Santillana del Mar
Why visit Santillana del Mar?
A joke that got less funny every time we heard it, and we heard it more than once: Santillana del Mar is a town of three lies. It’s not holy (santo), flat (llana) nor by the sea (del mar). In spite of this ‘hilarity’, Santillana is, in reality, a pretty little medieval town, which stuns visitors by its perfectly preserved cobbled streets and stone buildings.
Despite its film-set qualities, Santillana is still a functioning town with families passing their houses down through the generations. Strict rules defining building regulations, dating back to the 15th century, and about who is allowed to drive into town, only locals or guests staying at hotels with garages, help retain a sense of timelessness. The streets are flanked with nobles’ and landowners’ houses dating back to between the 15th and 18th centuries and the real joy is to be found examining the craftsmanship that created these wonderful abodes.
It is also an ideal base for visiting the UNESCO listed Cuervas del Altamira (Altamira Caves), famed for their upper palaeolithic period cave drawings featuring drawings and rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands.
Situated on the northern route of the Camino de Santiago, the area around Santianna del Mar has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as demonstrated by the Altamira Cave, a UNESCO listed site discovered by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola in 1879. The founding of the town of Santillana itself dates back to the early middle ages when a medieval village began to form around the collegiate church of Santa Juliana, which gave the town its name. The majority of the town’s most impressive buildings today, including a plethora of aristocratic dwellings, date back to between the 14th-18th centuries.
The weather in Santillana del Mar is generally wet with rainfall frequent throughout the year. The climate is mild with winter temperatures averaging between 6oC–14oC and summers 16oC–24oC.worldweatheronline.com
In keeping with the best of Spanish traditions, tiny Santillana del Mar is no stranger to a village festival. At the end of June the Fiesta de Santa Juliana is held in honour of the town’s patron and is marked by a procession, Mass and a special dance to St. Julia. The Fiesta de San Roque takes place on 15th & 16th August and features parades and romeria (local religious festivals). At the end of September the wonderfully named Festival de Música Infrecuente (Uncommon Music Festival) takes over the town with a delightful blend of worldwide ethnic and vintage music.
Santillana del Mar Monument & Sights guide
source: santillana-del-mar.com (click on image to enlarge)
Colegiata de Santa Juliana y Claustro
(Collegiate Church & Cloister of Santillana del Mar)
Monument Type: Church
Address: Plaza las Arenas
Opening Times: Tues – Sun: 10 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 7.30 p.m.
Price: General Admission: 3 €
Information: Built in the 12th century by monks wanting to create a small chapel in which to expose the relics of the martyred Juliana, the Collegiate was constructed on the site of an older monastery dating from 870. It is Romanesque in design and has three naves, with dome, transept, three semi-circular apses and a tower. The altarpiece is the work of a master artist from Burgos, dating from the beginning of the 16th century.
After construction of the Collegiate of Santa Juliana, Santillana became a major centre of economic and religious importance in the north of Spain. With construction along the street known as calle del Rey, currently divided into the streets of Rio, Canton and Carrera. From this period the current street Juan Infante was built, which as you head towards la Plaza del Mercado (now Plaza Mayor), forms the distinctive “Y” shape of the town.
Important buildings from this period include the Merino and Don Borja Towers, both Gothic in style with a military character. The first was the seat of the Merino, representative of the king, since in 1209 Santillana was granted the capital of Asturias de Santillana, encompassing all the current western Cantabria except Liébana.
Other buildings were initiated at this time the Casa de Leonor de la Vega, mother of the first Marquis of Santillana and the Velarde Tower.
The best remaining examples of Renaissance architecture in Santillana are the Velarde Palace, constructed in the mid XVI century and notable its stepped gable façade and decorative finials and its plateresque balcony with wide lintel and blustered columns, which is situated on Plaza de las Arenas and the Casa de la Parra topped with pinnacles typical of the age.
The boom that followed the conquest of the America’s saw the construction of many mansions and palaces, influenced by the then prevalent Baroque architectural style. Aristocratic homes such as the Casa de los Villa, Casa de los Tagle and the outstanding Casa de los Hombrones are all testament to this era.
The Peredo Barreda Palace, which is now the headquarters of the Caja Cantabria Foundation and has recently been restored, is noteworthy for the great value of its library, furnishings, collections and valuable genealogical neoclassical paintings and the Casa de los Barreda-Bracho, today converted into the Parador Nacional Gil Blas are also very impressive Baroque dwellings.
The Regina Coeli Convent, was constructed under the guidance of Order of Dominicans and today houses the headquarters of the Diocesan Museum of Santander. The near-by Convento de las Dominicas is also a wonderful surviving example of Baroque architecture.
Staying in Santillana del Mar can be expensive and the options can be limited, with hotels costing at a minimum 35 € a night, per person. However for those with the foresight to carry a tent, significant savings can be made.
Search for Santillana’s cheapest accommodation (hostels, airbnb, home-stays etc.).
Camping de Santillana del Mar (Ctra. a Comillas Km 6.) is located a mere 10 minute walk from the centre of Santillana and is very reasonably priced (1 adult & 1 tent, 9 €). The campsite contains a restaurant, shop, café/bar as well as family facilities such as tennis courts.
Hotel Conde Duque Santillana del Mar (Parque Revolgo, 16) is the most affordable of the numerous hotels in Santillana but still comes at an eye watering cost. Single & Double rooms cost around 30 € but demand is extremely high and impossible in the summer without advanced booking. For your money you do get WiFi and free parking with facilities including a restaurant, bar and laundry services.
Internet in Santillana in theory should be simple as there is a free public WiFi that, supposedly covers the whole town. In practice, you are better of going to a hotel and logging on there, if you are in desperate need of a connection. Here is a map with hotels that offer WiFi:
The closest airport to Santillana is Santander – Parayas, Aeropuerto Internacional de Santander located 30 km away to the east. The airport offers numerous domestic services (Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Seville) and flights to a few international destinations (London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam).
Bus services to and from both Santander and Torrelavega are relatively frequent. La Cantabrica runs various buses daily from Santander, also stopping in Torrelavega, Puente San Miguel, Comillas and San Vicente de la Barquera amongst others. Transporte de Cantabria offers a more frequent, and more or less direct route, to Santillana from Torrelavega.
There is no train station in the town however it is possible to take the FEVE train to either Puente San Miguel or Torrelavega and take a bus from there.
Santillana is situated on the coastal CA-131 which can be reached by the motorway A-67 from Torreblanca or Polanco or alternatively from the A-8 (motorway of Cantabria) at various points.
Santillana del Mar hitchhiking is easy. Simply walk to one of the spots on the map and stick your thumb out.
written by: Jon