Should you visit Salamanca?
The simple answer is yes. Salamanca is one of those essential stops on a Spanish trip (the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site).
Salamanca is famous for many things. Known as the “Golden city” for the sandstone used in the construction of its buildings, it is has the third oldest existing university in the world, one of the Top 10 cathedrals in Spain, and one of the most beautiful plazas in all of Spain.
It is a city full of large churches, convents and palaces, all located in a beautiful (and very pedestrian-friendly) old town. And, besides all the beauty and attractions, it is a young, lively place with a lot of culture (for those with more time there are several museums in Salamanca worth visiting).
The Absolute “Must-see” highlights of Salamanca
Plaza Mayor. It is considered one of the grandest plazas in Spain and when it was completed in 1755 its main purpose was bullfighting. The plaza is a popular place, full of restaurants and cafés (which are full on weekends), it is lined with beautiful 3 story buildings constructed in the golden sandstone that Salamanca is known for.
The New and Old Cathedrals. Salamanca has a rarity: two cathedrals. The most famous is the New Cathedral which was built in the 16th century. A huge cathedral with clean lines, it is very similar to the cathedral in Segovia (which was also built in the same period). The New Cathedral is often listed among the Top Cathedrals of Spain. Right next to the New Cathedral (and included in your ticket), is the Old Cathedral dating back to the 12th century. Whereas the New Cathedral was built in late Gothic style, the Old Cathedral was built in Romanesque style. With a colourful apse, beautifully sculpted tombs, an impressive cloister and richly decorated chapels, the Old Cathedral is a romantic cathedral. We actually preferred the Old Cathedral to the New Cathedral.
Note: It is worth buying a ticket to the Cathedral Towers (see the video at the top). You’ll be walking outside along the tops of the cathedrals, along the upper levels of the New Cathedral (where you can look down into the cathedral) and also climb the bell tower of the New Cathedral. Many beautiful views.
Convento de San Esteban. This 16th century convent is just as impressive as the 2 Cathedrals. Don’t miss it. Inside is a beautiful church decorated with sumptuous art as well as a two-level cloister. Outside, the intricately decorated Plateresque façade is spectacular.
Plaza Patio de Escuelas Menores. The highlight of this pretty plaza is the amazing Façade of Salamanca University. It is considered a masterpiece of Plateresque ornamentation. At the other end of the square is the entrance to the courtyard of Escuelas Menores which is also worth seeing. These buildings are all part of Salamanca University which is one of the oldest existing universities in the world (it was founded in 1218 and ranks 3rd in the list of oldest universities. Only the universities in Bologna and Oxford are older).
Other Things to See in Salamanca
The Clerecia was built as the Royal College of the Company of Jesus and is somewhere between a church and a religious college. It now belongs to Salamanca University. People come here to climb the towers for the great views of the city
Right across the street the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) seems to be everyone’s favorite Instagram spot. A 15th century palace, it is most famous for the facade decorated with carvings of scallop shells (the symbol of pilgrims traveling the Way of Saint James to Santiago de Compostela).
The 176 meter Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) is thought to date back to the 1st century AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan. It forms part of the Roman Silver Road that linked Merida (to the South) and Astorga (to the North).
Salamanca is a very pedestrian friendly city and walking around is a joy. The architecture is beautiful and the Plateresque ornamentation you see on many buildings is unlike what we’ve seen anywhere else in Spain.
All the above make Salamanca definitely worth visiting.
Note: the region of Castile and Leon has some incredible cities. If in Salamanca, you have to visit Segovia and Ávila. A little further north Burgos and León are also worth visiting.
Practical Information on Salamanca
Time Required: You need more than 1 day to properly see Salamanca. Ideally you should have 2 full days to really enjoy the city.
How to get there: trains from Madrid take anywhere from 1 hour 40 minutes to 3 hours (depending on the train). Segovia is 1 hour 15 minutes and Ávila is about the same. The Train station is about a 20 minute walk from Salamanca’s old town.
Where to Stay: We stayed 3 nights in this apartment. Very good location and value (2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with an equipped kitchen). If looking for something a bit nicer, I recommend Sercotel Puerta de la Catedral. It’s perfectly located right in the heart of the old town.
Related: Visiting magical Segovia
Related: The Medieval Walls of Ávila
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