One day in Salamanca
If you want to get to know one of the most beautiful World Heritage Cities in Spain, why not arrange a day out in Salamanca? You’ll love strolling around the cobbled streets of the historic quarter and visiting the university and the city’s two cathedrals with their characteristic golden stone. What’s more, you’ll find that many of its buildings guard a multitude of secrets. Would you like find out for yourself?
HISTORIC QUARTER. THE CENTRE OF CITY LIFE
(Suggested timetable: 10am-2pm). The best place to begin our itinerary is in the famous Plaza Mayor, one of the most beautiful squares in the whole of Europe. We can pick up all the information we need in the tourist office here. We’re now standing at the busiest spot in the whole city, and if we look around us, we’re bound to see a number of people enjoying a drink or a snack at the outdoor cafés and restaurants. It’s well worth taking a walk round the 88 porticoed arches in the square; if you look carefully, you can see carved medallions with the faces of famous people like the writer Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. After taking a few photos, this is the time to stop for a cup of coffee at any of the cafés in the square, for example the hundred-year-old Café Novelty, with the sculpture of the writer Torrente Ballester in its interior.
We continue our visit through the Plaza del Corrillo square (there are a series of small stalls here where you can buy gifts and souvenirs) and then go down the Rúa Mayor until we reach the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells). You’ll be captivated by this unusual building decorated with thousands of shells which were used as a token of the marriage between the scions of two noble families. According to legend there’s a treasure hidden beneath one of the shells, so it’s worth looking very closely.
Behind the Casa de las Conchas, in the Calle de la Compañía, we can see the towers of the Clerecía church and the Pontificia University. We’re now walking along one of the most historic thoroughfares in the city, and it feels as though we’ve travelled back in time to past centuries, to a period of splendid palaces. If we continue down this street, we come to the Monterrey Palace, the Úrsulas Convent and the College of Archbishop Fonseca. We then retrace our steps until we reach the beautiful Plaza de Anaya and its gardens, one of the most charming spots in Salamanca. This is a good place to take a seat and contemplate all the beautiful buildings around us: in front, we see the city’s imposing New Cathedral, and behind, the Anaya College. There’s a really special atmosphere in this area, which is bustling with tourists, students, passers-by… .
Things to remember
There are numerous guided tours of the city which start in the Plaza Mayor. You can also rent audioguides on Salamanca in Spanish, English and French at the tourist office.
There’s a tourist train which makes a circuit around the Historic Quarter.
The city of the two cathedrals
This is the moment to see the New Cathedral from close-up. As we approach the building, we’re sure to find a group of people trying to pick out the different details in this Gothic construction. The best idea is to join in the search, as the lower part of the Cathedral door conceals carved figures such as an astronaut, a monkey eating an ice cream and a stork. Incredible but true!
Not many cities have two cathedrals: Salamanca does. They’re interconnected, and the Old Cathedral is accessed from inside the New Cathedral. Although the Old Cathedral is not as imposing, the medieval atmosphere and tranquillity of this Romanesque temple captivates everyone who steps inside. These walls have witnessed banquets, examinations (students who passed their exams were awarded their degree in the cloister of the Cathedral itself), religious councils, Inquisition courts…
Although we’re sure to be impressed by everything we’ve seen, the best is yet to come: from the ground floor of the Old Cathedral, there’s a chance to visit the permanent exhibition called “Ieronimus”, with an unusual tour which includes access to the highest part of both cathedrals. We can get a close-up view of –and almost touch– the towers, which are 110 metres high, including the most typical towers such as the Gallo (cockerel) (so-called due to its cockerel-shaped weathervane) and the Mocha. We then move onto a terrace, which offers outstanding views over the city. Simply fantastic.
OUT FOR TAPAS
(Suggested timetable: 2-4pm). After our highly cultural morning, lunch is the perfect time to savour the famous culinary attractions of Salamanca. And the best way to do this is by going out for tapas: moving from bar to bar trying small portions of the local specialities. The area around the Plaza Mayor is the ideal place to sample, for example, the wide range of hearty sausages and cured meats. If you’d rather eat in a restaurant, you can always order the delicious roast suckling pig. Another busy area which is much frequented and offers a wide range of options (now in the new part of the city) is the Calle Van Dyck.
UNIVERSITY CITY, MAGIC AND BUSINESS
(Suggested timetable: 4-8pm). Suitably revived by lunch, we return to the Plaza de Anaya square to see another of the city’s treasures: the University. It’s located on our right, and we go around the building until we arrive at its Plateresque doorway. Here we find another cheerful surprise: it also conceals curious carved figures such as dolphins, and the famous frog which has become the symbol of Salamanca, and something that all visitors have to try and spot. According to legend, if a student can see it without being told where it is, he or she will pass all that year’s exams. Let’s have a go at finding it. And if we really can’t see it, we can always ask for help from the people around us.
We now go down the Bohemian street of Los Libreros, where we find the Casa Lis Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Decó, a Modernist mansion whose collection is open to visitors. If we continue along this street we reach the old city wall, and one of the most romantic spots in the city: the Garden of Calixto y Melibea, said to be the meeting place for the lovers Calixto and Melibea, the main characters in the book “La Celestina”, one of the most best-known works of Spanish literature. It is the perfect place to rest and be soothed by the scent of flowers, as well as to enjoy the outstanding view, with the Cathedral in the background.
A little further on, in Carvajal square, we find another magical place: the cave of Salamanca. We can’t miss the chance to enter the crypt where, legend tells, there was once a school of occult sciences where the Devil stole the shadow of a nobleman. For many, this is the gateway to another hidden city.
Things to remember
On Friday and Saturday evenings, the cave of Salamanca offers a sound and light show.
After visiting (on our right) the imposing Convent and Church of San Esteban (whose visitors have included such illustrious names as Columbus) we continue on along Calle San Pablo, the site of the Clavero Tower and the La Salina Palace, until we come to the Plaza Mayor.
We’ve seen all Salamanca’s most beautiful monuments, and now we can spend a little time shopping for souvenirs to remind us of our visit. The best idea when shopping for gifts is to head for the streets of Toro and Zamora, where you’ll find numerous boutiques, jewellers, typical crafts shops... Ask for filigree work or the typical Salamanca button. Or what about a little frog to remind us of our search at the university?
SALAMANCA ILLUMINATED, THE CAPITAL OF THE NIGHT
(Suggested timetable: after 8pm). One of the best ways of enjoying the breathtaking sunset over Salamanca is to visit the Roman Bridge, then stroll along the riverbank, which is one of the best places for taking some outstanding photos of the city. Then again, if we stay in the centre of town we can see the spectacular sight of the glow of the sunset turning the stone on the façades of all the buildings to a magical golden colour.
As night falls, Salamanca lights up and becomes even more beautiful, if such a thing is possible. For dinner, we choose the cobbled streets of the Plaza Mayor. And dinner is only the beginning, because as Salamanca is a university town, its nightlife is famous for its great atmosphere which continues into the small hours. So if you feel like going dancing or having an after-dinner drink, you’ll find clubs, bars and discos to suit all tastes right near the squares of Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Justo, in the area of Gran Vía and Bordadores streets: old refurbished chapels, venues decorated with a boat or submarine… You’ll also be able to catch some live music, meet people from all over the world, listen to storytellers… The possibilities in Salamanca are never-ending...
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