Salamanca guide: what to see between the universities and palaces of the golden city
It was founded in the 4th century BC by Celtsbesieged by Hannibal from Carthageconquered by Romans and later incorporated into Arab possessions by the legendary governor Musa Ibh Nusair. Does this seem like a complicated path to you? It is, but it is precisely from these mixtures and stratifications that the charm and beauty of what, like any other, is born guide to Salamanca will not stop repeating, it is one golden city.
It is no coincidence that it has been since 1988 UNESCO heritage as well as seat of the oldest university of Spain: was founded in 1218 and rivaled Bologna And Oxford.
Guide to Salamanca: between past and present
Does it seem little to you? It is not but if there are so many things to do and see in Salamanca looking for the legacy inherited from the past, however, it is her present that makes it special: a sort of open-air museum with the churches, palaces carved in golden sandstone which they shine in the sun high above the Tormes river (hence the nickname of “golden city”). While at night, life boils in its streets, with a very Spanish and overwhelming joie de vivre.
Yes, because it is true that from north to south every city of Spain involves and envelops but it is difficult to find another destination that combines with such pleasure energy and carefree of its large student population, Castilian or foreign speaking little changes, with the beauty rigorously austere of its monuments.
A beautiful oneeasy to discover then: the obligatory starting point is its theatrical Plaza Mayor – designed by Alberto Churriguera in 1729 and completed in 1755 – where everyone sooner or later gets together. We are among those, fascinated by its symmetry of three-story buildings by the uniform structure and the amount of things that can be done here.
It is no coincidence that many of the locals call it “the living room”. Under its arcades, count them they are 88there are medallions carved with the faces of famous people such as the writer Miguel de Cervantesthe author of the Don chisciottebut also always crowded cafes and restaurants.
A square like a living room
And it has always been like this. In fact, every story and every guide to Salamanca will tell you that they are here held public events and even fights with bulls – the last one dates back to 1992 – and that it is always worth stopping to look and be looked at. One address among all: the oldest is the Cafe Novelty founded in 1905, with the writer’s sculpture inside Ballester Creek.
Among the monumental buildings of this square are the Royal Pavilion And the Ayuntamientoor the Town Hall, in Churriguera style by Andrés García de Quiñones. Lot of cafes and restaurants they are located under the arcades, which makes the square a particularly lively scene in the evening. This square is one of the best places to visit in Salamanca to experience the city nightlife.
The buildings around the bullring
At the southwest corner of Plaza Mayorthe Calle del Prior leads to the Palacio de Monterrey , a Renaissance palace that evokes the Italian style that can be seen on guided tours. For those who love art know that the style of him said “plateresque” is found in other palaces a Seville oa Palencia.
We mentioned it at the beginning: if this is one of the most important cities of Spain it is also due to his university. Which always appears in the to-do list see in Salamanca. It is so for its history but also for the courage and value of those who attended it: this university recognized the Copernican system (the one that says that the sun is in the center and the earth revolves around it) when the church still considered this theory a heresy. And among others attended these classrooms a certain Miguel de Cervantes. If Rocinante is the name of a mythical horse it is thanks to him and his novel dedicated to a certain hidalgo of the miss.
The main buildings of the university are located around the so-called Patio de Escuelas including the Schools Mayores, a masterpiece of Plateresque style; the Schools Menores founded in 1428, and theHospital del Estudiotoday the seat of the Rector, which dates back to 1413 is a short distance away and once housed only poor students.
On the south side of the square is the Calderón de la Barca room – the old library – decorated with a famous painting summarizing 15th century astronomy. So they imagined the sky like this. If you are a fan of the genre, also visit the Salamanca Museumalways in Patio de Escuelas which impresses with its rich collection of Flemish tablesaltarpieces, canvases, sculptures and several archaeological pieces, as well as a collection of goldsmith’s art and local ethnology.
The Salamanca guide: city with two cathedrals
The guide to Salamanca, as we anticipated, speaks of a city of gold – for its color – and a World Heritage – for its beauties. If you were looking for confirmation, you would need to go to its cathedrals. It’s not an error: they are two. And with little imagination they are called new cathedral And old cathedral.
That Newstarted in 1513 by order of Ferdinand II of Aragonand finished two centuries later, it was built not far from the left aisle of the old one bell tower 110 meters high and for the combination of architectural elements Gothic, Plateresque and Baroque.
But why is it called new despite being so ancient? Because the other is much more. And dates back to the 12th century. They are striking the portals and dimensions with a length of over 100 meters in addition to artwork which it houses above all in the side chapels.
Ancient tombs and atmosphere
It’s not over though: now it’s time to go and see the old one. And it’s the oldest Christian monument in Salamanca although certainly inferior in power compared to its descendant. But it does not lack poetry and atmosphere: here are the tombs of ancient bishops and, curiously, the Capilla of Santa Barbara it was where university students appeared before their examiners for their final exams. To be a classroom, there was certainly no lack of charm and concentration.
The Roman bridge
A city like Salamanca still has a long list of things to see. But let’s limit ourselves to the things not to be missed. The Antiguo helmet by now you will have discovered and appreciated it but the small side streets are also worth it a detour before getting to what is basically the coat of arms of the city: it is the Roman bridgei.e. the Puente Mayor del Tormes, built in the 1st century AD. It was part of silver street, the road that united Merida in Astorga and still today it shows more than half of its ooriginal stone arches still intact.
Do you want a stop to taste the local gastronomy and to discover the dishes based on lentils from Armuña and especially meats such as roast suckling lamb, the Iberian ham or the chorizo? Be patient for a moment. First it is worth a detour Casa de la Conchas, a Gothic palace that has no equal.
The shells of the pilgrims
It arose at late 1400s and stands out for the facade full of shells symbol of the order of St. James from Santiago de Compostela (yes, the one from I walk) but not only. The coat of arms also stands out on the facade Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon And Isabella of Castilearchitects of the unification of the Spain as is normal here in the Community of Castile and León. The heart of the Iberian country is one of the buildings where the play of light which makes Salamanca the golden city it is more evident.
Finally, for a relaxing break, stop at theHuerto de Calixto y Melibeaa little visible garden in Calle Arcediano. It’s worth getting discovered for plants that fill it but above all for the romantic atmosphere and the excellent views of the river and the Cathedral. In a city of gold, you need a place like this. Afterwards you can go back to the cafés around the square, to its tapas bars. A little bit of Spainby now, it will be inside you. And feeling at home will be much easier.
Guide to Salamanca: how to get there
Salamanca is located in the central western part of the Spaina few kilometers from the border of Portugal and about 220 km from the capital Madrid. The city is also easily accessible from other locations as it is located on the route of the ancient road that once connected Seville to the Bay of Biscay and up to Santiago de Compostela. The airport more is however to Valladolid about an hour and a half away, where several low cost airlines also land. The international airport of Madrid-Barajas is another option about 2 hours away and there are several trains a day.