Financial troubles in Spain and other fragile eurozone economies had forced Santander to slash the estimated value of its assets in turbulent economies in past years, eroding its profits.
In 2013, however, net profit leapt to €4.37 billion ($6 billion), up 90.5 percent from the previous year.
Net banking income fell 13.3 percent to €25.935 billion over the same period.
"After several years of strengthening the balance sheet and capital, Banco Santander is embarking on a period of strong profit growth in the coming years," Santander chairman Emilio Botin said in a statement.
Santander said the 2013 results marked a "turnaround" after suffering declining profits in recent years.
Despite the international economic crisis, especially in the eurozone, Santander said its worldwide operations had allowed it to produce a profit in every quarter of the past five years.
In 2013, it said, 53 percent of group profit came from emerging markets.
Over the five years of crisis, the bank said it had set aside €65 billion in provisions and boosted the share of rock solid core capital by €18.4 billion, or 4.13 percentage points, to 11.7 percent of all capital.
In the final quarter of 2013 alone, Santander said net profit rose 0.4 percent from the figure a year earlier to €1.06 billion. Net banking income fell 0.1 percent to €6.28 billion over the same period.