Santander is an upmarket beach resort where kings have rubbed shoulders with fishermen, and where university students in flip-flops kick back with well-heeled holidaymakers. The most popular of its beaches is El Sardinero, which, with its fine white sand and elegant architecture, lies a couple of kilometres from the town centre. Playa de la Magdalena, on the southern side of the headland, has a water sports centre while Playa del Bikini is good for snorkelling. If they are all too crowded, visitors can take a boat over to the long stretches of sand at Somo.
Away from the seafront, the city centre is lively, especially after dark. Many of the older buildings were lost in a huge fire in 1941, but there is still some beautiful architecture from bygone times. The elegant cathedral has been restored, and there are some interesting museums.