- For other places with the same name, see Salamanca (disambiguation).
Salamanca is a town of around 150,000 inhabitants situated in western central Spain. It is the capital of Salamanca province, which is itself part of the autonomous region of Castile and Leon (Spanish: Castilla y León). The Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque monuments in Salamanca's historic centre were added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1988.
The city lies by the Tormes river on a plateau and is considered to be one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in Europe. The buildings are constructed of sandstone mined from the nearby Villamayor quarry, and, as the sun begins to set, they glow gold, orange and pink. It is this radiant quality of the stones that has given Salamanca the nickname La Dorada, the golden city.
In 1218, Alfonso X of León (Alfonso The Wise) founded the University - one of the first in the world. In 1254, Pope Alexander IV called it "one of the four leading lights of the world".
In 2002 Salamanca was the European Capital of Culture.
The Salamanca train station is situated to the northeast of the city centre. It has no left luggage facilities. The bus station however, does (see below). Trains link the town with Madrid and Portugal with Renfe.
Distances to/from Salamanca: Madrid 205 km, Avila 100 km, Caceres 235 km, Valladolid 115 km.
The city is not too big to see on foot, especially the main attractions, which are all quite close to one another. For slightly longer journeys there are taxis, and numerous bus routes - tickets are cheap, and you can buy them directly from the driver on board. Salamanca city bus 1 can take you between the train station and Plaza Poeta Iglesias, which is right next to Plaza Mayor
- Plaza Mayor - this large central square, bustling with cafés and restaurants, really is the heart of the city.
- The 12th century Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja) and the New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva), built during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries - these two cathedrals are built next to one another.
- The University - spread throughout the centre of Salamanca. Includes the Fonseca College and Anaya Palace buildings Universidad de Salamanca - Spanish only.
- The late 15th century House of Shells (La Casa de las Conchas) - a building constructed in the time of the Catholic Kings, studded with 350 sandstone shells.
- The Roman bridge over the Tormes - dating from the year 89 AD, this bridge was an important part of the Roman silver route, which ran from Mérida to Astorga.
- Convento de San Esteban - Dominican monastery with a well-set presentation of missionaries in the New World. It's not one of the most famous attractions, so there's a good chance you can marvel at this religious community on your own. Impressive church.
Villages around Salamanca
There are some interesting villages around Salamanca. Béjar is a town of around 16,000 inhabitants, which offers:
- Castañar bullfighter arena - The oldest bullfighting arena in Spain
- La Sierra de Béjar - A beautiful natural and unspoiled environment
- El bosque - A Renaissance gardens
- La muralla - An Arab wall
- The fiesta of the Virgen de la Vega, which takes place from the 8th to the 21st of September.
- Watch Salamanca Football Club.
- Across the river from the Cathedral (right on the bank across from the Roman Bridge) is a man who will rent out paddle boats and canoes to you by the hour. You can paddle up and down the Tormes, for a small fee.
The combination of Castile-Leon's reputation for pure Spanish and Salamanca's reputation of learning, due to its venerable university, means that there are lots of language schools in the city that cater to those who wish to immerse themselves and learn Spanish in Spain.
- Universidad de Salamanca: Cursos Internacionales
- Babylon Idiomas offers a wide range of different Spanish courses with qualified and experienced native teachers. Social and cultural activities as well as a dedicated student service are included in the price. The school is accredited by Instituto Cervantes and is located in the very heart of the city, close to Plaza Mayor. New courses start every Monday.
- Don Quijote Spanish school in Salamanca is a great school where you can take 4-6 hours of courses a day. All courses including beginner courses are taught entirely in Spanish.
- Linguaschools Salamanca is a great and friendly Spanish school, located in the very centre of Salamanca a minute walk from the popular Plaza Mayor. Spanish is taught in small classes.
Shopping is a large part of life in Salamanca. Traditional family owned stores mix with many national and international retailers throughout the city. Calle Toro, which begins at the northwest corner of the Plaza Mayor, in particular has many options for shoppers.
The city also boasts a mall (centro commercial) which offers variety of stores and restaurants. However a car, bus or taxi ride is needed to access it.
Most stores open around 10AM, close for two or three hours during lunch time (2PM) and remain open until 9 PM. Almost all stores, including grocery stores, are closed on Sundays. There are a few convenience stores, known as 24 hour stores, which never close.
Every Sunday an out-door market, known as the Rastro, erects where locals and tourists alike shop for assorted products: clothes, jackets, hats, bags, jewelry, watches, perfumes, colognes, and other accessories. The Rastro is located on Av. de la Aldehuela, about 2 miles west of Plaza Mayor, roughly a 20 minute walk.
Lunch is Spain's big meal of the day, and Salamanca abides by that rule religiously. This means that restaurants will have their best food and their biggest portions anywhere from 1PM-3PM.
Dinner usually happens from 8PM-11PM, and isn't really a meal as such. In spite of the many restaurants open at dinner time (with a full menu), one of the traditional Spanish habits is to eat tapas with friends over a glass of wine, which consists of regional appetizers served at bars, restaurants, and cafeterías. In Salamanca there's no definitive guide to tapa-ing, instead, try to stroll around the center of the town and try different places and, who knows, meet new friends.
Locals gather slightly north of city center for their nightly tapas on a street named Van Dyck. The tapas here are generally of a higher quality and a lower price of those found near the plaza. Almost every street out from the center will have at least one small bar, and many of them will serve tapas. The price difference between having or not a tapa with your drink is negligible (around 2€ for each beer/wine+tapa, 20-30 cts less only the beer) so go on a try them!
Popular tapas are any sort of roasted pork parts: ribs (costilla), sausage (chorizo), ham (jamon), bacon (panceta) or face (jeta). Try the "pincho moruno", a brochette of pork pieces marinated in paprika and garlic. A local speciality (if you find it appealing) is "chanfaina" a spicy rice dish with liver and/or blood that is served in many bars as a tapa on Sundays.
In the summer most restaurants set tables outside for both lunch and dinner. Be forewarned that with the privilege of sitting outside you often get charged a euro or two extra per person.
Salamanca is atop the small portion of Spain where you can purchase jamon iberia (Iberian ham). This expensive pork is very rich, very expensive and in the opinion of most Salamancans the most delicious thing there is to eat.
Vegetarians will have to work a little bit to find food. Tortilla de patata is always a safe bet (a frittata-type thing with potato and egg) but it can get old after a while. Meat (especially pork) finds its way into a majority of dishes here. When you're asking waiters if a dish does not have meat (carne), make sure you specify that you don't want chicken (pollo) or fish (pescado) either.
- Restaurante Stravaganza, Calle Clavel 6, ☎ +34 923 614 333. One minute from the Plaza Mayor. You will find authentic Mediterranean food served in a unique atmosphere. Price range is between €20-23.
You can drink a Cerveza in Plaza Del Mercado in San Justo. In spring students drink Botellones in the streets (San Roman).
Try one of the following bars: (all located very close to Plaza Mayor) Camelot, Puerto de Chus, Submarino, Moderno, Cum-Laude and El Sol
Chupiteria Daniel's, Paniagua, Potemkin, Plutos, Capitan Haddock, La Posada de las Almas, Niebla, and many more bars are excellent for a very late night out!
- Hostal Fonda Feli, Calle Libreros, 58, ☎ +34 923216010. In the very centre of the old city. 50 meters of the old university and in the shadow of the two cathedrals. Clean rooms, excellent hospitality.
- Pension Los Angeles, ☎ +34 923218166. Plaza Mayor 10. Always dreamed about sleeping at the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca? One can not sleep more centrally, as this is really the heart of the city. Beware: This hotel is very gritty and dirty, and the bathrooms are all shared. You'll have to swap your comfort for a decent view.
- Albergue Juvenil, ☎ +34 923269141. C/Escoto 13-15. Near the San Esteban convent. Nice youth hostel to find some travel mates. Bad common room, but there's already a nice atmosphere in the dormitory. Check-in: 24h Check-out: 12:00. Price dormitory: €13,90
- Hotel Artheus, P Carmelitas, 67. Great 4 star hotel, with decent prices (albeit, like most Spanish hotels, breakfast is not included). It is pretty well located as well.
- Hotel Soho Boutique Salamanca, Plaza del Ángel, 5, ☎ +34 923 993 900, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-star hotel in the center of Salamanca.
- NH Palacio de Castellanos, San Pablo, 58-64, +34.92.3261818 . Located next to the 'Plaza del Concilio de Trento', in the heart of Salamanca's monumental and historic district, the NH Palacio de Castellanos has excellent services. There is one other NH Hotel in Salamanca.
Book early - that's very early - if you are planning on staying in Salamanca during Easter (Semana Santa) or during the fiesta of the Virgen de la Vega.
- Hotel Rector, (Southern end of the main town centre). Beautiful
- Parador de Salamanca, C/ Teso de la Feria, 2. 37008, ☎ +34 923 19 20 82, fax: +34 923 19 20 87, e-mail: email@example.com. Views of the Monumental Quarter. 135-145€.
- Oasis Horus Salamanca (Situated on the main route to Madrid [5m] beside some of the most important suburban commercial areas of the capital), Ctra. de Madrid 1, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 37900, ☎ +34 923 201 100, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. From €25. This should be in the Budget section. Not a splurge at all.
Salamanca is considered to be one of the safest cities in Spain. Violent crime is for the most part unheard of. As with the rest of Spain, you should be aware of pickpockets, but they are less common in Salamanca than in the bigger cities.
While the streets are filled with international tourists and students from countries around the world most locals do not speak English. It is not uncommon to find even the hotel staff in Salamanca only able to speak Spanish to you. With that said, the locals are used to people butchering their language and are willing be patient with you.
Salamancans (Salmantinos in Spanish) are very schedule oriented. They wake up, work, eat, shop and sleep at around the same time every day. Almost all stores close at exactly 2PM for a few hours so the staff can lunch. This can be hard for outsiders to adjust to but it's something you have to deal with for however long you are in town.