One of my favourite things about living in Europe is being able to travel to a new country within a one hours plane ride of London. So this weekend -after a stressful week working on tons of projects - I hopped on a plane from London Stanstead to travel to Santander in the Cantabria region of North Spain, and here's why I think you should consider Cantabria as your next weekend break!
Where is Cantabria?
Cantabria is a historic Spanish community with Santander as its capital city. It is bordered on the east by the Basque Country, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea. Cantabria belongs to Green Spain, the name given to the strip of land between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Mountains, so called because of its particularly lush vegetation, due to the wet and moderate oceanic climate.
It is around a one hour flight from Barcelona, but also only a one hour and 30 minute flight from London Stansted.
Things to do and see in Cantabria
It truly is surprising how much you can do in Cantabria in just one weekend, here are some of the things I loved doing the most (yes, in just 48 hours).
- MOUNTAINS, more precisely the European Peaks (Picos de Europa) located a few hours from Santander. Here you will see some of the most stunning scenery anywhere in Spain and your lungs will thank you for all the fresh air they give you. Take the cable car up and then take a walk along the peaks - if you're feeling adventurous there are tons of walks and hiking routes you can take, but if you are short on time you can just walk around the top, stop for a coffee and then come back down. To find out the best hiking trails in Pico de Europa check out this article here.
- Town hopping, although that may not be an official term, one of the best things to do in Cantabria is to hire a car and drive through all the cute towns the region has to offer. We stumbled across awesome markets and great views doing this. My favourite small town was La Hermida which is also home to one of Spains most famous spa hotels
- Santander, yes, the name of the bank, and (of course) where the founders of the bank are from. A booming town full of culture, fashion and food, you could spend your whole weekend just getting lost in the small streets and tapas bars here, so do that! There are also many tourist attractions to visit in Santander such as Museo de Bellas Artes the art gallery and also Museo de Altamira a museum celebrates all aspects of the Cave of Altamira.
- Caves are famous in Santander due to their interesting artefacts and paintings found inside, some up to 46,000 years old. While many of them are closed to the public now you can still enter El Castillo a Unesco World Heritage–listed cave and perhaps the most interesting cave in the region.
Food in Cantabria
Like many regions in Spain Cantabria has its own unique cusines alongside it's countries classics. Food and drink is a big part of the Spanish culture and must be embraced when you are visiting. I have to be honest - as a vegetarian who also doesn't eat fish I did feel like I was missing out a bit on some meals. A large part of the Cantabria cuisine is meat and fish based, and while it looked delicious I'm not into eating animals and still managed to eat some delicious veggie dished.
Pintxos - like tapas - is huge in Santander and people flood into the streets at night to enjoy little bites of seafood and meaty snacks as well as wine and beer. Some of the best places to go and eat are:
Overlooking the atmospheric plaza of the same name, Cañadίo is a classy restaurant, lively tapas eatery and bar in one.
A very traditional bar with old wooden beams and exposed brick work filled with traditional wine barrels and legs of ham hanging from the bar.
Where to stay in Cantabria
The best place to stay if you are only visiting for a weekend is in Santander itself so you have everything you need around you. I stayed at Hotel Chiqui right on the beach looking over beautiful Santander, but you can take a search below to see which hotel fits your budget.
How to get to Cantabria
You can get to Santander from UK 2 ways
Direct flights from Stansted to Santander with Ryan Air every day
Ferry to Santander from Portsmouth or Plymouth 4 times a week.