“Salamanca makes all those who have enjoyed the pleasant experience of living in here long to return”– Cervantes
Salamanca showed to be a vibrant university city, a short drive from Madrid. It is home to the oldest university in Spain and has many beautiful historic architectural and traditional buildings. But what we liked the most about the city was its charm. After walking through the city and visiting the many buildings, it is no wonder that the historic centre of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Put simply, Salamanca is a picturesque and perfect example of Spanish heritage.
As a university city, you are surrounded by students. The young outnumber the old, which is a good thing as it gives the place a relaxed charm. The great appeal of this town, however, is its cobbled streets and squares. Plaza Mayor hums with the hustle and bustle of students, tourists and locals alike, enjoying the present with the beauty of the past.
In Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor find a mix of students, tourists, and locals who can’t help but stroll through the city’s main square. It is a beautiful square. We found ourselves gravitating here over and over. The plaza is the centre of the old city. People sit and drink at the many cafes located around the perimeter of the square, in front of the baroque inspired arches. The arches now house shops and cafes. Every time we came through the plaza, we were impressed, particularly at night when they light up the square.
As it was, the day we had arrived, the plaza was cordoned off to allow a scene from a movie to be filmed by a very famous director who directed The Others, no less!
When we arrive in a new city, becoming familiar with the various districts is how we try to understand something about the city. Walking, getting lost and going in the wrong direction is all part of getting under the skin of a city.Not so in Salamanca. It is a small and compact city and learning about the area and immersing yourself into the city is significantly easier! Everything you will want to see and do in Salamanca is packed into the historical centre. Salamanca’s delights are easy to discover.
Salamanca is filled to the brim with churches, monasteries, convents and museums. Some of the mansions have been transformed into libraries or museums. For example, the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) was a mansion which has gained popularity for its decoration. The façade is ornamented with shells, which is representative of the scallop shell of pilgrims walking the Way of St James. It is a stunning, one-of-a-kind sight.
Many cities are proud of their cathedral. Salamanca is proud of both of their cathedrals – Catedral Nueva and the adjoining Catedral Vieja.
The newer of the two, was constructed over two centuries, starting in the 16thcentury which was already well into the Renaissance period.
The cathedral boasts the building styles used across the two decades. The cathedrals are amazing. We climbed the medieval towers, up narrow stone stairwells, with another stunning view over the city. The Spanish love a good joke – during renovation of the façade of the new cathedral, a stone mason carved an astronaut into the relief work.
The Catedral Vieja is connected to the Catedral Nueva, which serves as a support. It is considered a good example of Spain’s early christian architecture, but it also boats a massive multi panelled painting altarpiece from the 15th century and Europe’s oldest organ. Another distinctive feature is its half orange dome.
The interior architecture of the Neuva is rich and elegant, as you would expect form its construction during the renaissance period. This is contrasted by the Vieja, which is smaller and more intimate, somewhat a more humble offering to God.
La Clerecía is a church forming part of the religious university complex. Whilst it’s only open for mass, you can walk through the tower (Scala Coeli) , the highest point of the city, for a great view across Salamanca and surrounding countryside. This is also a great place to see the two cathedrals side by side.
For a leisurely walk (which turned out to be an epic hike!), we took time outside the city and walked across the Rio Tormes using the roman bridge. This gave us a stunning view of the cathedral, as well as the original city walls.At the end of this bridge is a stone sculpture…more like a block of eroded stone. But it does resemble a pig…or a bear. The ancient has been nicely incorporated into the present. The roman bridge leads straight into the heart of the city.
There are few places that are beautiful and in some way, enchanting. With such a rich history where Roman intersects with Moorish which collides with Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque, each period has left behind unique characteristics that create the uniqueness that is Salamanca today.