Located in the northwestern part of the country, Salamanca is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary cities to visit in Spain. Part of the Castile and León region, it boasts a captivating mix of medieval architecture and vibrant Spanish charm and is best known for its illustrious University.
Founded in 1218, it draws scholars from around the world, making it one of Europe’s oldest and most esteemed centers of academic excellence. But the city isn’t just a haven for education; there are also many interesting things to do in Salamanca which has a staggering collection of architectural marvels that will take your breath away.
Best seen when the sun dips below the horizon, the city’s golden sandstone buildings take on a warm, enchanting glow, earning Salamanca the nickname ‘La Dorada’ or ‘The Golden City’. Elsewhere, its cobblestone streets wind through a labyrinth of history and gastronomic delights, where you can treat yourself to some of the best tapas in Spain.
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16. Palacio de Monterrey
The Palacio de Monterrey stands out as an architectural wonder in a city blessed with many exceptional buildings.
Construction began in the 16th century after the Count of Monterrey commissioned the work to exhibit his wealth and influence while showcasing the grandeur of the Renaissance era. Its impressive facade boasts intricate stonework and ornamental details that reflect the artistic brilliance of that time.
Once inside, visitors will see lavish rooms adorned with exquisitely carved wooden ceilings, intricate tapestries, and breathtaking frescoes, offering a glimpse into the Spanish aristocracy’s opulent lifestyle.
Undoubtedly, the palace’s highlight is the impressive Plateresque Patio. This inner courtyard features a perfect blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles, surrounded by a double gallery of arches and columns. It is a lovely place to take stock of all you have seen.
15. Huerto De Calixto & Melibea
Tucked away among the historic streets of the old town resides the Huerto De Calixto & Melibea. An idyllic garden steeped in literary and botanical history, its name is derived from characters in the celebrated novel La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas.
Formerly a private garden, it has now been opened to the public as a serene oasis, offering visitors the chance to explore its verdant greenery and breathtaking panoramic views. The terraced garden leads you to the elevated Mirador de Melibea, which boasts stunning vistas of the city’s iconic skyline.
Beyond its natural beauty, the Huerto De Calixto & Melibea is a tribute to Salamanca’s literary past. The garden is dotted with sculptures and inscriptions, celebrating its connection to Rojas’ works. Be sure to relax on one of the garden’s benches with a book and immerse yourself in this remarkable space’s tranquillity and history.
14. Museo de la Historia de Automocion
If you love cars, you’ll want to visit the Museo de la Historia de Automoción (Museum of Automotive History). Founded in 2002, this captivating museum chronicles the evolution of automobiles, showcasing a diverse collection of vehicles that span decades.
Housed in a former Benedictine monastery, the museum seamlessly blends history and architecture. Its exhibition halls host a range of classic cars, vintage motorcycles and even a glimpse into the future with innovative prototypes. From iconic European brands to American legends, the museum’s collection reflects the global impact of the automotive industry.
Interactive displays, informative exhibits and well-preserved vehicles offer a comprehensive journey through automotive history. Visitors can also admire each vehicle’s craftsmanship, engineering and cultural significance, gaining insights into the technological advancements that have shaped the modern world.
13. Day Trip to Nature Park Arribes del Duero
While Salamanca has plenty to capture your attention, you should visit the nearby Arribes del Duero Nature Park if time permits.
This park, carved by the mighty Duero River, features a perfect harmony of rugged landscapes and tranquil waters. With a history that dates back to ancient times, the park’s dramatic canyons and cliffs have been shaped by centuries of geological forces. Majestic birds of prey, such as eagles and vultures, soar gracefully above, enhancing the enchanting natural spectacle.
Visitors can take a boat tour along the river, providing an immersive perspective of the park’s beauty, while hiking trails offer exploration opportunities on foot. The park’s biodiversity showcases unique flora and fauna that thrive in this pristine environment.
If you can, stick around until the sun sets, when the park transforms into a magical panorama, casting hues of gold and pink across the landscape.
12. Convento de las Duenas
The Convento de las Dueñas is a peaceful 15th-century convent with magnificent architecture and a rich history of religious devotion.
Home to the Dominican nuns, the convent features an exquisite cloister decorated with ornate arches, allowing you to explore the city’s historical and spiritual tapestry. On the arches are frightening carvings of gargoyles and other grotesque figures that are as fascinating as they are unnerving.
The convent also has a church that conveys stunning Gothic and Baroque elements, intricate gilded altarpieces and religious art. While its serene courtyard, surrounded by well-preserved architecture, offers a peaceful space for contemplation.
Overall, the convent has a calm atmosphere making it a pleasant place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. As a bonus, you can also buy some delicious traditional biscuits – called Amarguillos – made by the nuns.
11. La Clerecia
The La Clerecía, also known as the ‘Iglesia del Espíritu Santo’, is a cultural treasure that showcases the city’s dedication to safeguarding its artistic and spiritual heritage. The structure was built as a seminary for the Society of Jesus and dates back to the 17th century.
The church’s intricate façade is an impressive example of Baroque architecture and religious history, featuring eye-catching sculptures and decorative elements. Equally, the Baroque opulence continues inside with remarkable altarpieces, frescoes, and ornamental details that inspire awe and reverence.
La Clerecía’s most famous feature is its towering spire, which boasts panoramic views of Salamanca’s historic skyline. Climbing its narrow staircase is a challenging yet rewarding experience, with each step offering glimpses of the city’s architectural marvels.
10. Convento de San Esteban
The Convento de San Esteban provides another fascinating insight into Salamanca’s propensity for religious devotion and architectural excellence.
With origins dating back to the 16th century, this convent is a testament to Spanish Gothic and Plateresque styles. Its location has significant local importance because it was a crucial center for Dominicans during the Counter Reformation era. They established the School of Salamanca, which Francisco de Vitoria led.
The exterior of the convent boasts stunning façades adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures, while the interior reveals a breathtaking blend of artistry and spirituality.
One of the most captivating features is the cloister, featuring arches and ornamental details embodying the Renaissance era’s beauty. The Plateresque high altar and stunning chapels also stand out with elaborate decorations, frescoes, and religious artwork.
9. Day Trip to Zamora
Zamora is a charming Spanish town steeped in history and architectural beauty. It is just a short distance from Salamanca, so it’s well worth embarking on a day trip there.
The town is renowned for its well-preserved medieval charm and impressive Romanesque heritage, evident when you wander through its cobbled streets. You’ll encounter many Romanesque churches, including an impressive 12th-century Cathedral. A medieval castle and city walls add to the enchantment, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Whilst walking through the town, Zamora’s historical significance is well showcased – it was a crucial strategic point during various periods of Spanish history. Its riverside location on the Duero River characterizes much of its scenic allure, making it a delightful destination for leisurely walks and picturesque photo opportunities.
8. Casa de las Conchas
The Casa de las Conchas is a remarkable example of Spanish Renaissance architecture with a fascinating history. This iconic building was constructed in the late 15th century. It boasts a noteworthy façade adorned with more than 300 carved scallop shells, symbolizing the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Apart from its ornate exterior, the Casa de las Conchas has a diverse and fascinating past. Originally built as a residence, it has also served as a university building and even as a prison. Today, it houses a public library and cultural center, inviting visitors to explore its corridors and hidden corners.
An interior courtyard features beautiful archways adorned with intricate carvings and decorative details. It also has a grand staircase that leads to upper levels resplendent with stained glass windows and ornate ceilings.
7. Puente Romano
The Puente Romano, also known as the Roman Bridge, is an ancient marvel dating back to the 1st century. It spans the Tormes River, connecting the modern city to its Roman past.
Strolling across the Puente Romano provides a unique glimpse into the engineering ingenuity of antiquity. Its well-preserved stone arches and walkway bring to mind the images of Roman travelers and traders who once crossed these same paths. The bridge’s strategic location made it a crucial artery for trade and communication during Roman times.
Today, the Puente Romano is a historical relic and a picturesque vantage point for admiring Salamanca’s skyline. Best seen when the sun sets, the bridge’s silhouette against the river creates a serene ambience that captures the essence of this timeless city.
6. University of Salamanca
The University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, is the oldest university in Spain and is renowned for its cultural heritage and academic excellence.
Its campus is steeped in history, featuring notable buildings like the Plateresque façade of the Escuelas Mayores. You’ll be amazed by the ornate courtyards, lecture halls, and libraries that house ancient manuscripts. One of the most famous symbols of the university is the frog sculpture hidden within the intricate carvings of the façade, which brings luck to students.
The Universidad de Salamanca played a pivotal role in developing the Spanish language and has produced many notable alumni, including Miguel de Cervantes (best known for writing Don Quixote). Today, it welcomes scholars from all over the world and continues to shape the minds of future generations.
5. Explore the Old Town
One of the best things to do in Salamanca is explore its captivating Old Town. This remarkable area boasts a maze of streets, intricate architecture, and a fascinating history spanning centuries.
Stroll through the charming neighborhoods en route to destinations like the iconic University of Salamanca, Plaza Mayor, stunning cathedrals and the unique Casa de las Conchas.
Along the way, you will marvel at the Old Town’s fabulous blend of medieval and Renaissance buildings. Each exudes timeless beauty and intricate details, such as elaborate carvings, elegant balconies, and hidden courtyards. You will also uncover Salamanca’s rich past and immerse yourself in its art, culture, history and food. Every turn leads to a new fascinating chapter in this city’s storied narrative.
4. Casa Lis
Originally a private residence, Casa Lis is an exquisite museum that now offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of a bygone era.
Built between 1901 and 1905, Casa Lis enchants visitors with its intricate ironwork, stained glass windows, and decorative motifs epitomizing the Art Nouveau style. The museum’s extensive collection features decorative arts, glassware, porcelain, and sculptures, showcasing the craftsmanship of the early 20th century.
The inner courtyard, surrounded by ornate galleries, invites contemplation, while the museum’s extension houses a memorable collection of Art Deco pieces.
Exploring Casa Lis not only unveils the beauty of Art Nouveau but also serves as a cultural journey through time. Its blend of architecture and artistic treasures paints a vivid picture of an era of innovation and creativity, rendering it a must-visit destination for art lovers.
3. Catedral Nueva
Dominating the skyline of Salamanca, the Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral) is a masterpiece of Gothic and Baroque architecture. Construction began in the 16th century, and its unique blend of styles reflects the passage of time and the evolution of artistic tastes.
The façade of the Catedral Nueva showcases intricate carvings and sculptures, while its interior boasts soaring vaulted ceilings and elaborate chapels. Notably, with its stunning altarpiece, the Capilla Mayor exemplifies the transition from Gothic to Baroque style.
One of the cathedral’s most distinctive features is the Ieronimus Tower, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city from its highest point. Ascending its spiral staircase is a challenging affair. But it rewards visitors with unparalleled vistas you’ll want to take some time to appreciate.
2. Catedral Vieja
Witnessing centuries of history, The Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral) boasts a captivating blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It dates back to the 12th century and is an emblem of the city’s rich spiritual heritage.
The intricate façade of the cathedral showcases detailed carvings and sculptural decorations. Meanwhile, the interior reveals a harmonious combination of styles. The octagonal cupola is a true architectural marvel, supported by elegant columns.
One of the cathedral’s most remarkable features is the Puerta de Ramos, a stunning Romanesque doorway adorned with biblical scenes and ornate detailing. The Plateresque choir stalls, the ambulatory with its radiant chapels, and the serene cloister contribute to the cathedral’s unique ambience.
The Old Cathedral is always busy, so come early. Otherwise, the noise of the crowds might dampen the enjoyment of your visit.
1. Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor, the city’s epicenter, is where history, culture, and everyday life converge. This grand square, built in the 18th century, boasts stunning Baroque architecture adorned with intricate decorations and allegorical figures.
Surrounded by arcades and arches, the Plaza Mayor exudes sophistication and elegance. The clock tower, crowned by a golden cupola, stands as a symbol of civic pride. The lively square is home to cafes, shops, and vibrant events, attracting residents and visitors.
Visiting the Plaza Mayor immerses oneself in Salamanca’s cultural heritage and dynamic spirit. Over the years, countless historical events have occurred on this enchanting plaza, from royal proclamations to academic celebrations.
It’s a lovely place to visit by day. But it comes alive at night, when the building’s illuminated façades create a stunning atmosphere, transforming the square into an intoxicating spectacle.
Where to Stay in Salamanca
Salamanca boasts several charming neighborhoods that offer an ideal base for visiting the city. The Barrio del Oeste, characterized by its picturesque streets and artistic vibe, is perfect for those seeking a bohemian atmosphere near the city center. By contrast, the La Salle offers a quieter ambiance while conveniently still being located near key attractions.
The Gran Hotel Corona Sol is only 1 km from the Salamanca-la Alamedilla train station, making it an excellent choice for those wanting to base themselves near it. Featuring a sophisticated design and a range of modern amenities, guests can enjoy a drink on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, which provides breathtaking panoramic views of the historic skyline.
Alternatively, the Silken Rona Dalba is an excellent option for those wanting an affordable hotel near the Plaza Mayor. The hotel offers a convenient central location at just over a 5-minute walk from the landmark. Its stylish and well-appointed rooms capture the essence of Salamanca’s architecture and culture through its homely design.
How to get there
Salamanca is an easy destination to visit as it is accessible from many locations within Spain.
If you fly from overseas, the closest major airport is Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport. From there, you can opt for a pleasant train journey on Spain’s efficient rail network, which connects Madrid to Salamanca in just a few hours. The main train station is called Estación de Tren de Salamanca. It resides on the north side of the city about 2 km from the main tourist attractions in Salamanca’s downtown area.
Alternatively, buses offer a budget-friendly and scenic option, with frequent services connecting Salamanca to Madrid and other major Spanish cities.
For those who prefer to drive, you can reach the city via a picturesque journey along various well-maintained highways.
Approximate travel times
- Avila – 1 hour by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Segovia – 1.5 hours by car, 1 hour 10 minutes by train
- Valladolid – 1.5 hours by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Madrid – 2.5 hours by car, 2 hours 30 minutes by train
- Porto (Portugal) – 4 hours by car, 5-6 hours by train and bus
Best Time to Visit Salamanca
Bilbao enjoys a Mediterranean climate with quite cold, wet winters and searing hot summers.
As the weather is warm, sunny and dry, most people visit between June and October. While the city is full of tourists, most students head off in the summer with many local businesses shutting in August for the holidays. Average temperatures of 18 to 29°C (64 to 84°F) are ideal for strolling about the centre though you may have to take a break during the hottest hours.
These months have loads of interesting, fun festivals to attend though with its Corpus Cristi celebrations and Festival of Saint James the Apostle counting among the largest. Music and firework displays also accompany the two week-long Salamanca Fair in September.
The city is most known for its huge Holy Week (Semana Santa) festivities that take place each April. Prices shoot up around this time with massive crowds coming to see all its elaborate floats and processions.
The rest of the year is relatively quiet though some people do visit Salamanca in December during the Christmas holidays.