Santillana del Mar – a Historical-Artistic complex

Santillana del Mar is a municipality and a town in the autonomous community of Cantabria (Spain). It is located on the western coast of Cantabria. It is popularly known by the nickname of “the town of the three lies”, since according to the popular saying “it is neither holy, nor flat, nor has a sea” (the town does not border the sea, although its municipality does).

The Camino de Santiago del Norte passes through the city.

The town was declared a Historical-Artistic complex in 1943.

In its vicinity is the Altamira cave, protected as a World Heritage Site.

It is one of the most touristic and most visited towns in Cantabria, being an essential stop for tourists visiting the region. This has meant that a large part of the inhabitants of the municipality live from tourist activity, especially from the hotel industry, rural accommodation and shops of typical products.

Since 2013 the city has been a part of the network The most beautiful towns in Spain.

Tourism and main attractions

Among the outstanding buildings of the town:

Valdivieso Palace or House of the Valdivieso, today the Altamira hotel. It dates from 1710. It is located at the end of Calle del Cantón, on the right. It has a blazon located in the corner. It is currently a hotel.

Palace of Velarde or of the Arenas. It is located in the Plaza de las Arenas. It is a transitional building from Gothic to Renaissance, construction began in the 15th century and was modified in the 17th century. The façade has a stepped gable and decorative pinnacles. It has the coat of arms of the Velarde.

Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana. It is located at the end of the two streets of the town. It is a Romanesque-style collegiate church, erected for the most part in the middle of the 12th century, rebuilt by the Polanco family in the first third of the 16th century, with additions from later centuries such as the now-disappeared dressing room (1681-1697), the sacristy, the Chapter House and the Hospital de la Misericordia (1694), and the Lower Choir (1732).

Monument protected by Royal Order of March 12, 1889. It was the first Cantabrian monument that obtained this recognition. It is built in sandstone ashlar stone. It has a basilica plan and three naves that are finished in semicircular apses. It is a structure that follows the Romanesque model of the Camino de Santiago, particularly from Frómista. The most outstanding part of the complex is the cloister, from the end of the 12th century, in particular for its forty-two Romanesque capitals.

Houses of the Quevedo and Cossío. They are located next to the trough that is a few meters before the Collegiate Church. They date from the 17th-18th centuries. They are two houses placed squarely so that they form a single house. The house on the north side is the Casa de Cossío and the one on the south side is the Casa de Quevedo. In the first one, the Cossío coat of arms can be seen. In the second, which belonged to a relative of Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, you can see the coat of arms of the Quevedo family. The Casa de los Quevedo is made of ashlar masonry and has a vaulted tunnel that serves as a drain for the trough and the river.

House of the Archduchess or Abbots. It is a building that is to the left of the Collegiate Church. Mansion from the end of the 17th century. It belonged to the Barreda Bracho family. The shields on the façade are modern, the work of Jesús Otero.

House of the Hombrones or House of the Villa. It is located next to the so-called house of Leonor de la Vega, on Calle del Cantón. It is a house built between the 15th and 17th centuries. It was named after the two mustached knights who hold the huge baroque shield on the façade, the Villa’s crest.

House of the Polanco and Lasso de la Vega or House of Leonor de la Vega. It is located on the street of the canton. It is from the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, built by Don Juan de Polanco. According to tradition, Dona Leonor de la Vega, mother of the first Marquis of Santillana, lived in this building. On the façade you can see three Gothic shields of the Polanco-Lasso de la Vega alliance.

Torre del Merino or La torrona. It is located in the old market square, today Ramón Pelayo. It is a 14th century tower, topped by battlements. It is called this way because it is the place where the merino, an official who represented the king, lived.

Don Borja Tower or Santillana Foundation. It is in the Plaza de Ramón Pelayo. Although it must have had medieval origin, the preserved and restored part seems to be from the late 15th or early 16th century. On the sides of the parapet there is a shield with the Barreda coat of arms. It has an interior patio that joins the two volumes. It owes its name to Don Francisco de Borja Barreda, the last descendant of the Barreda family in the 19th century. Among its later owners was the Infanta Doña Paz de Borbón. In 1981 it was restored to be the headquarters of the Santillana Foundation.

Barreda-Bracho Palace, also called Barreda-Bracho House or Barreda Palace. Since 1944 it is currently the Gil Blas National Parador. It is in the Plaza de Ramón Pelayo. It is a baroque style building erected at the end of the 17th century.

Town hall. Located in Plaza Ramón Pelayo, in a baroque palace. Its cast iron balcony with a shield on top is notable.

Houses of the Eagle and the Vine. They are next to the Town Hall, in the same square. They are two different semi-detached buildings. The Casa de la Parra is so called because it had a large vine on the façade; It is a Gothic building from the early 16th century. The house of the Eagle or the Estrada is from the seventeenth century. It shows off the coat of arms of Estrada on its façade. Currently it is an exhibition hall of the Regional Government. In front of these houses there is a bison, a sculpture by Jesús Otero.

Bustamante’s house. It is located in calle de la Carrera. It dates from the end of the 17th-18th century. It is a high-rise building that has pulpit balconies. The Bustamante coat of arms can be seen on its façade.

Torre de los Velarde. At the end of Calle de la Carrera. Old house-tower from the 15th century, in ashlar stone with two Gothic doors.

Benemejís Palace, also known as Palacio de los Peredo-Barreda or Palacio de Peredo. It is currently the headquarters of Caja Cantabria exhibitions. It is a palace with a square plan and two floors; the hipped roof is topped by pinnacles at the corners. On the façade you can see the coat of arms of the Peredo family.

The different names reflect the vicissitudes of this property. Don Francisco Miguel de Peredo, Knight of Calatrava since 1694, ordered its construction. One of its later owners was Don Blas María de Barreda (19th century) and the Marchioness of Benamejí. It preserves paintings by painters such as Valdés Leal or Mengs, as well as an extensive library.

House of the Villa. House in front of the Palace of Benemejís. From the 18th century with pulpit-type balconies and shield.

House of the Alonso. House next to the Palace of Benemejís. Two small shields.

Regina Coeli Diocesan Museum. This museum occupies the Dominican convent, on the other side of the Barreda-Comillas highway. The original building dates from the middle of the seventeenth century, but was heavily remodeled during the first two decades of the eighteenth century. It is designed in the Herrerian style, although the articulation of the facades is Baroque. The Museum was created in 1964, and in it sacred art is preserved, studied and exhibited. The building highlights the Renaissance cloister. It houses a restoration workshop and the Diocesan Documentary Archive.

Convent of the Dominicas or Convent of San Ildefonso. It is located in front of the Diocesan Museum. It was founded in the middle of the 16th century.

Natural heritage

Regarding the natural heritage, it is worth highlighting the Santillana del Mar Zoo, the oldest in the region, as well as some trees in the town. At Finca El Jardín there is a 35 meter tall eucalyptus and a 22 meter tall ginkgo. In the Parque-plaza La Robleda there is an oak tree 16 meters high.

It should be noted that despite its name, the municipality has a narrow coastal strip between Puerto Calderón (Cantabria) and Ubiarco, characterized by cliffs. An abrupt relief and a great natural extension separate the town from the sea.

How to get to?

From Santander 31 min (29.7 km) via A-67

From Madrid 4 hr 11 min (440 km) via A-67

Main information

Area: 28 km²

Coordinates: 43°23′36″N 4°06′17″W

Population: 4231

Languages: Spanish, Asturian

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

Read more: The cities of the Pyrenees and around with Andrew Morato ...