Northern Spain is synonymous with seafood, rainy weather and mountains. Liz, a Michigan native who has also lived and taught in Andalusia, gives a glimpse at life in the capital city of Cantabria, Santander.
Name: Liz Ferry
City and Comunidad: Santander, Cantabria
School: Secondary (middle/high school)
Your living situation? I live in a shared apartment with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom
How did you find your flat? On Easypiso, although the listing was for a different flat that my landlord owns. She showed me the one I’m currently in after I saw the advertised one. I liked both, but my current one has amazing sea and mountain views.
Rent: Rent typically runs 220 – 250 a month here. I pay 310 a month (comunidad, water, international Skype phone, and internet included) – this is extremely expensive in Santander. I’m paying that much because of the view and the great condition of the apartment.
What did you spend on utilities? 30-40 a month (40-50 if water wasn’t already included in my rent).
You cell phone company and plan? Yoigo – Sim card pre-paid saldo plan, which is 8 euros a month for 500 mb internet, and minimum call usage of 6 euros a month. I rarely spend over 20 euros a month on my phone. I got this plan because I didn’t have a US smart phone, so it was a good deal for also buying a smart phone here.
What do you pay for internet? Internet is included in my rent. When I lived in Sevilla, I paid a total of 70 a month I believe (short term contract, split between two people, so 35 a piece).
What did you spend on groceries? 80 euros
Did you have any other sources of income? I teach private classes for 15 euros an hour (12 if it’s strictly conversation and the location is convenient) and work some hours at a language academy.
Were you able to save any money? Yes, but only because I work a ton of hours at the academy. I save a minimal amount – I love to travel to expensive places.
Your favorite tapas bar? Cañadío, in Plaza Cañadío, hands down. I never really pay much attention to the cost, but I think the pinchos run around 2.20-2.50 euros, and a wine around 1.50-1.80. It’s on the pricier end but SO worth it. My favorite pinchos include pimiento relleno, pudín de cabracho con gulas, y bacalao con mejillón. For drinks, I’m a Rioja girl.
Your breakfast and coffee bars suggestions: Bar Oporto for my afternoon coffee. At 1 euro, it’s basically the cheapest you can find in Santander.
There are two ways to order a café con leche here: café con leche (this will be a bigger cup), or a mediano. If you want the smaller one, you literally just order “un mediano.”
Nightlife in Santander: Rokambole is pretty good (no entrance fee, copas 6 euros), although I don’t really go out for copas very often.
How did you get around? Now you can get everything included on one transport card (I’ve lived here since before they started this, so I have three transport cards). You get the orange Transporte de Cantabria card, and you have to add money for each company you want to use (TUS for city buses, ALSA for municipal/regional buses, FEVE for FEVE trains, Renfe for Renfe cercanías), and you have to add the money at each company’s office (all within 5 minutes of each other).
What you loved about living in Santander? The views and surrounding landscape. It’s a small city, so not overwhelming, but there are still things to do. There’s a long coastal walk from the bay in the center of the city to the lighthouse at the very north of the city. Plenty of beaches, beautiful sea and mountain views, hiking routes nearby (also starting from within the city).
And your dislikes? It’s infamous, along with Valladolid, for being the rudest city in Spain. People here are pretty rude. Restaurant and shop service is rude. People in the bars are rude. Of course there are nice people, and I have great Spanish friends who live here. But honestly, only one of my Spanish friends here (and I’ve been here 3 years), is from Santander. The others are either from other towns of Cantabria or from outside Cantabria.
How easy was it to travel around Spain and Europe from Santander? There’s an airport with tons of Ryanair flights from April-October, but last winter they cut almost all the flights, except to Barcelona and London I believe. The only other airline is Iberia, with flights to Madrid, Barcelona, and maybe Valencia? The Bilbao airport is easy enough to get to, 1.5 hours by bus to the Bilbao bus station, then another 30 minutes by bus to the airport. But visiting northern Spain is easy by bus or train. It’s about 4.5 hours by train to Madrid, and if you get the tickets far enough ahead of time, about 40 euros round trip.
Ryanair flights April-October include Sevilla, Málaga, Valencia, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London, Dublin, Rome, Mallorca, and Tenerife.
Your guilty pleasure purchases: SHOES! I have big legs, so finding boots was difficult, but a shop called WALK near the town hall has boots that fit bigger calves.
Also, food! We have AMAZING sea food and fish. I also live just outside the Barrio Pesquero, where you can get a 12 euro menú del día any day of the week, with fresh caught fish always offered as one of the options for the second course. Food here is pricier than in other areas, but well worth it if you know where to go!
What are the top attractions in Santander?
–Palacio de la Magdalena (summer vacation palace of the royal family, built for Alfonso XIII – now also used for events/conferences of the UIMP, the international university – I had dinner in the palace when I studied at the university six years ago) – visit the palace, the mini zoo, and the rest of the grounds for gorgeous views
–Playas del Sardinero – the main beaches, with lots of activity near them, including a fancy casino – walk a little further to reach the cliffs and lighthouse.
–The Centro Botín, when it opens next year (supposedly). I think it’s supposed to have art exhibitions, and probably other cultural exhibitions and events. It’s supposed to be a big deal. We’ll see.
Something you wish someone had told you before moving to Spain: Save a lot more money to get a one-bedroom apartment for just myself. I am allergic to cigarette smoke, and every year I have had at least one roommate who smoked. Trying to get them to go outside to smoke was always a major battle. Lots of young Europeans smoke, and they think it’s perfectly fine to do it in the house, so if this is a problem for you, plan well where you are going to live, and with who.
Want to share your experience living and working in Spain? Take the survey. Get all the details from email@example.com