Salamanca is the capital of its own province and located to the south-west of the Spanish autonomous community of Castilla y León around 200 km from Madrid. Salamanca has a population of around 165,000, is most famous for its university and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Salamanca was founded before the Roman period but went onto become an important Roman outpost lying on the Roman road, Vía de la Plata, which connected Salamanca with Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida) to the south and Asturica Augusta (present-day Astorga) to the north.
There are in fact two Cathedrals in Salamanca, albeit connected. On one side is the Romanesque style Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja) which dates from the 12th-13th centuries, and on the other, the ‘New’ cathedral (Catedral Nueva) which dates from the 16th century.
Its main entrance consists of 3 arcs, each leading to the 3 naves of the church. The three arches and façade are intricately carved and, if you look closely enough, you can see a more recent addition in the form of an astronaut which was added during restoration work in 1992 as a symbol of the 20th century.
For the most spectacular views over Salamanca head for the Puerta de la Torre at the southwestern corner of the New Cathedral.
The original Salamanca University is made up of several colleges including Escuelas Mayores, Escuelas Menores and the Hospital de Estudio which are arranged around the square known as Patio de Escuelas (School Terrace). It was founded in 1218 and is the oldest and one of the most prestigious in Spain. Approximately 30,000 students attend the university itself but student numbers in the city are swelled further by the thousands of international language students that flock to Salamanca.
Alfonso IX of León is credited with founding the University of Salamanca when he granted it a royal charter in 1218 elevating it from a mere college into what was to become one of the most prestigious academic centres in Europe.
By the 16th Century Salamanca University had around 6,500 students against a total population of 24,000 and was becoming an increasingly important institution responsible for laying down the foundations of some of the most important European laws such as the right to life and the right to own property.
Today Salamanca University has more students from other regions than any other university in Spain and is an important centre for the study of medicine and humanities, particularly languages. In 2009 Salamanca University celebrated its eighth centennial.
The AC Palacio de San Esteban is 5 star luxury hotel and former convent situated in the heart of the old town of Salamanca close to all the city’s historical attractions.
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca
Plaza Mayor is the stunning main square of Salamanca and serves as the heart of the city in every respect with its restaurants, cafes and shops buzzing with activity throughout the day and night. It was finished in 1755 and for its first one hundred years was used as the city’s Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring).
Casa de las Conchas
Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) was constructed towards the end of the 15th century and into the 16th century and takes its name from the more than three hundred shells which cover its façade. Today it houses the Salamanca public library and an information office.
Other Salamanca Attractions
Convento de San Esteban (Convent of St Stephen)
The Convento de San Esteban’s church has an incredible façade depicting the stoning of San Esteban as its central motif. Inside there’s also a small museum dedicated to the monks and their missionary work in the South America.
Palacio de Monterrey
Although not open to the public the façade of the 16th century holiday home of the Duques de Alba is stunning.
Convento de Santa Clara
This convent is now a small museum with beautiful frescoes and ceilings.
Museo de Salamanca (Salamanca Museum)
Salamanca Museum is located in the former residence of Queen Isabel’s doctor, and probably more worthy of a visit for its tranquil interior patios than for the collection itself.
Convento y Museo de Las Úrsulas
Gothic convent founded by Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca in 1512. Bizarrely part of the building is also rented out by the nuns to a nightclub called Camelot.
Salamanca Airport is located around 14 kilometres from the city centre and offers mainly domestic flights alongside charter flights and a service to Paris.
Salamanca Railway Station
Salamanca’s train station is located on Paseo de la Estación to the north-west of the old town centre.
Salamanca Bus Station
The bus station is in the city centre on Avenida Filiberto Villalobos and offers services throughout Spain and some European destinations.