Euro City Guides: Salamanca
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Often referred to as Spain's "Golden City", Salamanca is an interesting place. In some ways it feels like any other Spanish city, but it's beauty and internationally-renowned monuments remind you that you're in a very historic place. It is home to the University of Salamanca, Spain's oldest university, as well as the oldest and most impressive Plaza Mayor in Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire old town in fact is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With so many Baroque and Renaissance buildings to see, you won't get bored of admiring the architecture here. Being the home of Spain's oldest university, the city is pretty student-focused, and in many ways feels like a lively college town. The juxtaposition between the college party town and the historic sandstone architecture and old cathedrals and palaces make it a really cool place to visit.
Being a smaller city, there is not a whole lot to see, and it can be done pretty easily in a day or two. The main sites are pretty important to see, but you don't need to spend a ton of time here to see everything. I do, however, definitely recommend it as a weekend trip if you're coming from a nearby city (like Madrid), since it's pretty far from any nearby city.
In terms of weather, it really varies. I went in mid-November and it was freezing, but I've heard that their summers can get quite hot. They're pretty landlocked and close to a few mountain ranges, so the weather is pretty variable.
I stayed in an Airbnb in the center of town, right off of the Plaza Mayor. It was a great location, and perfect for a quick weekend trip. I would absolutely recommend staying in the city center, it'll make your trip much easier. Especially if you're only there for a couple of days.
Salamanca itself is a super walkable city, and I never needed to use their public transit. I believe they just have buses, which I'm sure are great, but the city's so small that it really wasn't necessary. If you're coming from Madrid, I recommend taking the Renfe Media-Distancia train from Chamartin Station. ALSA also runs regular bus routes, but the train is much quicker, and is relatively cheap coming from Madrid. Depending where you're coming from though, the bus might be a better option! I always check Rome2Rio to see what's easiest.
As I've mentioned before, this beautiful city is full of historical sites rich in culture. Most of these are pretty quick to see, so you can easily do most of these in a day or two. I did not need to buy tickets online ahead of time for anything, but I also went in the off season. The main site to see here is the Plaza Mayor, and I recommend spending time in the plaza both during the day and at night.
La Clerecia/Scala Coeli: These towers in an old church will give you the best views of Salamanca. Climb up the many staircases and you'll reach two towers connected to each other with amazing views of the city and surrounding countryside. There are some cute balconies on here to take pictures on as well! Price: 3.75€.
Casa de las Conchas: As you exit the Clerecia, you'll see a building covered in shells. This is the Casa de las Conchas, and it's a famous place to take pictures. It houses the city's public library, which I did not visit but have heard good things about. It's super easy to just stop by and check it out! Price: Free.
Cathedral (New & Old): Salamanca has two really beautiful cathedrals, an older one and a newer one, both connected to one another. Enter through the new cathedral and buy a tour with an audioguide, which tells you all of the cool historical info about them as you go. The new one is very elegant and detailed, and is made in the Gothic and Baroque styles. You continue through the tour on to the old cathedral, where you step back through time and see how well-preserved this old cathedral is. Both are insanely beautiful, and definitely one of the highlights of my Salamanca trip! Price: 5€ if you're under 30, 6€ for everyone else.
Roman Bridge & River Park: Walking down the Roman Bridge that crosses the river and leaves the old city, you'll get great views of the walled city. It's a great spot to take pictures of the city, and the river walk is very relaxing. Follow the path along the river for a nice walk through nature. Price: Free.
Convento de San Esteban: This beautiful complex is a former religious convent with a church still in use. Get a ticket to tour the complex, and wander around the beautiful old Baroque building and it's garden. Definitely worth the visit, and one of the nicest churches I've seen! Price: 4€, 3€ for students.
Universidad de Salamanca: This is the oldest university in Spain, and part of what makes Salamanca famous. The university buildings are spread throughout the old town, and can often be difficult to distinguish from the others. A must-do in Salamanca is to visit the main entrance gate and try to spot the frog in the stone carvings. If you are able to spot the frog, it is supposed to bring you good luck. To be honest, the frog doesn't really look much like a frog, so just be aware of that. You can also go inside and do tours of the old university, but the hours are pretty limited on those so I was unable to.
Salamanca has a pretty lively restaurant scene. Many of its restaurants are more traditionally Spanish, but it also has some unique options for its international student population. There are plenty of pubs and bars too, which are all pretty casual. If you want to dine at some of the best restaurants here, you definitely need to make a reservation ahead of time. If you're a vegetarian like me, look up some spots beforehand and make reservations. Here are some of my recommendations for when you're visiting!
Magenta: This is the cutest little vegan cafe! I absolutely loved this place, it has a really cozy vibe and amazing food. Get a bunch of little vegan treats and tapas, and a tea, coffee, cocktail, or whatever you prefer. Great place to hangout and chat for awhile, it's so cute on the inside. https://www.salamancamagenta.es/
Restaurante Rio de la Plata: This traditional Spanish spot was highly recommended as one of the best spots in the city. The menu was pretty meat-heavy, but I was able to find a couple good veggie dishes and drink some good wine. The food and service were both great, and we were able to visit without a res. http://www.restauranteriodelaplata.es/
Caledonia Cafe: This is a nice little breakfast spot, and a great, healthy way to start a day of sightseeing. I got the avocado toast and a fruit bowl, and they have tons of great juices, smoothies, and other healthy options. Good for getting your healthy breakfast fix while you're in Salamanca! https://www.facebook.com/caledoniacoffeesalamanca/
Valor: I believe this churro spot is a national chain, since I've seen it in other Spanish cities. But it's well-known for good reason! They have great churros con chocolate, and since it's just off the Plaza Mayor you can sit in the plaza and eat your churros! https://www.valor.es/en/valor-chocolate-shops/
Cafe Novelty: This famous cafe in Plaza Mayor is a great place to stop for some good pastries and strong coffee or a traditional Spanish breakfast. I went here for croissants and cafe con leche, which were awesome. Great environment and great service! https://www.cafenovelty.com/
iPan iVino: Absolute must-go while you're in Salamanca! Incredible food and wine, and more of a modern, innovative take on many traditional tapas dishes. The food is just really solid quality, and I recommend it for a nice lunch or dinner. Order a bunch of different dishes to share and try! *Make a res*. http://ipanivino.com/
I hope you enjoy your visit to Salamanca, it's a really great city and has a lot to offer. Make sure to take tons of pictures and soak in all the history!
For more pictures of this beautiful place, check out my album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/186442686@N07/albums/72157712654565806