Cantabria has a large range of shopping options for visitors and locals alike, from shopping centres to markets to souvenir shops.
There are three large shopping centres in Santander, Valle Real, Bahia de Santander and Peñacastillo.
Valle Real is off the A8 Santander-Bilbao motorway at the airport exit and is often referred to by locals as simply “Eroski”, the name of the supermarket there. It is home to most high street shops, and a few independent shops too. It has a large Forum sports shop inside, and next to it is a large Leroy Merlin (hardware) store. In the past it did have bowling and cinemas, but these are now closed, taken over by further shops, including its latest arrival, Primark. On its top floor there are several restaurants (Chinese, American, Mexican etc.) and a Burger King. In its car park there is also a petrol station, garden centre, and car hire. Inside there are often activities laid on for kids. It is accessible not only by car, but also very conveniently by FEVE train from Santander, the stop is Valle Real, and the line is either Liérganes or Astillero. Alternatively you can get TUS bus 3 from Santander. There’s a McDonald’s just outside on the roundabout too.
Fancy a little excursion from Valle Real? You’ll see in the far corner of the huge car park there is a little hut, this is a currently closed visitors centre for the Marismas de Alday. Although the centre itself is closed, access is still completely open and free to the saltmarshes behind, with recently constructed new bridges and a birdwatching hide, and a nice, short circuit to walk around. Something to contrast to the shopping centre madness! Why not buy a delicious Cantabria-made ice cream from the Covadonga ice cream stand inside the shopping centre, and eat it whilst exploring the salt marshes?
Bahía de Santander
This shopping centre is also off the A8 motorway, if you are coming on the A67 from the Torrelavega direction keep following the Santander signs until you see one for centro commercial to your left. This is essentially a Corte Inglés (Spain’s biggest department store), with a Hipercor supermarket (Corte Inglés’ supermarket chain), and a 15 screen Cinesa cinema upstairs. They have plenty of underground parking, now all free (there are barriers, but they’re now always up, so just drive on through), but expect it to be busy on rainy days and around Christmas. Inside there are 4 floors of shops, selling most of the major brand names and with all the obvious departments. The layout can be somewhat confusing if it’s your first time, but there are plans about the place. The bottom floor is home to an outlet section, and also to a Cantabria section with regional products and souvenirs, and the book section on the top floor has lots of literature on Cantabria. Be aware that prices are often elevated in Corte Ingles, and you can often buy the same product cheaper in the Hipercor supermarket (or elsewhere), but there are also products you won’t find elsewhere too. There is a cafe and cake shop on the ground floor, with a Burger King and another restaurant upstairs, although to be honest, there are fairly limited options for eating here. There are buses to this shopping centre from Santander.
This is the smallest of the three. Located on the outskirts of Santander, off the N623 in Peñacastillo, this shopping centre is focused around Cantabria’s biggest supermarket, Carrefour Planet. It has a selection of shops and eateries, though with less well established names than Valle Real. It also has a post office and a McDonald’s. Carrefour Planet, open from 09:00 to 22:00, is huge, and has a dedicated English food section at the front, along with a healthfood section, allergy section, ecological section, sushi bar and other international products. There is also a 12 screen cinema complex upstairs, run by Cines Cuidad. Peñacastillo is accessible by buses S-1 (ALSA), 3, 12, 19 and 23 from Santander.
Further shopping areas
This area is on the S20 entrance road to El Sardinero area of Santander. It is a sprawling area which is home to, amongst other things, Carrefour (supermarket), Mediamarkt (electronics), ToysRUs (toys), Worten (electronics), Aki (hardwear), Decathlon (sports), Forum (sports), Feuvert (garage), Mercadona (supermarket), McDonalds and Burger King.
This is the main out of town shopping area in Torrelavega, off the A67 motorway just going towards Reinosa/Palencia. It includes: Carrefour (supermarket), Feuvert (garage), Aldi (supermarket), Mercadona (supermarket), Forum (sports), Lidl (supermarket), Dia (supermarket) and a McDonalds.
City Centre Shopping
Shopping in the city centres can be much more fun than the big shopping centres. Both Santander and Torrelavega have most chain stores in their centres, whilst other towns around the region, such as Castro Urdiales, Reinosa, Cabezon de la Sal and Laredo, have many independent shops which are great to have a good nose around in.
Most towns and villages have either one of the big chain supermarkets, or their own version. Even smaller villages will have village shops, which often have longer opening hours than the main supermarkets. The main chain supermarkets in Cantabria are: Carrefour (and the smaller Carrefour Market and Carrefour Express), Mercadona, Eroski, Lidl, Día, SuperBM, El Arbol, and Lupa. Most of the large supermarkets are in Santander and Torrelavega, however Lupa (Cantabria based) also have large supermarkets in touristy areas such as Potes and Unquera, targeted at holiday makers. In these small tourist towns, smaller supermarkets will shut over lunchtime, but these don’t.
All touristy places along the coast and inland are home to the usual selection of tourist shops, selling postcards and other souvenirs. In a lot of places there also a lot of “Artesania” shops, which sell locally made (and Chinese made – be careful) produce and products. Particularly good places for such shops are villages such as Santillana del Mar, Barcena Mayor and Potes.
See the post on Markets in Cantabria for more information on the different types of markets in Cantabria, there is something, somewhere every day.
Valle Real, Bahia Santander, Peñacastillo, Alisal and Sierrapando are open from 10am to 10pm, with no break for lunch. When there is a public holiday on a Friday or Monday, these centres tend to be open on Sunday instead. The dates for these alternative openings in 2013 are as follows: 7th Jan, 28th March, 31st March, 7th July, 28th July, 1st Sept, 13th Oct, 8th Dec, 22nd Dec and 29th Dec.
For normal city/town centre shops, their opening hours are usually from around 10/11am to 1/2.30pm and then in the afternoon from 4/5pm to 8/9pm. Most large chain stores do not close over lunchtime. Banks usually open from 8.30am – 2/2.30pm and don’t reopen again in the afternoon (this varies), some open Saturday mornings, most don’t.
You’ll find the majority of shops closed on Sundays all over Spain, there is no official Sunday opening. However, if the Sunday in question coincides with a bank holiday weekend, and the Friday/Saturday/Monday is a holiday, then it is likely that big shopping centres (such as the 3 mentioned above) and major supermarkets will be open on that Sunday, check their individual websites for details, these special Sunday openings are programmed well in advance and there should be a yearly calendar with them on on the website. In addition, you will of course find tourist shops open on Sundays too in tourist centres (in Potes, Santillana and some others). For food shopping, there is also an arm of Carrefour, Carrefour Express (green instead of blue livery), which have 13 stores in Cantabria and are open on Sundays, although times vary from store to store.