand new artistic avant-garde centre open to the public. Here is the Demonstration Centre SmartSantander 942.203.000
Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital
From the Palace of Riva Herrera, going down Rosa Street and crossing Ciudad Jardín, we reach the Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital, one of the best health centres in the country. Founded in 1929, it was designed by popular request thanks to the sponsorship of Ramón Pelayo, the Marquis of Valdecilla, replacing the old Hospital of San Rafael. Since its inception, this hospital became a reference centre due to its innovations in the study of medicine. For example, the Postgraduate Medical Institute, which was the seed of medical specialism, and the School of Nurses, which laid the foundations of modern nursing in Spain, were created here.
The Bullring of Santander or Bullring of Cuatro Caminos is a centenary building with a capacity of 11,700 people. Designed by Alfredo de la Escalera, it has 51 metres in diameter, front rows of seats and two stands. Above the upper floor there is a neo-Mudéjar style arcade decorated with the main ‘brands’ of Spanish livestock. Top-level matadors, such as José Tomás, Morante de la Puebla, Curro Romero, El Cid, El Juli… have fought in this ring. But the biggest event ever lived in this arena took place in 1913, when the ‘Monster Bullfight’ was held, in which matadors Vicente Pastor, Cocherito de Bilbao, Torquito, Machaquito, Joselito, Bombita and El Gallo fought 18 bulls on the same day.
Mexico Market and Square
Today, on the site of the old municipal slaughterhouse, the Mexico Market and the square bearing the same name are erected in tribute to the indianos who migrated to that country and returned to invest part of their money in improvements for the community. The tribute to this host country for many Cantabrians is also reflected at the back of the square, where we can find a wonderful Aztec calendar made of colourful glazed tiles. Right next to this place, there is a small cockpit, a circular enclosure with stands for cockfighting. Inside, the Mexico Market offers a wide variety of products distributed in 32 stalls. The basement boasts a municipal business incubator.