This festival, whether for its track record, what it is today or what it promises for the future, is without doubt one of the cultural focus points in summer in Santander and the towns and villages in Cantabria. It also has a major impact outside the region it is held in, indeed it is one of the leading festivals held in the summer in Spain.
The Santander International Festival arose from the idea of providing a cultural alternative to foreign students who came to study at the International University of Menéndez Pelayo.
Backed by the resolve of Ataúlfo Argenta and its first festival director, Manuel Riancho, the festival was set up in La Porticada Square in 1952. La Porticada, a simple stand by day, became a magic stage by night which all the great twentieth-century artists of stage, dance or concert hall passed through with the entire cultural scene of the region taking shape within it. That venue was brought to an end on the 30th August 1990 with Mstislav Rostropovich and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra in concert when its present venue, the Palacio de Festivales, took up the baton from 1991 on.