Santander is a medium sized city with approximately 200,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of the province of Cantabria, which has a surface area of 5,289 kilometers. The province has a population of 526,866. Its boundaries are the Cantabrian Sea to the north, the autonomous region of Castilla-León to the south, the Basque Country to the east, and Asturias to the west. Santander was founded in the 18th century and developed in the following century thanks to a flourishing commercial activity. In the 20th century, due to its beaches and appealing climate, it became a popular tourist destination promoted by the Spanish Royal Family. The city offers a friendly atmosphere. It is still favored by Spanish tourists who come predominantly from central and southern Spain. Santander has relatively little international tourism.
Santander is surrounded by places of great historical interest: important remains from the Prehistoric Era (Altamira and Puente Viesgo Caves), Roman ruins (Julióbriga), medieval settlements (Santillana del Mar), examples of civil and religious architecture of the 19th and 20th Centuries (The Palaces of Elsedo, Soñanes and Rañada). The area nearby is famous for its great geographic diversity: beaches, bays and cliffs, together with green valleys and highland areas, such as the mountain range of the Picos de Europa, located 100 kilometers away from the coast. The climate is mild throughout the year. The average temperature is 19°C (67°F) in August and 9.5°C (49°F) in December. In Cantabria there are numerous facilities for sports, such as soccer and "bolos" (bocce ball). Sailing, surfing, mountaineering, rafting, trekking and skiing are also very popular.
The Festival Hall in Santander presents classical music concerts, operas, zarzuelas (operettas), jazz concerts, theatrical and dance performances. In addition, it houses a Film Club that sponsors movies not usually seen in commercial theaters.
Santander is especially well known for three art festivals: the Paloma O'Shea International Piano Competition, the Summer Cycle of Choral and Organ Music, and the International Festival of Santander. The city is home to several art galleries and to the following museums: the Cantabrian Sea Maritime Museum, the Menéndez Pelayo Library and Museum, the Municipal Fine Arts Museum, and the Regional Prehistoric and Archaeology Museum.
The Universidad de Cantabria is a public university founded in 1972. Before 1972, the university was a "Colegio Universitario" affiliated with the Universidad de Valladolid. It consisted of two schools: the College of Sciences and the School of Civil Engineering. Currently, the university has an enrollment of 15,000 students. It confers degrees in the following areas of study: physics; mathematics; medicine; geography; history; law; business administration; economics; nautical studies; business studies; engineering (civil engineering; telecommunications; chemical engineering; technical industrial engineering; technical telecommunications engineering/telecommunications systems; technical mining and metallurgical engineering). It also awards diplomas in education (early childhood education; primary education; physical education; foreign languages); ship machinery/maritime navigation; nursing; and labor relations. Throughout the year, the university offers an abundance of cultural activities.