Some visitors to northern Spain will know Santander because it is the port used by Brittany ferries for their sailings from Portsmouth and Plymouth. These routes are also complemented by a service to Bilbao from Portsmouth. This is also now operated by Brittany Ferries, following the withdrawal of P&O from the Bilbao route.
However, our Santander car hire advice guide is based mainly on the assumption that you are flying into Santander airport, rather than arriving by ferry. However, some people like to use ferries as a foot passenger. For onward travel be car, there are still plenty of hire offices in downtown Santander.
Santander is certainly the sort of city that is actually very easy to get around. The centre is very compact, and it’s all very walkable, even if this is a part of Spain that is known for its rain as much as it is for its sunshine!
There’s also a really good network of coastal railways which spreads both east and west from Santander. There are also a lot of express buses offering a more direct service to the much larger Basque city of Bilbao.
Do you need a car in Santander?
However, coming to Santander and then trying to get around using only public transport means missing out on a lot of the great scenery that lies inland. This is especially so in the Picos D’Europa National Park.
To go walking around the high altitude areas here, you will need to take the cable car up to the top at Fuente De. It is still a lot easier to have a hire car to get here in the first place. There are also a great deal of pretty villages all over Cantabria, with the author’s favourite being Santillana Del Mar. Although you can get to most of these villages using public transport, it tends to be a more arduous process the further away you get from Santander.
Santander car hire deals are usually reasonable value, when compared with elsewhere in Europe. However, they are nothing like as cheap as car hire deals on the southern costas. This is for the simple reason that there is much more competition around those resorts.
Do you need a car in Santander? Yes, a hire car is extremely useful here.