Salamanca is located in the southwest corner of Castile y Leon region of Spain, in the western part of Spain near Portugal. The old part of the city is found south of the modern city, on the banks of the Rio Tormes. Salamanca is 212 km west of Madrid. The city has a population of around 363,000 people. It's a lively university town we like very much, and the wonders of Portugal are just down the road to the west.
What is there to see in Salamanca? For a relatively small city, the list of the top attractions is rather long.
Cathedrals Old and New - They're right next to each other. The older is Romanesque, begun in 1140, the new one is a sprightly 490 years old, having been started in 1513 and taking 200 years to complete. Southern section of the old town in Plaza Juan XXII. Open daily 9:30am-1pm and 4-7:30pm in the season.
The University - I like nothing better than to stroll around the University quarter. It's the oldest in Spain and chock full of interesting architecture and arcades.
Have tapas in the Plaza Mayor - It's one of my favorites, so clean that you'll see students sitting and playing chess in the center, while all around people eat, drink and make merry after the sun goes down. Lots of student performances in the evening keep you circulating.
Casa de las Conchas - The house of the conch shells is now the Public Library where you can wander around wondering why the US doesn't pay as much attention to aesthetics as other folks in their public buildings. Dating from the 15th century it was considered one of the most representative constructions of the times of the Catholic King and Queen.
The Monasteries - Near the cathedral along the Gran Via you can visit several monasteries, including the Convento y Museo de las Duenas, a 16th century building with cloister.
There are 15 Museums in Salamanca, where you can see exhibits ranging from Art Deco to Fine Arts to religion. But mostly, this is a fine walking town, from the Roman bridge over the river to the Plaza Mayor, which may likely be the most compelling in Spain.
Spring and fall are ideal. Summer temperatures run above 40 degrees C
many days, and winter November through March can be quite cold.
The most interesting sounding festival, it seems to me, would be the
Lenten festival of Lunes de Aguas, the Monday of the Waters, celebrated on the Monday after easter, where the
women of ill repute are sent from Salamanca out to La Salud de Tejares
to pass Lent, returning of the Monday of Quasimodo. People of Salamanica
waited for their return at the Roman bridge with Easter cakes. How can
you restist? Read more about Lunes de Aguas.
The major festival in Salamanca occurs in the second week of September. The Virgen de la Vega is the patron saint of Salamanca, and is celebrated in a week-long festival that extends from the Roman bridge to the Plaza de Toros. Read more about La Feria de Salamanca.
Roasts are popular--you'll see cabrito (young goat) and Cochinillo (suckling pig). Besides the Spaniards who've come here to Salamanca to study, Moors and Jews have left their mark on the cuisine of Salamanca--a very wide variety of dishes are available. There are many bars where you can enjoy tapas or pinchos, small bits of appetizers you have with a beer or glass of wine. By all means, don't miss an opportunity to sit at one of the tables in the Plaza Major and chow down on some Jamón Ibérico, Iberian ham. If you really like that sort of thing, splurge for a plate of the best, jamón ibérico de bellota.
The official language spoken in Salamanca is Spanish, of course. But if all you have in your language arsenal is English, you'll be fine. Being an International university town, you'll have no problem finding someone who speaks English. In fact, it's hard to find a restaurant in Salamanca that doesn't have a menu in English with pictures of the food,--a bad sign, usually. There are also many language schools in Salamanca; it's an ideal place to study Spanish if you're so inclined. In fact, Language International lists the 14 best language schools in Salamanca.
Salamanca's train station, called the Estación Renfe Salamanca, is located northeast of the old town. To get to the old section from the train station, exit and walk left on the Paseo de la Estacion. Just past the Plaza de Espana is the old city.
The main bus terminal is at Av. Filiberto Villalobos, northwest of the old town. Buses from Madrid, Avila, Zamora, Valladolid, León, and Cáceres use this station. Address: Av. de Filiberto Villalobos, 71, 37007 Salamanca, Spain.
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