We had the chance to visit Comillas recently, during our trip on the Cantabrian coast. We could find many notable medieval and baroque buildings, as well as some more contemporary ones, and we spent a lovely day in Comillas. In this article we share the best things to do in Comillas, in the jewel of Cantabria.
From the second half of the 19th century, the Spanish royal family started spending their summers in Comillas, and so did large part of the Spanish nobility, whose many descendants still frequent the town every summer. As a result, Comillas left an imprint of architectural relics such as palaces and monuments designed by renowned Catalan artists in particular, i.e. Antoni Gaudí or Doménech i Montaner.
From the second half of the 20th century however, southern Spain and the islands became more popular due to an increasing inclination towards sunnier destinations became attractive prospects for the rich and famous. Although the town has seen an upsurge in the last years, it still maintains its character as “the haven for the decadent and discreet aristocracy“.
Things to do in Comillas
Throughout the Middle Ages, Comillas was a small village that lived off its fishing port, cattle and agriculture. Situated in the West Coast of Cantabria it was soon taken over by the Marquises of Santillana. At the end of the nineteen century, Comillas started changing its shape thanks to the distinguished Don Antonio López y López who emigrated to America and came back to Barcelona where he founded important tobacco companies. He was given the marquisate of Comillas in gratitude for his help during the Cuban conflict.
Comillas then was altered by him and other wealthy people, by introducing the Catalan Modernismo in the territory. This picturesque architecture is displayed on its neo-Gothic, neo-Arab and neo-Mudejar constructions, an outstanding collection renowned for its exceptional beauty within the region.
El Capricho was designed by Antoni Gaudí. It was built in 1883–1885 for the summer use of a wealthy client, Máximo Díaz de Quijano. Unfortunately he died a year before the house was completed. And after this building was used such as a summer house for the most economically and politically powerful people. In 1977, the last descendant of the López-Díaz de Quijano family sold the property and it was restored and turned into a restaurant in 1988. Finally, in 2009, the building became a museum.
Gaudí, who designed only a small number of buildings outside Catalonia, was involved with other projects at Comillas too. He was the assistant of Joan Martorell on another summer residence, the Palacio de Sobrellano. El Capricho belongs to the architect’s orientalist period, during the beginnings of Gaudi’s artwork. El Capricho allows to see all the foundations on which Modernisme is based, anticipating Europe’s avant-garde Art Nouveau.
Comillas Pontifical University
Pope Leo XIII founded the Seminary of St. Anthony of Padua in 1890 in the town of Comillas. In response to efforts made by the Marquis of Comillas to build an institution for educating local candidates to the priesthood. At the time of its foundation, the seminary was entrusted to the Society of Jesus. In 1904, the seminary was raised to the status of a Pontifical University when Pope Pius X granted the school the power to confer academic degrees in theology, philosophy and canon law. In 1969 the university was moved to Madrid, where it admitted a wider range of students including international students. But the spectacular building stayed, overlooking the valley of Comillas. Today the building gives home to the University Center CIESE and provides Hispanic studies.
The Sobrellano Palace and his Chapel-Pantheon were designed by Joan Martorell under the order of the Marquees of Comillas. These buildings are conceived today as an authentic architectural jewel, of Neogothic style.
The garden is free to visit all day, so you can walk around the buildings, while admiring the extraordinary beautiful architecture and views from the top of the hill. If you would like to get into the building you need to purchase ticket. For more information you can click here.
Visit the historic center
The center has lovely cobbled streets and squares with ancestral houses, towers and some Modernist style buildings. In the heart of the historic center we can find the Church of Saint Christopher of Comillas, and around we can find many cute sellers, terraces and nice restaurants to complete our visit.
Where to stay in Comillas
If you would like to stay in Comillas, you need to book in advance due to the popularity of the place, it gets full very quickly. You can take a look at the below map and review some of the places. Of course, it!s worth taking a look in nearby places as well, like in Santander or Santillana de Mar for more options.
How to get to Comillas
The distance from Santander to Comillas is not long, it is approximately 40 km on road A-8. But on the way we shouldn’t miss some other lovely places to visit, it’s highly recommended to stop by at places like Santillana del Mar or Cabezón de la Sal.
The distance from Santander to Comillas by bus is also approximately 40 km. It takes a bit longer though than by car. You can book your bus ride here.
Best experiences in & around Comillas
Enjoy our discounts in the place
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