Museum of Altamira

The Museum of Altamira is a place devoted to learning about, enjoying and experiencing the life of those who painted and inhabited the cave of Altamira. The museum’s most attractive offer is the possibility of knowing the humanity's first art, Paleolithic art.
Furthermore, the Museum is in charge of a legacy of maximum value, the cave of Altamira, a milestone in universal art history which discovery meant the discovery of Palaeolithic cave art and one of its most spectacular manifestations.

Plaque commemorating the inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List
Plaque commemorating the inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List. © Museo de Altamira

Altamira, World Heritage

After hundreds of discoveries across the five continents, the cave of Altamira, the first cave in which Palaeolithic cave art was identified, still stands out for its aesthetic quality and its technical workmanship.

The relevance of the artistic expression of the cave's inhabitants was recognised by UNESCO, which in 1985 registered it on the World Heritage List.
Inclusion compels the States owning the assets that make up the List to ensure the protection, conservation and evaluation of the Heritage they manage, as they are assets considered to be of interest to all of humanity.

The Museum

The museum's history goes back to the creation of a Board of Directors in 1924, but its current home was opened in 2001, in a building planned by the architect Juan Navarro Baldeweg. The protection of the cave of Altamira has been the main factor in its location, design and construction. With its minimalist architecture, the building is integrated into the landscape to form a continuation of the essence of the cave of Altamira and has been designed to house the spaces in which the work of the museum is carried out: the permanent collection, including the reproduction of the famous polychromes room, laboratories, seminar rooms for activities, an auditorium, a library, and a shop.

The National Museum and Research Centre of Altamira is a state-owned museum pertaining to the Directorate General of Cultural Heritage and Fine Arts of the Spain Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Aerial view of the museum complex
View of the current headquarters of the Museum. © Museo de Altamira

The times of Altamira

The Museum’s permanent exhibition explores the "times of Altamira". It is divided into two main areas: the exhibition galleries devoted to the art and culture of hunter-gatherer groups in the Upper Palaeolithic, and the Neocave, the reproduction of the cave of Altamira.

Panels on human evolution at the museum
Panels on human evolution at the museum. © Museo de Altamira

The exhibition

The permanent exhibition "The times of Altamira" gives visitors a closer look at the prehistoric era of the Iberian Peninsula. Different aspects of prehistoric life in Altamira are shown: art, culture, life, etc. The life of the hunter-gatherer groups of the Upper Palaeolithic age is revealed through the archaeological objects on display, which take into account their original context and show how they were used and created.

Hunters and gatherers satisfied their requirements for survival by selecting natural resources through hunting, fishing and gathering. Part of their daily routine took place inside the caves, around the fire. Visitors can find out about their diet, the preparation of skins for making clothes and personal ornaments, the organization of the society and its relationship to its surroundings, the economics of exploiting the surrounding environment, seasonal movement throughout the land, and the main archaeological sites in Cantabria.

Archeological objects in one of the museum's showcases
Archeological objects in one of the museum's showcases. © Museo de Altamira


The reproduction of the cave, the Neocave, presents Altamira as a Palaeolithic venue, a habitation site and a sanctuary. This meticulous and exact reproduction, made in full scale, reconstructs the cave of Altamira as it was between 22,000 and 13,000 years ago, when it was inhabited by groups of hunter-gatherers. The remains of the everyday life of its inhabitants can be found in the hall area, where there are large collections of fauna, shells, charcoals, and utensils made out of flint stone, antler and bone, as well as the remains of pigments and objects of furniture that provide information about their way of life.
The art surprises the visitor, especially the colorful roof with its bison, horses, deer, goats, and painted and engraved symbols. It is in this part of the cave, scarcely penetrated by daylight, where the spaces of ritual and myth begin. This collection of animals and symbols represents a worldview, the spirituality of the hunters of the Upper Palaeolithic age and the start of our history.

The art of Altamira stands out on account of the quality of its paintings and engravings, as well as for the diversity of techniques and styles, and the collection of art spanning a period of more than twenty thousand years. It is the most spectacular embodiment of cave art and constitutes the masterpiece of brilliant painters.

Inside the reproduction of the cave of Altamira
The Neocave, the reproduction of the cave of Altamira. © Museo de Altamira. Photo: Nexo

Visitor address

Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación de Altamira
Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, S/N
39330 Santillana del Mar

Aerial view of the museum.
Aerial view of the museum. © Museo de Altamira

Hours & Admission

For opening hours and admission prices, please see the museum website.


The building is free of architectural barriers and there are reserved parking spaces, accessible bathrooms and ramps and lifts connecting the different areas of the museum.

The museum offers free app guides with audio descriptions and subtitles in Spanish, English and French.

A group of students is listening to a museum educator.

School group in the museum. © Museo de Altamira

A group of visitors looking at a tree at the museum grounds

Walk to discover the natural environment surrounding the cave of Altamira. © Museo de Altamira

Two people are seen from behind, throwing spears at a distant target.

Workshop on Paleolithic hunting materials and techniques. © Museo de Altamira

Programmes and Activities

The Museum of Altamira offers all its visitors the possibility of discovering prehistory and rock art through its permanent exhibition, as well as being able to enjoy the marvelous natural surroundings in which it is located.
The museum is complemented by a wide range of cultural and leisure activities that run throughout the year. There are activities for adults as well as for families with children.

Altamira for Schools

The Museum of Altamira also offers its collaboration to teachers and educators to prepare the visit to the museum. Group tickets can be bought through the Reservations Department. We will guide you in organizing your visit. We offer various resources to prepare activities in your classroom and in the museum exhibition.

Altamira is located in northern Spain, in Cantabria, near a small town called Santillana del Mar. Santillana del Mar is situated on the northern branch of the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela; it is a beautiful medieval town with palaces and towers that have made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cantabria.

The museum is located in the heart of one of the most important concentrations of Palaeolithic rock art in Europe, the Cantabrian coast. In July 2008 UNESCO granted World Heritage status to the Palaeolithic Cave Art of the Cantabrian Coast (northern Spain), a total of 17 prehistoric caverns that culminated the recognition granted in 1985 to the Cave of Altamira.

Aerial view of the  village of Santillana del Mar.
Aerial view of the village of Santillana del Mar. © Santillana del Mar Town Council

However, Cantabria also boasts many monuments and a rich cultural heritage; it is famous for its diverse landscapes, due to the concentration of high mountains, deep valleys and rugged coastlines, and for its excellent gastronomy. Visitors to the region will therefore find no shortage of alternatives to enrich their Cantabrian experience.

A street in the village of Santillana del Mar
The village of Santillana del Mar. © Santillana del Mar Town Council