While everyone has their preferences, for me, the food is better in the north of Spain. The most popular spots when it comes to trying the best cuisine the country has to offer are Galicia, Bilbao and San Sebastian. All located in the north. And despite being less well-known, Santander in the small community of Cantabria is no different. There are many tasty, well-priced spots in the city where you can try some of the best food and drink around. So here are the best bars and restaurants in Santander.
Best seafood – Bar Chupi
Situated on the coast, seafood is very popular in Santander and one of the local specialities is rabas. More commonly known as ‘calamares’ in other parts of the country, rabas is fried squid with a batter coating. There are many restaurants serving good rabas in Santander, but for the best head to Bar Chupi (Avenida de los Castros).
While you’re there, order a plate of mejillones (muscles) with Chupi’s special sauce.
Alternative option: Cabo Mayor lighthouse. High quality rabas with great views along the coast.
Best Tortilla – Cafetería Bedoya 2
Tortilla is a common dish in all parts of Spain, with many local cafes adding their own twist to meet the demand of everyone’s preference. In Santander you’ll find the best Tortilla at Cafetería Bedoya 2 (Avenida de los Castros). Not only is the quality high, but you’ll also find several variations to choose from, including ham, caramelised onion, tuna and of the course the traditional option.
Make sure you get there early as they typically sell out well before lunchtime (2pm in Spain).
Alternative options: Cafetería Manila (Colonia de Los Pinares), Move & Go Santander (Calle Autonomía) or Cafetería Mimosa (Paseo General Davila).
Best sandwich (San Simón) – Cafetería Extremadura
You won’t be short of lunchtime options in Santander, especially around the city centre or by the beach. However, if you want to try somewhere more local with cheaper prices, Cafetería Extremadura (Paseo General Dávila) is a great option.
Among their extensive menu offering everything from salads to burgers is the best sandwich in town. Possibly even the world. The bocata San Simón contains veal, ham, omelette and green pepper, all topped off with a little aioli.
Alternative option: Max Sports Café (Avenida los Infantes) do some very tasty burgers and wraps. It’s also a good place to watch live football and other sports.
Best Café – Amarella Café & Bistro
If you want to try the best all round café in Santander, make sure to check out Amarella (Calle Calderón de la Barca) close to the bus station. It’s always busy, especially in the mornings, and they have seating options either inside, upstairs or out on the covered terrace.
Everything tastes great and all of the staff are very friendly, even though they seem to be constantly moving. The tortilla is another rival to Bedoya for the best in the city, while they’ll usually bring you a little slice of their freshly made bizcocho (sponge cake) as an extra. Even the coffee tastes amazing (and I don’t even like coffee!).
Alternative option: Cafetería Expréssate (Pasaje de Peña) have an extensive menu throughout the day, but the hot chocolate options are my personal favourite with many for you to choose from. If you want some churros with your chocolate, head to Chocolatería Áliva (Calle Daoiz y Velaverde).
Best pinchos – Mesón Rampalay
Pinchos (or pintxos as you may also see them written) are a popular bar snack found throughout the north of Spain. Most people will have heard of tapas, appetizers typically served with drinks in bars or on a designated menu where you can select several to create a meal. The difference with pinchos, other than it’s the more popular name in the north, is they often come on top of a piece on bread.
Many of the cities along Spain’s north coast are well-known for the quality and variety of their pinchos, and Santander is no different. The best restaurant for well-priced pinchos with plenty of variety is Mesón Rampalay (Calle Daoiz y Velaverde). Select the most appealing of what they have on offer from the bar and then either take a seat on the terrace outside or stand at the bar with the locals.
Alternative option: Casa Lita (Paseo de Pereda) is the most popular pincho spot in town, especially on Friday evenings and at the weekend. So make sure to get there early.
Best pizza – La Tasca
While not exactly a Spanish dish, this wouldn’t be a true guide to the best places for food and drink in Santander without mentioning La Tasca (Calle Peña Herbosa). The Argentine owned restaurant has plenty of choice when it comes to pizzas and all of them are of the highest quality.
Better still, the choices don’t come with the usual high prices you typically find when ordering food labelled as ‘gourmet’. And with seating options either outside on the street or inside with its warm lighting, there’s no reason not to stop by.
Alternative option: Pizzería Vittorio (Bajada de la Encina) also have plenty of options at good prices. You can either dine-in or, if you prefer, take it back to enjoy in the comfort of your accommodation.
Best bar – Terminal Sur
Santander’s nightlife is as lively as any city in Spain. While it may not have the size of Madrid or Barcelona, you won’t be short of options when it comes to looking for a good night out. The most popular spots are Calle Río de la Pila and Plaza Cañadío, with several bars in each area.
The best bar however is Terminal Sur (Calle Pasadizo Zorrilla). Not only is the owner, Alberto, incredibly friendly and welcoming, but they also have lots of drink options. Inside the walls are decorated with music memorabilia with good music to accompany them. While outside is a small, atmospheric terrace in a photographic location.
Terminal Sur also produce their own homemade lemonade, which goes perfectly with a glass of rum.
Alternative option: Irish Bar Dorian (Calle Santa Lucía) is another popular choice, again in the same area. You’ll find events on almost every evening, so check online to see what’s going on.
Best cheese – Bodega Fuente de
Cheese is very popular in Spain and there are many local options from the green surroundings of Cantabria. It seems every village and small town have their own cheese for you to try, with every possible taste covered.
One of the best is the Picón, a blue cheese from the nearby town of Tresviso. At Bodega Fuente de (Calle Peña Herbosa) you can select either a side dish or, if you’re not so hungry, a pincho of the Picón. The pincho along with a glass of red wine will set you back just €2.50. Definitely worth stopping by.
Alternative options: The rest of Bodega Fuente de’s menu is pretty in-depth and appetising. One reason why it’s so popular, along with the low prices. The fried anchovies (bocartes fritos) are another to try.
Best meat – Meson Parrilla Brasas
Just next door to Bodega Fuente de is Parrilla Brasas (Calle Peña Herbosa). The small restaurant has many meat options, as you would expect from a grill, but also plenty of equally tasty vegetable-based dishes too.
My personal favourite is a pincho of solomillo, essentially a mini-steak sandwich with an incredible flavour. Topped with the restaurant’s own homemade peppercorn sauce, it’s sometimes difficult to stop at just one.
Alternative options: A pincho of chorizo criollo is almost as good as the solomillo option, and both go nicely with the Ribera red wine.
Best ice cream – Regma
As you would expect from a seaside town, Santander has plenty of ice cream parlours. Especially along Paseo de Pereda in the centre or close to Sardinero beach. However, local company Regma are without doubt the best choice. You’ll find many of their ice cream parlours in the centre of the city (again on Paseo de Pereda) and of course by the beach.
The main stand by Sardinero beach (Plaza Italia) typically sees a long line of people on a sunny day. Instead try the shop close to the football stadium in Plaza Rubén Darío just a short 12-minute walk away.
With more than 10 flavours to choose from, you won’t be disappointed. Especially as for just €2.50 you’ll be presented with a huge scoop! While any of them are incredible, the cheesecake flavour is by far the best.
Alternative options: If the Regma line on Paseo de Pereda is too long, Gelatería Vacanze Romane and Heladería Capri on the same street are decent substitutes.
Best desserts – sobao and quesada pasiega
The region of Cantabria is well-known for its cows thanks to the green countryside all around. It’s one of the main reasons why the cheese is so good around Santander and other towns in the area. But it’s also used in the desserts, such as quesada pasiega. It’s a dense pudding type dessert made from cheese (just don’t think of it like a cheesecake).
Another typical local dessert is sobao, a kind of sponge cake with a buttery taste. You’ll find sobaos and quesada in most local bakeries and supermarkets. Both are also available from shops selling local Cantabrian cuisine, such as Mi Alacena Gourmet on Calle Jesús de Monasterio.
Alternative options: For something different after lunch, orujo is a liquor typically taken as a digestif. Every October there is an Orujo festival in the nearby town of Potes up in the Picos de Europa mountains.