23rd September, 2019
24 hours in the cities of Northern Spain
The cities of Northern Spain have tons to offer visitors - so much so, that it can be tough to fit everything that you want to see, do and experience into just one visit.
With that in mind, we’ve curated some of our top things to do in three of Northern Spain’s most majestic cities - Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Santander. From food and culture to architecture and beaches, these cities are jam-packed full of impressive sights; the tough part is deciding what to do first!
San Sebastian is a resort town bordered by the mountains of the Basque Country, and dotted along the edge of the Bay of Biscay. It boasts a whole host of long, golden sandy beaches, all of which are framed by a picturesque promenade - perfect for strolling.
Head inland away from the coast and you’ll begin to experience the wonderful architecture that dots the town - from art nouveau inspired buildings to ornate bridges. You’ll also find a range of pristine manicured gardens and expanses of greenery if you want to enjoy a little slice of nature during your travels.
But if there’s one more thing that makes San Sebastian stand out from the crowd, it’s the cuisine. The town boasts the second-most Michelin stars per capita in the world, and has a reputation for offering up some of the most delectable examples of traditional Spanish cuisine in the country. Pair that with the title of most bars per person, and it’s easy to see why those looking to enjoy a holiday filled with delicious food and drink often flock to the town’s shores. Enjoy delicious bites in pintxos bars, or book yourself a spot at one of the many memorable Michelin-starred restaurants, and experience food like you’ve never known it before.
Found on the estuary of the River Nervión, Bilbao has a historic reputation for its shipbuilding and manufacturing, with the city now renowned for its strong cultural attractions and delicious places to eat.
The old town is the place to head if you’re looking for restaurants, with the narrow cobbled streets hiding a myriad of spots to eat - from Michelin-starred restaurants to endless tapas bars.
Take in some culture on your day in the city with a trip to the Guggenheim Museum, famously designed by American architect Frank Gehry. The striking modern building opened just over 20 years ago, and makes a bold impression on the city’s skyline. Enjoy collections of modern art, including works from the Guggenheim in New York paired with pieces by local artists. For more unique sights, take a trip across the world’s oldest transporter bridge, the Puente Colgante, or enjoy a ride up Artxanda Mountain on the funicular railway – which is over 100 years old.
Cantabria’s bustling regional capital, Santander, is a city with plenty to offer holidaymakers - and a reputation that stretches back decades. Stroll along its leisurely streets and come across famous buildings like the Palace of ‘la Compaña Transatlantic Española’ and the Cathedral of Santander 'Nuestra Señora de la Asunción’ - which was rebuilt following a fire in 1941.
Head slightly out of the city to La Magdalena in the Bay of Santander, where you’ll find the beautiful famous gardens and an impressive palace - which was once the summer home of the Spanish royal family. Plan your visit to fall on a weekend if you want to enjoy one of the tours, or simply wile away the hours in the park; there’s even a mini zoo. In fact, if you’re an animal lover, then you should also plan a trip to the Museo Maritimo, a combination of an aquarium and a museum. Watch the sharks get fed and explore some beautiful exhibits, before enjoying a refreshment in the roof-top cafe.
For a true taste of Spanish culture, plan your visit to Santander around one of the city’s many festivals. From July’s ‘Big Week of Festivals’, with its fireworks, food stalls and parades, to August’s ‘Festival Internacional de Santander’, boasting opera, theatre and ballet shows, there’s a festival for all at the heart of Santander.
What’s your favourite place to visit in Northern Spain? Or, if you’ve never been before, then why not let us help you explore? Get in touch with our Travel Consultants today and let us show you the magic that Northern Spain has to offer.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.
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