Santander probably comes from Portus Victoriae, the Roman port used as a natural access to the sea by the peoples who, at the end of the wars against the Cantabrians, settled in the vicinity of Reinosa (Julióbriga). But it was in the eleventh century (1068), when the first documentary mention of Santander is made, stating the existence of the Abbey of San Emeterio, whose Latin name gave rise to the modern name of the city. Throughout history, Santander has undergone considerable mercantile development and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it became the main port for exports from Castile to America.
From the mid nineteenth century, Santander slowly developed into a modern city, where tourism appeared as a new feature of the economy, with lasting effects on its markedly residential character that still persists today.
The city has few remaining historical monuments (due to a fire in 1941), the most notable of which include the Cathedral and the El Cristo Crypt, which are the oldest buildings, and also the Regional Assembly, the Palace of La Magdalena, the Great Casino, the Menéndez Pelayo Library and the picturesque Paseo de Pereda, with its traditional balconied houses.
Mainly due to its coastal location, Santander enjoys extraordinarily beautiful surroundings. It stands on a peninsula enveloped by the bay and the cliffs facing the Cantabrian sea. But perhaps the beaches are its best-known natural feature. Five kilometres of meandering coastline reveal a varied collection of small and vast sandy stretches, some with calm waters, sheltered from the wind (Los Peligros, La Magdalena and Bikinis) and others facing the open sea, with more of a swell (El Camello, La Concha, La Primera, La Segunda or Castañeda, Molinucos and Mataleñas). Close by, green areas of great beauty reach down to the coast. Like the prow of a ship sailing the seas, the emblematic gardens of Piquío, set on a rocky outcrop, separate the two beaches of El Sardinero. Nearby, the wooded La Magdalena Park (on the peninsula itself) full of vegetation, opposite the Island of Mouro and the powerful Cantabrian sea and the Royal Palace create a most picturesque local scene. .