This beautiful 70-acre peninsula in Santander is the site of the historic Magdalena Palace, built between 1908 and 1913 to be the summer home of the king of Spain. But the magnificent royal residence is only one of the attractions of this almost-isolated spit of land, which has now become essentially a public park.
The natural beauty of the sea cliffs and beaches, the well-manicured gardens and managed woodland, and the former stables in the style of a medieval English village are all only part of the peninsula’s charm. There are also collections of sea lions, seals, and penguins in some of the best housing for such creatures anywhere. Under the right conditions, the enclosures are exposed to spectacular spray from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
On the peninsula is also the outdoor Man and the Sea Museum, dedicated to the local navigator and adventurer Vital Alsar, who undertook expeditions across the Pacific on balsa rafts in the 1970s. A local hero, Alsar set the record for the longest known raft journey in history. A replica of his second raft, the “Balsa,” is displayed outside the museum, along with three replica galleons from his later expedition.
The palace itself can only be visited by way of a guided tour of the building, at specific times of day. The building is now mainly used for educational and conference purposes and, inevitably, as a magnificent wedding venue. The palace was paid for, by public subscription by the citizens of Santander, as a summer residence for King Alfonso XIII, but when the second Spanish republic was established in 1931 it became part of the International University Menéndez Pelayo. At that time, the medieval village that housed the stables were converted to student residences. The university has since moved to another site, and in 1982 the palace building was declared a national monument.