Elegant and sophisticated yet above all friendly, lively and fun, Comillas has it all…
With its naturally sheltered golden sandy beach, the finest collection of Catalan Modernist architecture outside of Barcelona and an atmospheric Old Town with boutique shops, bars and restaurants spilling out into the cobbled squares, there really is something for all the family in this lovely seaside town. Fiestas in the summer make it particularly colourful and the nightlife will not disappoint the teenagers.
From medieval times to the mid-nineteenth century Comillas was a small fishing village like any other along the Bay of Biscay, earning its living from whaling and farming the lush green fields which, to this day, form the backdrop to the town.
Then along came Antonio Lopez, a local lad with slightly grander ideas. Returning from Cuba with an immense fortune, gained principally in the slave trade, he set up shop in Barcelona from where he became one of the country’s leading shipping magnates not to mention founding the odd bank or two. Lopez integrated well in high society, his son marrying the daughter of Joan Gϋell – patron of Gaudi’s famous Parque Gϋell in Barcelona – and he himself establishing a long-standing friendship with King Alfonso XII who spent the summer in Comillas in 1881 and ’82, so bringing enormous prestige to the town.
The royal patronage coincided with the coming of age of the Catalan modernist architectural movement, and Comillas saw a flurry of activity as palaces and mansions were built in the new style – the most notable being the Palacio de Sobrellano by Martorell, with Gaudi’s famous ‘Capricho’ in the back yard, and the Pontificial University on the hill opposite designed by Martorell and Domenech i Montaner, both buildings funded by the Lopez family. Wander around Comillas however and you’ll find plenty more examples to wonder at.
At the heart of Cantabria
With all this in the town – and we haven’t yet mentioned the quaint fishing harbour, wild Oyambre beach just up the road or the views to the Picos mountains from the higher neighbourhoods of Comillas – you might feel inclined to stay put, yet Comillas is ideally located for discovering the best of Cantabria. The Picos de Europa are within an hour’s drive while nearby there’s a wealth of great beaches and the historic towns of Santillana del Mar and San Vicente de la Barquera to investigate, not to mention Santander. There are lovely circular touring routes directly inland, up and down the valleys of Saja, Nansa and Cabuerniga where you’ll find some of the prettiest villages in northern Spain.
For active types there’s great walking to be had wherever you go in Cantabria – surfing at Oyambre, kayaking in San Vicente, canoeing in Panes, horse riding in San Vicente del Monte, all manner of mountain activities at Potes… the list goes on.
Whether you choose to stay in the town itself or in the lovely hills nearby Casas Cantabricas have plenty of selected self catering options and charming small hotels to choose from. Wherever you stay Comillas is a must-see for any visitor to Cantabria, sure to captivate young and old alike.