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What are the pros and cons of life in Spain's Cantabria?

The Local Spain
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What are the pros and cons of life in Spain's Cantabria?
Cantabria is one of Spain's most picturesque regions. Photo: Enrique/Pixabay

Nestled in 'Green Spain' along the country's northern coast lies the beautiful region of Cantabria, a place with plenty to offer newcomers but a few setbacks that are worth being aware of.



Amazing nature and beaches

Anyone who has been to Cantabria can tell you: it is stunning. Cantabria is home to some breath-taking natural landscapes, whether it be the 220km of fine sandy beaches stretching along the Cantabrian coast, or the dramatic summits and valleys of the Picos de Europa, Spain's first national park.

Compared to other parts of Spain, Cantabria (and the north in general) is incredibly green and luscious, with landscapes sometimes compared to Ireland. Other highlights include the Altamira cave, home to examples of Palaeolithic art, and the Cabárceno Park, a 750 hectare park where animals roam freely.

READ ALSO: The small coastal town that was Spain's capital for a day

High quality of life

Cantabrians also enjoy a very high quality of life.  According to a wellbeing study done by the BBVA Foundation and the Valencian Institute of Economic Research, Cantabria has the fifth best quality of life in Spain among all regions.

The region's capital Santander was ranked the fourth best city to live in Spain according to a 2023 study by stats comparison site Numbeo, which compared purchasing power and cost of living, access to housing, environment, safety, healthcare and traffic across Spanish cities. 

The beaches are fantastic across Cantabria, but don't expect to be able to swim in the sea all year round. Photo: Kiddopedia/Pixabay


Great gastronomy

Another advantage of living in Cantabria is its extraordinary gastronomy. Being a coastal region, the Cantabrian Sea provides an endless supply of gorgeous, high quality fish and seafood for you to enjoy. One notable delicacy are the anchoas de Santoña, which is a delicious anchovy dish bathed in olive oil, as well as rabas (calamari), the cocido montañés (Cantabrian stew) and Cantabrian cheeses.

The beef is also excellent in Cantabria, something that can't necessarily be said for other parts of Spain, as well as an abundant variety of cheeses to try.




Affordable cost of living

Though not quite as cheap as some of Spain's southern regions or neighbouring Asturias and Galicia, Cantabria has a relatively affordable cost of living and is cheaper than many of its neighbouring regions in the north of the country.

Obviously, property prices depend on the area but in general are lower than in other regions of Spain such as Madrid, Barcelona or nearby Basque Country. In Cantabrian cities, the average price of a rent can range roughly from €500 to €800 per month for a one or two-bedroom apartment.

In terms of food, the average price of a meal in a restaurant is around €10-15 per person, while a weekly shop in a supermarket can cost around €50-70 for a couple, according to Spanish moving website Organiza Tu Mudanza.



Decent national bus and train links

Transportation in Cantabria is quite efficient and well developed, especially in urban and suburban areas. As is the case around most of Spain, transport in the more rural areas can be a little more hit and miss (more on that below). 

The main means of public transport in Cantabria are buses, which offer a wide variety of routes throughout the region.

It also has a pretty good train network (especially in the north of the region close to the coast), which connects the region with other parts of Spain. The main train station in Cantabria is Santander station, which has high-speed services (AVE) and connections to other major cities across the country.

There are however some recent reports that the rail network is slightly dated, prone to breakdowns and in need of more state investment.

Cantabria also has an international airport, the Seve Ballesteros in the capital Santander.



Well connected internationally

Santander's Seve Ballesteros Airport is by no means El Prat or Barajas but it operates a fair amount of national flights (Barcelona, Granada, Ibiza, Cádiz, Málaga, Menorca, Murcia, Tenerife, Seville, Valencia, Vigo, Mallorca, Málaga and Madrid) and international connections (Bologna, Brussels, Bucharest, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Marrakech, Milan, Paris, Rome, Venice and Vienna).

As an added bonus, ferries connecting the UK (Portsmouth and Plymouth) and Spain mostly stop in Santander.

Santander is the main port of call for ferries heading to Spain from the UK. (Photo by MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP)



Unlike in other neighbouring northern regions, such as Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country, if you move to Cantabria you won't need to learn another language other than castellano. Castilian Spanish is the language in the northern region, although like anywhere there are local dialects and region-specific bits of vocabulary you might need to pick up.

The people in Cantabria also speak Spanish very well and clearly. According to Spain's national statistics body (INE), along with Asturias, Cantabria is one of the regions where the people speak the 'best' Spanish.



Cantabria is one of the safest regions of Spain, making it an ideal place to raise a family. According to the report 'Safety in homes and businesses' carried out by the Securitas Direct Observatory, Cantabria was found to be one of five safest regions in the whole of Spain, and the capital city Santander also ranks in the top 5 safest cities in Spain.


Decent wages

In terms of average wages, Cantabria punches above its weight and outperforms bigger regions of Spain. In the northern region, the average gross salary per month is €1,704, slightly below the nationwide average (€1,822) but above regions like Valencia and Andalusia, according to 2022 figures from Idealista





Obviously, this is fairly subjective, but if you're moving to Spain for warm or hot weather, don't come to Cantabria. The northern region is definitely not the stereotypical Spain of scorching sun and dips in the pool. Cantabria, like most regions in northern Spain, has a slightly different climate.

It rains a lot. The northern community is one of the rainiest places in Spain, and Santander is the eight rainiest city in Spain, with 123.6 days of rain per year on average.

Temperatures are generally mild throughout the year, but certainly not on par with the sunnier parts of southern Spain. Average summer temperatures are around 20C, and in the winter months average temperatures hover somewhere around 9C or 10C.

But then again, this slightly cooler, rainier climate is what maintains Cantabria's luscious, green landscapes -- so perhaps this is a pro and a con depending on your point of view.

Big waves hit the coast of Comillas in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria. Photo: CESAR MANSO/AFP.




The job market in Cantabria is traditionally based on the tourism and construction sectors, which can make work in Cantabria quite seasonal.

However, the unemployment rate is 11.6 percent, below the national average, and the seventh lowest rate in Spain.



Though Cantabria does have decent transport links, the distances to other important cities can be a little much, and at times the region can feel a little isolated compared to other regions of Spain, especially so when you consider that it is wedged between the sea on one side and mountainous national parks on the other.

Easily accessing other cities or tourist destinations can be made a little more difficult by this, but not terribly.


Transport limitations in rural Cantabria

Although public transport in bigger cities like Santander is pretty good, the rural services can be a little hit and miss (though in fairness, this is true across Spain) and there are many towns without train stations.

If you're not living in a city, having a car would be pretty important.


A lack of cultural diversity

Cantabria is a beautiful region and rich in culture and gastronomy, but it can feel a little homogeneous in terms of its population and culture.

Can you find small town, traditional Spain in Cantabria? Sure, absolutely. If that's what you're looking for, Cantabria might be for you. But if you are searching for a more diverse, international or metropolitan experience, you might be better advised to look elsewhere.

According to INE data, just 6.4 percent of the population in Cantabria are foreigners, one of the lowest proportions in the entire country.


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