History, literature and some more reasons to go to Salamanca

Probably you have heard about this old Spanish city before, but if you are reading this article maybe you are looking for reasons to go to Salamanca. Here we will discover 10 reasons to go to the most famous University City in Spain. 

Salamanca is a historical town, with an incredible heritage and a vivid university life. This ancient Spanish city has an urban ensemble full of harmony and beauty, in which art and culture can shine out. Salamanca acquired importance in Roman times, as the midpoint of the Vía de la Plata, the great Roman route that linked Mérida (Emerita Augusta) and Astorga (Asturica Augusta).

Salamanca is located on the Tormes River bank, in central-western Spain, 208 kilometers west of Madrid and 63 south of Zamora. It is a UNESCO world heritage city, in whose streets and monuments the embers of its long history can be detected. Salamanca was, together with Bruges, the European cultural capital for the year 2002.

The visitor can enjoy the heritage calmy, without fatigue or exhaustion. The set of historical buildings is harmonic, all are within walking distance in the center and there are many options, bars, and restaurants, to have a break. Don’t rush, enjoy the history around and read a classic Spanish book on a café terrace in the sun before getting lost again. 

For more inspiration in Spain you can check our series Vuelta a España.

How to get to Salamanca?

By car

The most common way to get to Salamanca is from Madrid by car. The trip is 2.15 h minutes long to drive 213 km. You need to take consecutively A-6, AP-6, AP-51, A-50 and N-501. The total cost of the trip is around 30 euros per trip, including 13 euros to pay the tolls. You can save some money going via Ávila, but it takes longer.

By train

ALVIA high-speed train is the best option to get to Salamanca from Madrid. The trip is 1h 30m and its cost is 25 euros. It departs from Madrid’s Chamartín Station and arrives to Salamanca Train Station, which is 15 minutes walking from the historic center. You can book tickets in advance here, to avoid running out of seats, especially if you travel in high season, weekends or holidays.

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By bus

Avanza Bus Company departs from Méndez Alvaro South Bus Station in Madrid. It takes 2h 30 minutes to get to Salamanca and its cost is around 25 euros.

10 reasons to go to Salamanca

Get impressed in Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the heart of the historic center and one of the most beautiful squares in Spain and one of the most charming places to visit in Salamanca. It was built in Baroque style between 1729 and 1756. The square is a 360 degrees perfect beauty. Try to get in the middle and turn around to admire it. The square is an imperfect quadrilateral in which its semicircular arches support the historical buildings. The most important buildings are the Royal pavilions of San Martín and Pretineros, the Town Hall and the centenary Novelty Café, where the great artists of the city used to meet.

We highly recommend choosing a place on a terrace. Just order a drink, join the locals and the students and contribute to a great atmosphere. 

  • A perfect must
  • 1 day plan

  • Free
  • The bars around are not pricy
  • From 10 minutes to hours at the terraces

Pass the test at the old gate of Universidad de Salamanca

The University is an ancient delight. Alfnoso IX founded it in 1218, so it is the oldest in the Hispanic world. This historic building has a beautiful Plateresque-style exterior facade, full of decorative elements carved in stone, among which the figure of a frog on top of a skull is surprising, which the legend says you must spot the first day you enter the University if you want to pass the exams. You can always see tourists at the gate trying hard to spot the frog. It is not easy, but the frog is there for real and you can try. Good luck with that!

reasons to go to Salamanca

It is possible to visit the interior of the university. The Major Schools building includes several classrooms, the cloister and the old library. Hernán Cortés studied there and more recently Miguel the Unamuno was professor and rector of the University. 

  • 1 day trip
  • Complete visit is 10 euros
  • To do the frog’s test is free
  • 1 hour visit
  • Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm. On Sundays it closes at 2pm.

Discover two Cathedrals in one

One of the best things to do in Salamanca is to enter the New Cathedral, which allows you to go inside to the Old Cathedral. The new cathedral was built between the 16th and 18th centuries to replace the old one, but finally they decided to keep standing the old one too.

The New Cathedral, built in late Gothic style, is the second largest in Spain. From the south wall of the New Cathedral you can access the Old Cathedral, another of the most beautiful places to visit in Salamanca. This church, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, in Romanesque and Gothic styles, has inside a beautiful main altarpiece and several old chapels.

  • 1 day visit
  • 6 euros
  • 45 minutes visit
  • Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm from April to September. The rest of the months it closes at 6pm.

The icon of Salamanca: La Casa de las Conchas

The Casa de las Conchas is a stately palace built in late 15th century. On the facade, there are more than 300 stone shells that are the reason for the building’s name. According to a legend, under one of them are hidden the jewels of the former owners. In the interior of this palace you can see the combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Mudejar style and its beautiful patio.

reasons to go to Salamanca
  • 1 day plan
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit
  • From July 3 to September 10: Monday to Friday: from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday: from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sunday closed.
  • From October 11 to July 2: from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

A top tower: La Clerecía

The Clerecía or Royal College of the Society of Jesus is the best viewpoint to take pictures of the old roofs of Salamanca. This building is located in front of the Casa de las Conchas, has a school with a beautiful cloister and a church in which the Main Altarpiece and the Sacristy stand out. The tower of La Clerecía is one of the most picturesque spots in Salamanca.

  • 2 days visit
  • 3,75 euros
  • 45 minutes visit
  • Visiting hours: every day from March to November from 10am to 8pm. The rest of the months it closes at 6pm.

A classic of the Spanish literature in the Garden of Calixto and Melibea

El Huerto de Calixto y Melibea is a small landscaped green space that was one of the scenes of La Celestina, a classic tragicomedy published in 1499 and written by Fernando de Rojas.

It was surprising for us that this small garden is very popular, so it is not a cute calm place to read, but can be very stimulating if you are into the Spanish literature classics. 

  • 2 days plan
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit

A coffee break in Café Novelty

Café Novelty in Plaza Mayor of Salamanca was a place for intellectual gatherings. Miguel de Unamuno was one of the most known clients. The Café was inaugurated in 1905 and it was set up with many luxurious elements. It was very successful till the Spanish Civil War. This Café is on the famous film of Alejandro Amenábar “Mientras dure la guerra”. Even the Café has changed and it was bigger that time, it is still very worth visiting and regardless of the film it is not crowded and neither overpriced. 

  • 2 days plan
  • Less than 2 euros for a coffe
  • 15 minutes

Crossing The Roman Bridge

El Puente Mayor del Tormes, known as Puente Romano, is an old Roman bridge built in the second half of the 1st century. This stone bridge of more than 300 meters has been rebuilt and repaired over the centuries. From the bridge the views to the Cathedral and the old town are stunning. 

  • 1 day plan
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit

El Convento de San Esteban

San Esteban Convent, belonging to the Dominican order and built between 1524 and 1610, is one of the most beautiful buildings to visit in Salamanca. The exterior impresses with its facade decorated in the Plateresque style, with abundant decoration carved in stone. We highly recommend that you take a break in your visit and have a drink in one of the terraces with views to the external façade. 

  • 2 days plan
  • 4 euros
  • 30 minutes visit
  • Visiting hours: every day from 10am to 2pm and from 4pm to 6pm from November to March. The rest of the months it closes at 8pm.

Casa Lis

Casa Lis, a modernist palace built in 1905, has a great impressing façade formed by two glass and iron galleries. Inside you can visit the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco and its magnificent collection of porcelain dolls, and a large patio covered by a spectacular stained glass window.

reasons to go to Salamanca
  • 3 days plan or more
  • 4 euros entrance fee
  • 6 euros guided tour
  • 30 minutes visit
  • Visiting hours: every day from 11am to 8pm from March 15 to November 15. The rest of the months it is open from Tuesday to Friday from 11am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 8pm.

Besides the Obvious favorite!

There are many things to do and see in Salamanca. Our favourite is definitely walking, biking or taking a stroll on an electric scooter along the other side of the Tormes River. At the Roman Bridge you will see a green bike path you can follow in any of its directions with excellent views on the cathedral and the medieval town of Salamanca. If you are very much into aquatic sports you can rent a boat and take follow for a while the Tormes River admiring the cathedral and some other ancient buildings of Salamanca.     

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