There is a large selection of museums and visitors centres in Cantabria, catering for many different interests. Some are large and open all year round, others only at the weekend or set days out of season with extended opening times in summer. Others require reservation to visit. Please check the opening days and times before you visit to avoid disappointment!
So here we go, in some sort of alphabetical order:
Arqueositio Cántabro-Romano – this centre, located off the CA835 near Camesa, Mataporquera, is a large building protecting a Roman excavation site. The Roman remains consists of a bath house and country villa, although this is still open to interpretation, and ideas of what it actually is are varied and the site is still being excavated. There is also a small museum/information area explaining the Roman movements in the area, including the nearby sites of Juliobriga and the Roman roads of the area. Entry is by guided tour only, costs 3€ for adults, and is open Friday-Sunday low season, Wednesday-Sunday mid season and Tuesday-Sunday high season. Check opening times.
Biblioteca Menendez Pelayo – in the centre of Santander (Calle Rubio, 6) is this large library and collection, over 40,000 printed volumes and manuscripts in a beautiful building. Open Monday-Friday throughout the year, with visits every half an hour. Free entry.
Calabozo del SigloXVIII – this 18th century town dungeon with several artifacts to add to the ambiance, is located in the centre of Cabezón de la Sal, under the Edificio de la Torre. It is visitable by guided tour Wednesday-Sunday in summer, at other times contact the tourist office of Cabezón de la Sal.
Casa de las Doñas – in the small aldea (hamlet) of Enterrías, Vega de Liébana, on the N621 south of Potes, is this fine example of a typical Lebaniega stone house, beautifully preserved and presented over 3 floors. It is open Friday-Sunday and bank holidays off season, and every day except Monday mornings in high season. Adult entry is 5€ and by guided tour (approx. 90mins) in small groups.
Centro de Interpretación Santa Ana – this centre is located at the Ermita Santa Ana, the building next to the Medieval bridge right on the waterfront of Castro Urdiales. Inside are the excavations of Roman and other remains. It is closed during autumn and winter, but reopens in March, Tuesday-Sunday 1100-1400 & 1600-1900.
Centro de Interpretación Yacimiento Arqueológico Flaviobriga – this centre deals with Castro Urdiales’ most important Roman site, Flaviobriga. Located on Calle Ardigales, it’s located under the current old town, and shows the old Roman street, with houses, with various levels of excavation. It is closed during autumn and winter, but reopens in March, Tuesday-Sunday 1100-1400 & 1600-1900.
Casa de la Naturaleza de Alday – located in the far corner of the car park of Valle Real shopping centre on the A8 going out of Santander, this centre acts as a base for the Alday salt marshes, extending behind the centre and with a recently inaugurated new boardwalk and walking route. The centre itself holds an exhibition on the ecosystem and history of the Bay of Santander, traditional fishing techniques and further information on the salt marshes. As part of the complex there is also a garden centre and eco shop onsite. It is open daily 1000-1400 & 1630-2030. Entry is free. They also offer guided tours of the salt marshes. Update: This centre is currently closed due to local council budget cuts. However, it is still possible to visit the salt marshes behind the centre, which are open to all.
Casa de la Naturaleza de Pesaguero – in the small village of Pesaguero, above the CA184 south of Potes, this traditional 17th century restored Casona, once the Casa Consistorial of the district, has a display on the natural elements of the Liébana area, flora, fauna, geology and the conservation areas, as well as a viewing balcony. It is also one of the points where Naturea guided walks start throughout the year, and the staff at the centre are very knowledgeable about the various hikes around this area of Liébana, with maps available. Closed November to January, rest of year open Wednesday-Sunday, with longer opening hours in summer, entry to the display section is 1€.
Casa del Oso – now located in the Parador at Fuente Dé, this museum consists of 3 rooms showing the relationship between the bear, native to Cantabria, and humans historically and today, from hunting to protection. There is a mock bear cave to detail the hibernation period, and a video compiled of high quailty images shot by members of the Fundación Oso Pardo. Open daily 1st April-30th September, weekends only 1st October-4th November, and closed rest of the year. Entry 3€ adults.
Centro de Tradiciones Salvador Hedilla – billed as an observatory of the memory, this centre located in the old school buildings of the village of Castillo, Arnuero, collects together memories and traditions of the Trasmiera area. Closed Mondays all year, otherwise open daily in summer and Wednesday-Saturday the rest of the year.
Casona de Tudanca – located in the small pretty village of Tudanca in the Nansa valley, this is a restored traditional Cantabrian Casona it includes a library, chapel, and other rooms over 3 floors. It has collections of traditional furniture, art, textiles and literature. Visits are guided and cost 3€ for adults. Open daily Easter week, Wednesday-Sunday in July and August, weekends (with reservation only) mid April-mid October and closed rest of the year.
Centro del Alto Asón – in the Casa Cuartel of Arredondo (Calle Gutierrez Solana), this centre has exhibitions on the geology, geomorphology, forests, fauna and river ecosystems of the Asón area. It has a reproduction cave and a section dedicated to the birdlife of the area. There are interactive games and displays for children. It is open July-December daily, 0900-1400 & 1600-1900. Guided visits are possible. Update: This centre is currently closed for refurbishment – contact them for more info.
Centro Ictiológico – in an old flour and electricity mill, this building in Arredondo is now a centre dedicated to salmon breeding and the study of river ecosystems. It is open to visitors on Thursdays 1100-1400 by appointment only. Tel: 942 67 81 20.
Centro de Interpretación del Arte Rupestre – located in the village of Santa Maria de Valverde, on the CA273 in Valderredible, this centre deals with the rich variety of rock churches in the area, including one in the church above the visitors centre. Interactive displays, videos and clear information boards make this a good place to visit if you’re interested in finding out where the many rock churches are located in Valderredible and how to go about visiting them. Open weekends and bank holidays 1000-1530.
Centro de Interpretación Casa del Pasiego – in the isolated Pasiego village of San Roque de Riomiera, this museum shows the traditions and nomadic way of life of the Pasiego people through photos and original objects. There is also a video presentation of local people, music and festivals. Open July-September, Tuesday-Friday 1500-1700
Centro de Interpretación de la Etnografia – this centre is in Barrio La Matanza in the village of Valle de Villaverde, an enclave of Cantabria in the Basque Country, in the old school house. It contains a collection of objects depicting traditional life and practices. It is open Tuesday to Sunday 1200-1900 and entry is 1€.
Centro de Interpretación del Ferrocarril de la Robla – located in Mataporquera, this centre tells the story and traditions of the La Robla railway, which still runs from La Robla in León to Bilbao, and was originally an important coal route. It’s open Fridays 1700-1900, and weekends and bank holidays 1200-1300 & 1700-1900, entry is 1€.
Centro de Interpretación del Litoral – located in the old defensive buildings of San Pedro del Mar at the Playa de la Maruca, Monte, Santander, this centre is home to the permanent exhibition “Patrimonio Litoral de Cantabria”, giving a complete tour of the Cantabrian coast from its geological origins to the present, including flora, fauna, and the various human uses of the coastal area. There is also an aerial video of the entire coastline, and a viewing terrace with panoramic views of the coast. Open 1000-1400 & 1700-1930 Tuesday-Sunday mid June-end September, 0900-1500 rest of the year.
Centro de Interpretación del Molino de Jado y Museo Naval – this centre, located in Argoños, is a restored tidal mill on the Argoños estuary, with demonstrations of the working mill. It also houses 4 displays on the history of navigation, the mill, birdlife in the salt marshes and traditional fishing methods. Open July-September, Tuesday-Friday 1400-2000, weekends 1000-1400 & 1600-2000, closed Mondays and rest of the year. Entry is 1,50€.
Centro de Interpretación Parque Natural Collados del Asón – located in the village of La Gándara, Soba, this centre provides information and displays on the Asón natural park, flora, fauna, walks and more. It’s located in a fantastic park full of picnic tables and the lovely viewpoint over the waterfalls of the Gándara river. Another great picnic spot is at the start of this river, ask as the centre for details on how to get there. It’s also one of the places where lots of the Naturea organised walks start from for this area. Closed November to January, rest of year open Wednesday-Sunday, with longer opening hours in summer.
Centro de Interpretación Parque Natural Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel – on the port side in a boat-shaped building in Santoña, this centre has displays on the more than 4000km2 of salt marshes of the area, flora, fauna, walks and more. This is another one of the places where Naturea guided walks start from throughout the year. The centre is open Easter week and summer Wednesday-Sunday 1000-1900, closed November and December, and the rest of the year open Wednesday-Sunday with reduced hours. Those interested in bird watching (the marshes are a big migratory bird watching area), there is also a large elevated bird watching hide, open to all, with information about the different species located next to the CA241 as you enter Santoña, this has its own separate opening times.
Centro de Interpretación Parque Natural Oyambre – making good use of the lighthouse in San Vicente de la Barquera, to be exact the old living quarters of the lighthouse, this centre has displays on the ecosystems of Oyambre, namely its dunes, and the human impact on the environment, as well as a bird watching area. It is also another point where Naturea guided walks start throughout the year, and there are several independent walking routes in the area too. The centre is closed November-January, open Wednesday-Sunday 1000-1900 in July, August and Easter week, and Wednesday-Sunday with reduced hours the rest of the year.
Centro de Interpretación Parque Natural Saja Besaya – standing above the CA280, the beautifully scenic road which winds up the Saja valley between Cabezón de la Sal and Espinilla, and just south of the village of Saja, this visitors centre gives an overview of the flora and fauna of the natural park, as well as further information on the area and has a nice picnic area and car park. It is also another starting point for Naturea guided walks. It’s closed November-January, and open Wednesday-Sunday throughout the year and Tuesday as well in summer. Entry is free.
Centro de Interpretación del Románico – housed in the Romanesque church of the small village of Villacantid in the Campoo area, this small museum offers an insight into Romanesque architecture and construction in the region, something which especially of interest in this area, home to many fine examples of Romanesque churches. Open Friday-Sunday in low season, Wednesday-Sunday mid season and Tuesday-Sunday in high season. Adult entry is 1,5€.
Centro de Interpretación del Románico – this centre is located in the village of Castañeda, in the old school houses in front of the beautiful Colegiata de Castañeda. It contains information on and models of Romanesque architecture in Cantabria, as well as acting as a tourist information point. Open Tuesday-Sunday in summer and Thursday-Sunday rest of the year.
Centro Ornitológico del Embalse del Ebro – located on the CA171 between the villages of La Población de Yuso and Lanchares, on the banks of the Ebro reservoir, this centre has a small video area, a display on migratory birds to the reservoir, bird watching facilities and a picnic area. Throughout the year there are organised birdwatching and other walks from the centre. It is open Tuesday-Sunday July-September, and Wednesday-Sunday October-December, closed the rest of the year.
Centro de Visitantes de los Caminos de la Harina – located in the small town of Pesquera, on the old N611 main road between Reinosa and Los Corrales. This is now the only flour mill still intact of what was a huge number lining the banks of the River Besaya. It has been beautifully preserved, with all its original machinery, creating somewhat of a Heath Robinson affair inside. Aside from the milling exhibits, it also provides some information about the 5 communication links through the Besaya and neighbouring valley, the Roman Road (calzada romana), the Camino Real, the railway, the old road (N611 commonly known as Las Hoces)and the new A67 motorway with its spectacular bridges. The Ayuntamiento of Pesquera has set up a network of walks to take in all these communication links, see their website for details. The centre is open mid March-mid December, Friday-Sunday 1000-1700.
Centro de Visitantes del Embalse del Ebro– located in Corconte, signposted from the road, and just off the N623 to Burgos, this centre has exhibits on the Ebro reservoir’s history and construction in the Franco era, the use of its water, and water consumption in general. It has interactive exhibits, and on the top floor there is a bird observation station with binoculars. The centre is closed from mid December to mid March, open Friday-Sunday from March -June and September-December, and Tuesday-Sunday in summer from 1000-1800.
Centro de Visitantes de la Piedra en Seco – in the village of La Puente del Valle, Valderredible, this centre is in an area famous for its rock churches. It concentrates on the role that stone has played in the area’s and Cantabria’s development, and includes interactive exhibits and demonstrations. Open 1000-1800, July & August Tuesday-Sunday, closed mid December-mid March, rest of year Friday-Sunday.
Centro de Visitantes del Río Ebro – next to the start of Spain’s longest river, the Ebro, in Fontibre, this visitors centre has information about all aspects of the river, from its history to its uses today, with interactive panels and videos. Next to the centre is a large restaurant and a small Tourist Information Centre open in summer. The centre is closed from mid December to mid March, open Friday-Sunday from March -June and September-December, and Tuesday-Sunday in summer from 1000-1800.
Centro de Visitantes del Monte Hijedo – located in the village of Riopanero, Valderredible, this is the visitors centre for this beautiful forest. The forest itself is famous for its huge yew trees, wild mushrooms, and lovely circular walk, the PR BU 30 (which doesn’t actually start here, but in Santa Gadea de Alfoz on the Burgos side of the forest). The visitors centre itself contains exhibitions on the importance of the forest in the area throughout history and local customs and traditions. Open 1000-1800, July & August Tuesday-Sunday, closed mid December-mid March, rest of year Friday-Sunday.
Centro de Visitantes de Sotama – just off the N621 in Tama, near Potes, this relatively new, modern and huge visitors centre should really be your first stop on arriving to explore the Picos de Europa. It has exhibits on the geomorphology of the area, the rivers, the evolution of the landscape, and the people and National Park as a whole. There is a large cinema which projects interesting videos of the area, a large relief map of the Picos, an excellent cyclorama (360º photo wall) of the Picos and a viewpoint. Open daily all year round with extended hours in summer and entry is free.
El Capricho de Gaudí – Gaudí’s famous addition to Cantabria, the Capricho is located in the heart of Comillas, although access is now off the CA135 main road, not near the Palacio de Sobrellano as previously. For a while set up as a restaurant, with free roaming, the whole area surrounding the building has been fenced off and you must now pay to enter. The building itself is beautiful, covered in the famous sunflowers, and interesting to wander round and take a photo next to the Gaudí iron sculpture, however the inside is rather uninteresting (the Palacio de Sobrellano next door is much more impressive). The building is usually open daily throughout the year, although no opening times are published, if you want to check, contact them through the website.
Ecomuseo Cabuerniga – this brand new little eco museum located in a typical 18th century Casona in the village of Valle de Cabuerniga has displays over 2 floors detailing the geography, history and traditions of the beautiful Cabuerniga valley, part of the Saja Natural Park. It’s open April-September, Wednesday-Saturday 1000-1400 & 1500-1800, and Sunday 1000-1400. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Free entry.
Ferreria de Cades – located in the village of the same name, off the CA181, this working finery forge dating from 1752 uses the water of the River Nansa to power its huge hammer, and is open to the public for free and guided visits and with demonstration. It is closed November-February, open Tuesday-Sunday in July and August, Thursday-Sunday Easter week and Saturdays and Sunday mornings the rest of the year. Entrance for adults is 5€ for guided visit and demonstration, 7.50€ for guided visit, demonstration and mill demonstration, and 4€ for free visit.
Finca y Museo Marqués de Valdecilla – next to the Ayuntamiento de Medio Cudeyo (and different from the Hospital de Valdecilla in Santander, but which was founded by the Marqués de Valdecilla hence the name), and well signposted from the centre of Solares, this fine example of an Indianos house has recently been turned into what is the closest thing to a British National Trust property in the area. The main house, “Casa Blanca”, which in the past played host to King Alfonso XIII and Primo de Rivera, has been transformed into a museum explaining the estate’s interesting history, interactive displays, although all information in Spanish. It is possible to visit the main house independently, however it is necessary to take part in a guided visit to see the other two properties on the estate, the Casuca and Casa Museo San Rafael, which have both been conserved with original fittings and furniture, and are really the highlight of the visit. Visits are guided, however times vary throughout the year, but are generally around 1100 and 1700. The main Casa Blanca (with the reception) is open 1030-1330 & 1630-1930 Tuesday-Sunday, entrance to the Casa Blanca is 2€ and the guided tour of the three properties is 4€. The lovely guide does speak and will guide in English if asked! The estate gardens are open continuously with no lunch break, and are free to wander around and admire the great mountain views, lots of places to sit and relax, and a free map in Spanish and English is available from the reception in the Casa Blanca.
Fluvarium – in the centre of Liérganes, this ecomuseum is based around the importance of the river basins in eastern Cantabria. It includes models and exhibits on the traditional Pasiego life and ecosystems, a live river area, with species found in Cantabria’s rivers, and the stars of the show, the otters in their own special area. Closed completely 6th Jan – Easter, but from Easter week & mid June to end September open daily, rest of the year open weekends and holidays. Adult entry 6€.
Julióbriga Ciudad Romana y Museo Domus – located in the small village of Retortillo, close to the A67 motorway, this extensive area of Roman remains is open air and free and open to visit at all times. As you drive up to the village there are ruins with information boards on both sides of the road and around the church, but don’t forget to walk down the track next to the church for the most photographic ruins and columns, and view back across the Campoo mountains and the Ebro reservoir. Onsite next to the new car parking area, is the Museo Domus, a visitors centre where some of the more interesting objects excavated at the site are exhibited (more can be seen in the Museo de la Prehistoria in Santander), with mock ups and displays. Entry to the visitors centre is 3€ for adults, and it is open Friday-Sunday low season, Wednesday-Sunday mid season and Tuesday-Sunday high season. Check opening times.
Molino de Carrejo – in Carrejo, Cabezón de la Sal, this restored flour mill still has all its original 18th century components. Open summer only, daily 1100-1400 and with reservation only in the afternoon. Contact the tourist office of Cabezón de la Sal for more information.
Museo de Altamira – the only way to now get close to the UNESCO Altamira cave in Santillana del Mar is now via this excellent replica and its accompanying museum. The museum area houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to life, art and culture in the Paleolithic period in Cantabria. There is a cafe onsite. The museum is closed on Mondays, but otherwise open all year round with no closure at lunchtime and extended hours in summer and reduced hours on Sunday afternoons. Entry is 3€ for adults, and entry is free on Saturday afternoons after 1400. There is an information leaflet in English available.
Museo de las Amas de Cría Pasiegas – situated next to the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Valvanuz, close to Selaya on the CA623, this museum is dedicated to the long running tradition in the Pas valley area of supplying Amas de Cría (wet nurses) to wealthy families, partly due to poverty in the region and partly due to the sturdy nature of Pasiega women. The Pasiegas are especially famous throughout Spain for this as the valley has provided the wet nurses for many generations of the Spanish royal family. Entry is free, however reservations are necessary as the museum is usually closed. Tel: 633 302 824. A little more info in English about the museum can be found in this leaflet. There is a lovely riverside picnic area on the other side of the stream from the Santuario as well, with benches and plenty of shade.
Museo del Barquillero – this fun museum is dedicated to the production of wafers! Still made in a factory near Pando, in the Toranzo valley, the museum is right next to the Collegiate church in Santillana del Mar, and also holds a collection of old toys and objects of interest, as well as a wonderful old style sweet shop and huge selection of traditional sweets…and of course wafers! Open daily, free entry.
Museo de los Bolos – celebrating the traditional game of Bolos (similar to skittles/bowls/petanca), this museum is located in the village of Beranga. Most villages and towns have a bolos pitch, and the game is still played to league level around the region. The museum is open summer only, closed Mondays, and is free.
Museo de las Campanas – located in the old school buildings of San Mamés de Meruelo, this museum offers a tour through the history of bell making, and a display of 35 church bells and 29 other bells. Open by appointment only, tel 942 63 70 03, entry is 3€.
Museo de la Cantería – in the Cerreda area of the village of Rasines, off the N629, in the old school buildings, this museum offers and insight into the world of the stonemason. Techniques, tools, and many examples of the work of local renowned stonemason Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón. Open Tuesday-Sunday, April-September, free entry.
Museo Diocesano Santillana del Mar – right on the corner of the main road passing through Santillana, in an old Dominican convent, it holds a large collection of religious art, retablos, as well as a section on the Camino de Santiago (which passes through Santillana). Closed on Mondays, but otherwise open throughout the year, entry 3€ for adults.
Museo de las Espadas – located in the Casa de Cultura of Limpias, this collection of swords and weapons from throughout the ages is open throughout the year, Monday-Friday 1000-1300 & 1600-2000.
Museo Etnográfico de Cantabria – located in Camargo, off the N623, in a typical Cantabrian Casona and surrounded by parkland, this ethnography museum contains displays on traditional crafts, food, cooking, rural transport, hunting, rural industry and folklore. The museum open all year round, Tuesday-Sunday with extended opening hours May to September. Entrance is free and visits are guided and start on the hour.
Museo Etnografico El Hombre y El Campo – signposted off the N623 in San Vicente de Toranzo, this museum details the links between the local people and their landscape, including a look into the different professions, food production and traditional dress of the area. It has a huge selection of objects over 2 floors. It is open to visit only with reservation, possible online.
Museo Etnografico de Omoño – this huge private collection of traditional objects, tools, transport and machinery is in the village of Omoño, and is open in summer only, July and August, 1000-1900, closed Mondays.
Museo Etnografico El Pajar – this small museum of traditional tools is located in the village of Proaño, Campoo. The private collection has over 2,000 objects which help to explain the traditional methods and customs of Campoo, as well of demonstrations of wool spinning. Open Sundays 1700-2000, reservations recommended: 676 256 631.
Museo Etnografico de la Sidra – this small cider museum situated in the small village of Aniezo, accessible from Potes. It is part of a small cider making outfit producing Sidra Natural Valdeaniezo, and details the tools and process of making the cider (onsite), with a small restaurant and terrace for a tasting. Restaurant open 1330-1530 & 1930-2300, Tel: 942 732 114
Museo Etnografico de Soba – located in the Ayuntamiento de Soba, in the village of La Veguilla, this museum offers an insight into the traditions and practices in the Soba valley, with displays about the history and way of life, the Collados del Asón Natural Park and the use of the mountains and their resources by the local people. It’s open year round, Monday-Friday 1000-1400.
Museo del Faro de Cabo Mayor – located in the lighthouse on the Cabo Mayor peninsula, it houses a fun exhibit on lighthouse memorabilia and also an art gallery dedicated to Santander native Eduardo Sanz and his spectacular coastal paintings. It is open Tuesday-Sunday throughout the year, with extended opening hours in July & August. Entry is free.
Museo y Fundación Jesús Otero – next to the Collegiate Church in Santillana del Mar, this museum and sculpture garden houses around 50 sculptures by the native sculptor Jesús Otero. It also holds temporary exhibits with the objective of promoting new current artists. It is open Tuesday-Saturday throughout the year.
Museo de los Indianos – located in the church tower of the small village of Llerana, Saro, this museum has a collection of silver objects brought back to the region from Peru and Mexico by the Indianos (Spanish immigrants to South America) of the Pasiego valleys. Open Tuesday-Sunday during July and August, free entry, but reservation is necessary 942 593 351.
Museo Marítimo – on the waterfront overlooking the Bay of Santander, this maritime museum is worth a trip, especially with kids as it houses Santander’s aquarium. Located just a bit further along from the Palacio de Festivales, next to the Playa de la Magdalena, it has plenty of free parking outside (although in summer this is also beach parking, so fills up quickly), and is easily accessible on foot from the centre and El Sardinero. It offers displays on the maritime heritage of Santander, biology of the bay and ocean, fishing and industry in the area and nautical activites and technology. You’ll be greeted by the huge whale skeleton as you enter, and then on the bottom floor you’ll find the fish, and the top floor has a good restaurant with beautiful views over the bay and a viewing terrace. Entrance is 8€ for adults, its open Tuesday-Sunday year round.
Museo de Nansa – located in the village of Riclones in Rionansa, more specifically in the Complejo Turistico Los Picayos, a complex including apartments, a restaurant and this small museum. The deal is, if you eat at the restaurant (10€ menu), they will give you a guided tour of the seven rooms they’ve set up with traditional tools, games, furniture and well presented information panels on the area. Tours last an hour.
Museo Naturaleza de Cantabria – in the village of Carrejo, near Cabezón de la Sal, this museum houses a garden area demonstrating the 5 ecosystems found in Cantabria, details of which are elaborated over the following 2 floors. There is also an interesting relief map of the Picos de Europa and rather a lot of stuffed animals! The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday throughout the year, morning only on Sundays, and extended hours May-September. Entry is 3€ for adults.
Museo de la Pesca y de la Mar – located in Castro Urdiales, next to the Guardia Civil barracks, this curious little museum is home to a variety of objects and models relating to the fishing industry, both old and new. It’s open daily 1000-1230.
Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueologia de Cantabria (MUPAC) – Santander’s newest museum, or rather, relocated museum, the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology is located right in the centre of Santander, under the Mercado del Este (Calle Hernán Cortés, 4). In its 2,000m2 space it houses most of Cantabria’s interesting objects! Many pieces found in Cantabria’s huge range of prehistoric caves and Roman settlements, many examples of Cantabrian Estelas, and other exhibits covering archaeology, early man, the Paleolithic period, cave life, recent prehistory, the Guerras Cántabras, Roman culture and Mozarabic culture in Cantabria. It is excellently done and presented, chockablock with interactive displays, audiovisuals and interesting exhibits. And the best thing? It’s 100% perfectly translated into English (and French). It really is a must see in Santander, and puts all the cave visits in Cantabria into perspective. It is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but otherwise is open all year. Adult entry is 5€.
Museo de la Real Fábrica de la Artillería – in the town of La Cavada, this museum is dedicated to the town’s legacy in the production of canons by the Real Fábrica de la Artillería for use in the Spanish army. With a wide selection of canons of various calibers (inside and outside), some produced at the factory and others donated, as well as munition, hands-on models, coats of arms, and a life size replica of a section of an artillery boat. It is completely in Spanish, but most of it is fairly self explanatory. Don’t be afraid to ask the curator to get the models working for you if they’re off. Closed January and February, open weekends rest of the year, except July and August when it is open daily except Monday. Adults 3€ entry.
Museo de Relojería – this 5 room clock museum is located inside the Hotel Los Infantes in Santillana del Mar, displaying a large private collection of clocks dating from the beginning of time (couldn’t resist, sorry), to the present day. Opening hours as the hotel.
Museo Taurino de Santander – located in the bull ring in Santander (Calle Jerónimo Sáinz de la Maza), this museum has objects related to bull fighting, clothing, posters and recordings. Access is by appointment only (Tel: 942332289) from 15 June – 15 September, and is closed to the public at all other times.
Museo de la Tortura El Solar – this rather disturbing/interesting torture museum is located in the heart of Santillana del Mar (Calle Escultor Jesús Otero), and has all too good English translations of its displays of a variety of painful implements from the Middle Ages to the industrial era. Open daily throughout the year, entry 3,60€ for adults.
Museo Los Trabajos y Los Días – this museum, located in the village of San Andrés de Valdelomar, just off the A67 motorway and right on the border with Palencia, is a collection of artifacts, tools, machinery and other instruments showing traditional daily life in the south of Cantabria over the centuries. It’s advertised as constantly open and free to all.
Museo del Traje Regional – in Cabezón de la Sal, this museum exhibits the various traditional costumes and dress from around Cantabria. Open summer and bank holidays Wednesday-Sunday 1100-1400 & 1700-2000. For visits at other times, contact the tourist office of Cabezón de la Sal.
Museo de las Tres Villas Pasiegas – situated in Vega de Pas, this ethnographic museum shows the traditions, traditional cabañas, tools and other objects associated with the Paseigo valleys, people and their unique nomadic way of life. It’s located in the 18th century Ermita de San Antonio. Entry is 2,50€ and it’s open Tuesday-Sunday.
Museo de la Vijanera – in the large but isolated village of Silió, Iguña, this small museum, located in an old Ermita, is home to lots of information, costumes and photos of the pagan originated Vijanera festival, held in the village on the first Sunday of the year – the first fiesta of the year in the whole of Spain. The museum is open by appointment only off season, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 942 82 89 50.
Observatorio Astronómico de Cantabria – this is Cantabria’s only observatory open to the public. Situated right on the border with Burgos, on the CA757 south of Rocamundo, Valderredible, it is very out of the way and off the beaten track. The observatory is open from March to November, Friday to Sunday, check for session times on the website. Reservation is essential.
Palacio de Sobrellano – located in the heart of Comillas, and overlooking the main park area (often home to festivities in summer), the palace is a wonderful example of neogothic architecture, with some beautiful stained glass, paintings and walnut fireplaces. The guided tour is well worth it, if just to see the above and the marvellous entrance hall, but also to understand the whole history of Comillas and how all the mishmash of buildings in the town fit together. The tour guides do speak and will guide in English, however if there are Spanish people on the same tour, they are obliged to tour in Spanish. Next to the palace is also the Chapel-Pantheon, also open to visit. Both are by guided tour only, and are open all year round except Mondays, with tours lasting 45 minutes (there is a sign on the door to indicate the time of the next tour. Tours cost 3€ per adult for each building (palace and chapel).
Poblado Cántabro Argüeso – a collection of traditional Cantabrian huts make up this outdoor museum, signposted up a track in the village of Argüeso. With a collection of different huts, each with its own traditions inside, workshops, demonstrations and mock ups. There is also the possibility to visit the Poblado on a snow shoe tour in winter, really beautiful! Open June-September daily, rest of year open weekends and bank holidays, except in heavy snow. Adult entry 4€, with workshop 10€ (July and August only).
Poblado Cántabro Cabezón de la Sal – this traditional Cantabrian hut museum is located on the site of an original celtic Cántabro settlement in the centre of Cabezón de la Sal, and has a selection of traditional huts making up its “village”, each with its own uses and demonstrations. It is open daily in summer and bank holidays, at other times, contact the tourist office of Cabezón de la Sal. Adult entry is 2€ and the visit is guided.