Salamanca, a tourist and cultural destination
200 km west of Madrid, Salamanca, a young and dynamic student, is the city of Castilian thought and language. It houses the oldest active university in Spain, the’ Universidad de Salamanca’, founded in 1218 by Alfonso IX of Leon.
Salamanca, where the first grammar of the Castilian language was born, is still a world reference and a compulsory passage for many foreign students wishing to learn the language of Cervantes.
Historic centre classified as a World Heritage Site
The inventory of historical and religious monuments shows us the important cultural influence of Salamanca on Renaissance Spain. Among the buildings and monuments of this classified area: the University of La Clerecía, the Torre del Clavero, the Casa de las Conchas, the Nueva and Vieja cathedrals and the Plaza Mayor.
Salamanca is endowed with an impressive civil and religious architectural heritage. The city has two cathedrals, the old (12th century) and the new Gothic (18th century). The Patio Chico is its connecting point.
The festivities of the Holy Week of the city are declared of international tourist interest. Salamanca has also been promoted as the European Capital of Culture. These distinctions earned it a growing interest, city of thought and knowledge, it has become the main tourist and university destination of Castilla y León.
Places and public spaces in Salamanca
It is one of the most beautiful Spanish squares, of baroque style. A huge esplanade surrounded by arcades with shops and cafés, the Plaza Mayor is both the heart and the attractive centre of the city. This is where the shopping streets of Calle Zamora and Calle Toro start.
Also in baroque style, the Town Hall stands north of the square. It is endowed with five granite arches and a bell tower, on the facade there are medallions of Charles I, Alfonso XI, Ferdinand VI, Cervantes and Sainte-Thérèse.
A few steps away, Gran Vía, with the Plaza de España at one end, is a modern street for business during the day and student movida in the evening. At the other end of Gran Vía, between the banks of the Tormes river and the historic centre, the old university is surrounded by two cathedrals in the city.
Plaza del Corillo
Small and square, located in a corner of the Plaza Mayor, it dates from the 15th century. At the time, this curious square was called the Place du Cercle de l’ Herbe because, as it did not belong to anyone, the space was covered with grass.
On his left is the Romanesque church of San Martín and, on his right, a series of houses with stone columns from Villamayor, with sculptures symbolizing the days of the week.
Campo Park San Francisco
Designed on what used to be the large garden of the convent of San Francisco, of which there are still some ruins in an inner courtyard of the old chapel, this park is one of the oldest public gardens in the city.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a library was created there by the Caisse d’ Épargne. After being closed for a long time, the park has been restored with beautiful wooded walkways and children’s playgrounds.
Visits and monuments
The University of Salamanca
Patio of Escuelas
Founded in 1218, the University of Salamanca still enjoys great international prestige for the quality of its teaching and cultural references.
The square plan of the building with its plateresque facade has a central courtyard surrounded by arcades, as do the facades planted by the schools adjoining the university.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7:30pm, Sundays and holidays from 10am to 1:30pm. Audio guide, cafeteria.
Admission: 10 €, reduced price: 5 €, free for children.
Casa de los Doctores de la Reina. Patio de Escuelas, 2.
The museum, located in the Álvarez-Abarca’s house, is divided into three sections: archaeology, ethnology and fine arts. This house, known as the “Docteurs de la Reine”, is representative of the civil architecture in force under the Catholic Kings.
There are exhibits of altarpieces, paintings and wooden panels from the Flemish school, sculptures, a goldsmith’s collection and archaeological remains from various excavations.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7pm (17am to 7pm from July to September), Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 2pm.
Admission: 1 €, free on weekends.
Torre del Clavero
Calle Consuelo, 21.
The Clavero Tower is nowadays occupied by the offices of the Regional Council of Salamanca. Built in the 15th century in Gothic style, it was originally part of the Sotomayor palace. Crowned with eight turrets and adorned with blazons, it is square at the base and becomes octagonal in height.
Casa de las Conchas
With its Gothic style and Renaissance and Mudéjar elements, the shell house was built at the end of the 15th century.
The particularity of this building, part of the art called’ Isabélin’, is that it is covered by more than 300 shells. The absence of shellfish in some places is the result of a restoration carried out in the 18th century.
A coat of arms depicting fleur-de-lis adorns the entrance door of the house nowadays converted into a public library in Salamanca and an information desk.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm, 2 pm on Saturday from 3 July to 10 September. From 9am to 9pm the rest of the year.
The Roman bridge of Salamanca
Paseo San Gregorio – Paseo del Progreso.
Positioned on the Roman Way of Plata, the Silver Road, this bridge which would have been built in the 1st A. D., crosses the Tormes River in its widest width.
Standing on a rocky bedrock,’ el Puente romano’ is 176 metres long and 3.70 metres wide, with 26 arches and pillars.
Cathedrals of Salamanca
The cathedral is actually made up of two buildings, the old cathedral dating from the 12th and 13th centuries and the new one from the 16th century.
In Romanesque style, the ancient cathedral stands out by the Rooster Tower. The interior houses the chapel of San Martín, also known as the oil chapel. Its major altarpiece was made by several painters under the direction of Dello Delli, an Italian painter and sculptor.
The vault of the building is covered with a fresco depicting Christ at the Last Judgement, painted by Nicolás Florentino. One of the inner attractions of the cathedral lies in the tombs of bishops and noble figures who are housed there.
The construction of the Nueva Catedral was completed in the eighteenth century, and one can admire an image of the Virgin of the Assumption sculpted by Esteban Rueda in 1626. The stalls of the heart were realized by Joaquín Churriguera as for the back choir, baroque, it presents Renaissance images such as the Virgin of Loreto and Saint John the Baptist.
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 5.15pm, until 7.15pm from April 1st to September 30th.
Admission: 4,75 €, children: 3 €. Audio guide, guided tours.
Calle Campañía, 5.
It was the wife of Philip III, Margarita of Austria, who at the beginning of the 17th century ordered the construction, directed by Juan Gómez de Mora, of a college of the ecclesiastical order of the Society of Jesus.
Known as Colegio Real de la Compañía de Jesús, the Baroque style Clerecía has a public part with a church and schools in which Jesuits taught, and a private part where the religious lived. The huge baroque cloister became the seat of the Pontifical University.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10h30 to 12h45 and from 17h to 18h30. Sundays and public holidays from 10:30am to 1:30pm and from 5pm to 7:15pm.
Admission: 3 €, groups: 2,50 €. Guided tours.
Plaza Concilio de Trento.
The Dueñas convent was founded in 1419 in a palace in the Moorish style, where a portal with an arch and azulejos was preserved. The facade is plateresque and the church adjoining the convent was built in the 16th century. It is now occupied by Dominican sisters.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:30am to 12:45pm and from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. Closed on Sundays and holidays. Admission: 2 €.
Convent of San Esteban
Plaza Concilio de Trento.
Classified a property of cultural interest since 1890, the convent belongs to the Dominican Order. If its design is Gothic, the decoration is plateresque and baroque. The church has a Latin cross plan and preserves a Baroque altarpiece with three twisted columns by José de Churriguera. The convent houses three cloisters, the most famous of which is that of the Kings.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 1.15pm and from 4.00pm to 5.15pm, until 7.15pm on the afternoons of 18 March to 6 November. Sundays and holidays from 10am to 1:15pm.
Church of the Purísima
Plaza de las Agustinas.
On the initiative of Manuel de Fonseca y Zúñiga, in the 17th century, it was conceived on the one hand as a family pantheon and on the other hand as a convent where his daughter could retire. Baroque building, its porch is crowned with a triangular pediment in the Vignola style. The main altarpiece of the church was made by José de Ribera.
Plaza de las Úrsulas, 2.
Founded in the sixteenth century by Archbishop Alonso de Foncesca, the convent church is Gothic in style. The places are home to important works of sacred art such as the marble tomb, in the form of the burial mound of Don Alonso de Foncesca, made by Diego de Siloé. There is also the grave of the butler of Archbishop Don Francisco Rivas.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 11h 13h then from 16h30 to 18h. Admission: 2 €.
San Marcos Church
Calle Puerta Zamora
Built in the 12th century in a Romanesque style with a circular plan, the building is surmounted by a baroque bell tower. It houses Gothic paintings of the 14th century depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.
San Martín Church
Plaza del Cornilo.
A masterpiece of Spanish Romanesque art, the church was built in the 12th century, on the initiative of Count Martín Fernández, on the site of an ancient hermitage dedicated to St. Peter.
In addition to a beautiful porch, also Romanesque, the church contains a altarpiece by Churriguera, a remarkable choir and numerous burials.
Opening hours: every morning from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 2pm and Saturday afternoon from 4pm to 7pm.
Arzobispo Foncesca College
Calle Foncesa, 4.
The college became a university residence and was built by Don Alfonso de Foncesca y Acebedo, Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela and Toledo.
The building is articulated around a courtyard into which one enters by a vestibule covered with a vault. The main façade is decorated with sculptures of Saint-Augustin and Saint-Idelfonse, as well as a medallion depicting Santiago at the Battle of Clavijo. The chapel houses an altarpiece composed of paintings and sculptures by Alonso Berreguete.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9am to 2pm.
Admission: 2 €, reduced price: 1 €.
Peñaranda de Bracamonte
40 km to and from Salamanca.
The centre of the old town of Peñaranda de Bracamonte, declared of cultural interest, is characterized by its three arcaded squares linked together. Around these: houses with arcaded ground floor arches with pillars and columns surmounted by houses, one or two storeys built in exposed bricks, facades and balconies decorated with geometric motifs.
The oldest of these squares is the Augustín Martínez Soler square, where the Renaissance-style San Miguel church is located. The square of the Constitution was designed in the 16th century to enlarge the market, it houses the Town Hall. As for the Plaza de España, it is distinguished by its music kiosk and the building of the old prison.
It is on Thursday, the day of the weekly market whose origins go back to a Royal privilege of the 14th century, that you should visit Peñaranda, an opportunity to taste the tostón, roast suckling pig, the most popular dish of local gastronomy.
95 km west of Salamanca.
An illustrious fortified square declared a historic site, Ciudad Rodrigo is situated on a rocky mound on the banks of the River Águeda. A site already occupied in the Neolithic period, then around the 6th century BC by the Vetons, a tribe of Celtic origin who founded the town of Miróbriga to settle there. A few centuries later the Romans came and changed it into Augustobríga.
A strategic place long disputed by Muslims and Christians, it was repopulated in 1100 by Rodrigo Gonzalez Girón, who gave it its definitive name. The king of Leon, Fernando II, later gave it fortifications (12th century) and renovated the old Roman bridge. During this period Ciudad Rodrigo became episcopal seat.
The monuments that earned it the distinction of Historic Site come mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries. The cathedral, whose construction lasted four centuries (1165-1550), is the most important building in the city.
80 km southwest of Salamanca.
At the foot of the Natural Park of Las Batuecas-Sierra de Francía, La Alberca was the first rural town in Spain to be classified as a National Historic Monument. Around the Plaza Mayor, the historical center is articulated. The architecture presents us with houses on the ground floor in stone with arches on which rest one or two half-timbered floors.
La Alberca is part of the association’ The most beautiful villages in Spain’. Its heritage includes the 18th century church of la Asunción, which houses a 16th century granite chair and several hermitages scattered around the village.
Miranda of Castañar
60 km southwest of Salamanca.
The old town of Miranda de Castañar stands in the heart of the Sierra de Francia in the southwestern part of the province. With its ancient ramparts and four gates giving access to the historic centre, the city offers a medieval atmosphere.
Masonry and wooden houses are typical of this part of the Sierra de Salamanca. In addition to its gates, Miranda is equipped with several buildings and civil monuments, including the 15th century castle and its square of arms, a bell tower dating from the 17th century or the former wheat market built in 1585, the current headquarters of the Town Hall.
Extra-muros, two of the five hermitages in the city, the Humilladeros and Virgen hermitages, complete the historical heritage.
75 km south of Salamanca.
Among the historic sites and buildings not to be missed in this city located in the south of the province of Salamanca: the villa of El Bosque, a Renaissance style’ secondary’ house whose gardens have been classified as of cultural interest.
Other centres of interest in Bejar are the arena, considered to be the oldest in Spain, a ducal palace from the 16th century and ancient Arab walls from the 11th century.
35 km northwest of Salamanca.
On the banks of the Tormes river, the charming village of Ledesma (1800 inhabitants) offers, very close to the Arribes del Duero natural park, a beautiful sample of buildings and monuments including the oldest, a menhir, dating back to prehistoric times.
Remains of Roman ramparts and a bridge from the same period, seigniorial houses and palaces, a castle and its beautiful church Santa María la Mayor, this is what Ledesma proposes.
The city’s historical interpretation centre, Bletisa, offers two itineraries to discover the most representative elements of the city: the Urban Route for the historic centre and the Mocho Bridge for a walk in the vicinity of the old Roman bridge.
San Felice de los Gallegos
105 km west of Salamanca.
For a long time a fortified town on the border between Portugal and Castile, this small village is endowed with an old historical centre.
The village is protected by a castle and a medieval fortress, the fortifications of which have been built in several stages. In cut stone, the walls and towers surrounding the town square date from the 13th century, the 15th century keep. A third enclosure and its bastions date back to the 13th century.
Intramuros, a parish church dating from the 12th and 13th centuries; in Romanesque style, it was modified during the Gothic Renaissance (XVIth century). The Town Hall, also from the 16th century, an old market hall, old hospitals and manor houses (XVIth-18th century) complete the historical heritage.