Sunset on Salamanca Cathedral[/caption]Lying 200km to the north west of Madrid and 120km from the border with Portugal, Salamanca is best known for its famous university which dates back to 1218. In its day it became one of the world’s principal seats of learning alongside Oxford, Paris and Bologna. Today it is a magnet for foreign language students learning Spanish who help make Salamanca the liveliest town in Old Castile.
Architecturally, Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain with its Plaza Mayor serving as the main attraction for visitors and locals alike. Head there during the day and take a seat at one of its many cafés where you can ponder the hustle and bustle of daily life then return at night when the whole square is illuminated. You’ll find plenty tapas bars and Castilian restaurants around the square and can enjoy leisurely strolls around the historic streets of the city. Early evening is a particularly rewarding time to wander around as the setting sun seems to bring the ancient sandstone buildings to life.
A couple of novelties for you to look out for as you’re wandering around:
- As you enter the main university building can you spot a frog carved into the main facade above your head? If you find it without help it is said that you’ll enjoy good luck and will marry within a year!
- Look closely at the facade of the new Cathedral and try to spot the astronaut and the ice cream cone which appeared after a restoration in the early 1990s. Crazy but true!
Madrid is the gateway to Salamanca with bus & train services available.
Where to Stay
The city has some charming, historic hotels & comfortable hostels near the Plaza Mayor.
Things to Do
Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor & its two Cathedrals are the city’s main sights.
In the absence of a nearby international airport Madrid is the gateway to Salamanca. There are about 5 daily train services from Madrid’s Chamartin Station (check timetables at www.renfe.es) via Avila which take around 2 hours. The station is northeast of the city centre on Paseo de la Estación de Ferrocarril which is a 15 minute walk into town. Frequent services also operate from Valladolid.
There are many bus services from Madrid which take up to 3 hours. The bus station is to the north east of the centre on Avenida de Filiberto Villalobos which is again about a 15 minute hike. Avila, Valladolid, Leon and Caceres are also well connected by bus.
If you’re arriving by road you take the A Coruña road out of Madrid then cross to Avila and on to Salamanca. The road then continues to Portugal. Use the map below for more details.
A number of companies offer day trips by coach or private vehicle but you’ll spend a good part of the day travelling so I’d strongly recommend that you plan on at least an overnight in the city if you have time and wish to do it justice. If you’re travelling on to Portugal or to Santiago de Compostela the city is a logical stopping off point. A couple of other places that are well worth a visit if you’re in this part of the world are Avila and Ciudad Rodrigo.
Madrid to Salamanca Day Excursions
If time is of the essence and you can’t afford an overnight then you can take a full day private tour which includes an English speaking driver and official tour guide who will take you on a walking tour of the main sights including the New and Old Cathedral, the University area, the Plaza Mayor and St Stephen’s Monastery.
Salamanca PRIVATE Excursion from Madrid
(Tour Reference Nº: 1068)
What to See
Whilst the Plaza Mayor and the various Salamanca University buildings are the best known attractions there are plenty more interesting sights to keep you busy. The city has not one but two Cathedrals with the entrance to the old one lying inside the new one. This serves the dual purpose of confusing tourists and amusing the local clergy who can have a laugh at them. By the way the “new” cathedral dates back to 1513 and took over 200 years to build, it is one of the great cathedrals of Spain. Other things to see include ‘La Casa de las Conchas’ which is a house decorated with 350 shells, a fine Roman bridge and a variety of ancient Renaissance buildings scattered around the historical central district.
When to Visit
From spring through to autumn the weather in Salamanca is generally conducive to tourism but in spite of many beautiful clear skies during the winter months the city can be freezing cold. The 12th June marks the feast day of Saint John of Sahagún who is the patron saint of Salamanca. As well as the religious festivities associated with this event there are many typical Spanish parties around this date. The Feria de Salamanca takes place during the 2nd week of September and is a great time to visit the city when returning students join the locals to celebrate ‘La Virgen de la Vega’ which is the city’s biggest annual party.