Salamanca is a historic city in the inland region of Castille & León. It’s famous for its prestigious University and attracts many international students. As such the city has a lively mix of bars, restaurants and shops to keep the young entertained. But Salamanca hasn’t forgotten to preserve and celebrate it’s past. The city is steeped in history and old charm and has a lot to offer visitors.
We had a wonderful time on our trip from Madrid and I wanted to share with you what we saw while exploring the city of Salamanca.
The beautiful buildings create a warm golden glow as the sun reflects off the surfaces. At every turn you’ll find an inviting outdoor terrace or plaza with seating, drawing you in for a quiet coffee or glass of wine. We felt in no rush while in Salamanca and wandered the streets, taking photos and marvelling at the beauty of the city. Just one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain, Salamanca is a great Spanish city to explore.
*RELATED article: Amazing and easy day trips from Madrid
The main sights of Salamanca
The two Cathedrals
Salamanca has an “Old” Cathedral and a “New” Cathedral. The Old Cathedral was built between 12-14th Century and completed in the Gothic/Romanesque style. The New Cathedral was built between 16-18th Century and built in both Gothic and Baroque style. Look out for the beautiful artwork in the Apse interior of the Old Cathedral and try to spot the odd carvings in the exterior of the New Cathedral. Hidden there are an astronaut, plus an animal eating an ice cream!
One of the prettiest plazas in Spain (which says a lot seeing as there are so many) is the centre point of Salamanca. It’s a particularly large, open, public square. Surrounded as you might expect by bars and restaurants, none of which offer much more then tourist food and service. But it’s well worth visiting and walking around to marvel at the beautiful buildings. At night time it’s lit up by wonderful lighting.
Casa de las Conchas public library
An intriguing building with a unique façade of over 300 shells. The shape was chosen as its the symbol of the Order of Santiago de Compostela and the building was built by a Knight of the Order. It’s now used as the Salamanca public library.
The University of Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in the World and was founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX. It ranks highly amongst the best universities in Spain and attracts many overseas students. It’s popular for foreign nationals to study Spanish language courses in Salamanca, as well as local students choosing to study law, economics and science here.
On a hot day its nice to walk along, ride a pedal boat or sit by the river Tormes known as “Rio de Tormes”. Cross the Roman bridge to enjoy lovely views over the city. It’s a bit of a walk south of the city centre but well worth it.
Casa Lis Art Deco & Art Nouveau museum
Enjoy the collection of decorative arts from the Art Deco & Art Nouveau periods here and admire the iconic use of colours and shapes as well as the buildings stunning stain glass windows.
*RELATED article: For another great historic city near Madrid read – A day exploring Segovia
Fun things to do in Salamanca
See La Tuna
A group of students who get together and play traditional music while wearing traditional clothes. La Tuna groups will enter most restaurants in Salamanca during dinner time and play a song for tips.
Shop on Calle Torro
The perfect street for a little retail therapy in Salamanca.
Hornazo de Salamanca is a delicious savoury pie a bit like a pasty or empanada. It’s made of a thick buttery pastry filled with pork, chorizo and boiled eggs. Served in either hand held parcels or a slice cut from a big pie its a hearty snack typical to the area.
Find the secret garden
Hidden behind gated walls is the lovely secret garden Huerto de Calixto. A shady spot near the Casa de Lis, which is a little oasis of well maintained flower beds and benches.
Party on Calle Bordadores
With so many students in the city there’s no end of cool bars and nightlife to enjoy in Salamanca. To find out the “in” place to go you’d probably need to befriend a local youth but if in doubt head to Calle Bordadores for a cocktail or two.
My tips for visiting Salamanca
- There are some really great value set menus available for lunch, so I’d recommend eating a big lunch and tapas for dinner
- Steer clear of the restaurants in Plaza Mayor as the service is usually very slow and prices much higher than the rest of the city
- Spend some time down by the river Torme, its very picturesque and relaxing
- There are tapas bars galore and look out for traditional “Meson” restaurants for great local dishes
- While its a great day trip from Madrid, try to stay at least one night in Salamanca so that you can see how glorious the buildings look by night
How to get to Salamanca from Madrid
The quickest way to get to Salamanca from Madrid is on the highspeed Renfe train. Take it direct from Chamartin station and be there within 1 ½ hours. I recommend that you pre-book as it only runs a few times a day, its €24 for a one-way adult ticket.
Take the Avanza coach from Madrid Estacion de Autobus to Salamanca for as little as €14 each way but it will take approximately 2 ½ hours.
You can drive to Salamanca from Madrid via the AP-6 and A-50 roads. It takes just over 2 hours and the route will involve toll roads.
If you are looking to self-drive I recommend that you hire a car through Discover Car Hire. Click on the banner link below to get a quote for your car rental.
I hope this guide to exploring Salamanca has been useful and inspired you to visit the city in the future. Have you been to Salamanca recently? Share your favourite sights in the comments box below!
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