Salamanca: The Complete Guide

Salamanca

Salamanca is the capital and largest city of the province Salamanca. The city lies on the banks of the Tormes River on Spain’s Northern Plateau. The city is considered to be one of the most beautiful Renaissance cities in the whole of Europe, with its historic center full of architectural treats and incredible monuments that date back centuries.

As with most Spanish cities life revolves around the busy and bustling Plaza Mayor, lined with cafes, bars and restaurants – which looks magical at night when it is lit up.

Other stunning places to see such as the New and Old Cathedrals, both of which are built out of sandstone – these warm hues that lend Salamanca its nickname – La Dorada, or ‘Golden City’.

Salamanca is Castilla’s liveliest city, home to a massive Spanish and international student population which gives it a vivacious and youthful feel – its University was founded in 1218 and is one of the oldest higher education institutions in Europe.

History of Salamanca

Early History of Salamanca

Salamanca’s history dates back to prehistoric times, with evidence of human habitation in the area as far back as the Iron Age. The city was originally settled by the Vacceos, a Celtic tribe, before being conquered by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC. Later, it became an important Roman settlement known as Salmantica.

Salamanca in the Roman Era

During Roman rule, Salamanca thrived as a significant commercial and military hub due to its strategic location along the Via de la Plata, an important Roman road connecting Mérida and Astorga. The Romans constructed impressive infrastructure, including a bridge over the Tormes River, parts of which still stand today.

Salamanca in the Middle Ages

In the 8th century, Salamanca fell under Moorish control after the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. It remained under Islamic rule until the 11th century when it was reconquered by the Christian forces of Alfonso VI of León and Castile. The repopulation of the city led to its development as a center of trade and learning.

Founding of the University of Salamanca

One of the most pivotal moments in Salamanca’s history came in 1218 when King Alfonso IX of León founded the University of Salamanca. This institution quickly gained prominence and became one of Europe’s leading centers of education. It attracted scholars from across the continent and played a crucial role in the intellectual and cultural life of medieval Spain.

Salamanca During the Renaissance

The Renaissance period marked a golden age for Salamanca. The University of Salamanca flourished, and the city became a hub of humanist thought and learning. Notable figures, such as Christopher Columbus, consulted the university’s scholars before his voyages. The city saw the construction of remarkable architectural landmarks, including the Old Cathedral and numerous colleges.

Salamanca in the Golden Age

The 16th century, known as Spain’s Golden Age, saw Salamanca reach its cultural and intellectual zenith. The New Cathedral was constructed during this period, and the Plaza Mayor, one of Spain’s most beautiful squares, was designed. The University of Salamanca continued to thrive, contributing significantly to Spanish literature, science, and philosophy.

Decline and Revival of Salamanca

The 17th and 18th centuries witnessed a decline in Salamanca’s prosperity due to political and economic challenges. However, the city experienced a revival in the 19th century with the restoration of its university and the preservation of its architectural heritage. Efforts were made to restore and maintain Salamanca’s historical buildings and monuments.

Modern Era and Salamanca

In the 20th century, Salamanca continued to develop as a major educational and cultural center. In 1988, its historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its outstanding architectural and historical significance. The city has also become a popular destination for students and tourists alike, drawn by its rich history and vibrant atmosphere.

Contemporary Salamanca

Today, Salamanca seamlessly blends its historical legacy with modern amenities. The University of Salamanca remains a prestigious institution, attracting students from around the world. The city is known for its lively cultural scene, annual festivals, and the warm hospitality of its residents. Visitors can explore its historic sites, enjoy local cuisine, and experience the unique charm of this ancient yet dynamic city.

Visiting Salamanca for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Salamanca on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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10 Best places to See in Salamanca

This complete guide to Salamanca not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Salamanca and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Palacio de Monterrey

Palacio De Monterrey
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Tamorlan
The Monterrey Palace is a a 16th-century royal Palace in the Spanish city of Salamanca. It was built by the III count of Monterrey, it is currently owned by the Duchess de Alba. It was a building much admired and imitated in the 19th century, giving rise to the so-called Monterrey or Neo-Plateresque style. It […]
Location: Monterrey's palace Pl. de Monterrey, 2 37002 Salamanca Spain | Hours: Morning Tours: At 10:30 am. At 11:30 am. At 12:30 p.m. At 1:30 p.m. Afternoon Tours: At 5:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m. (summer). | Price: €9.50 | Website | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Palacio de Monterrey

Salamanca Plaza Mayor

Salamanca Plaza Mayor Evening
Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor built between 1729 and 1755 is one of the most beautiful Baroque squares in Spain. The City hall is the focal point of the Plaza, with its five granite arches and a steeple decorated with allegoric figures. Bullfights were held here well into the 19th century; the last ceremonial corrida (bullfight) took […]
Visiting Salamanca Plaza Mayor

Casa de las Conchas

Casa De Las Conchas
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Richard Mortel
The Casa de las Conchas (the House of Shells) is a Gothic style building. It was constructed in the late 15th century, although it also features Renaissance and Mudéjar elements and belongs to the style known as Isabelline art. This stately mansion was built from 1493 to 1517 by Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, a knight […]
Location: Casa de las Conchas, Calle Compañía, 2 37002 Salamanca (Castilla y Leon) | Distance: 0.90km
Visiting Casa de las Conchas

Palacio de la Salina

Palacio De La Salina Courtyard 2
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Tamorlan
The Palacio de la Salina de Salamanca is a building built in a Plateresque style with Italian elements, built in 1538 . It has an airy façade, a courtyard with arches, capitals and corbels of great interest. The architect was Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón . The Palacio de la Salina de Salamanca is a building […]
Location: Palacio de la Salina C. San Pablo, 18 37001 Salamanca Spain | Distance: 0.90km
Visiting Palacio de la Salina

Salina Palace

Salina Palace Salamanca
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Luis Rogelio HM
The Salina Palace was commissioned by Rodrigo de Messía and designed by the architect Gil de Hontañón in the Renaissance style. It was built in the first half of the 16th century. It owes its name to the fact that it used to be a salt storage. It has a wide facade in the plateresco […]
Visiting Salina Palace

Salamanca University

Salamanca University
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Luis Rogelio HM
Salamanca University was founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX, and gained great prestige outside Spain as a centre for teaching and culture. The university building has a square floorplan with a central courtyard and surrounding galleries. Its most interesting feature is its Plateresque façade. The Escuelas Menores buildings stand beside the University and have […]
Location: Patio de Escuelas Menores, 37008 Salamanca | Website | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Salamanca University

Torre del Clavero

Exterior Torre Del Clavero Salamanca
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Luis Rogelio HM
This 15th-century octagonal fortress is part of the palace of Sotomayor. It has an unusual square base that turns into an octagon as it goes up and smaller cylindrical towers on each of its eight angles. The towers have a “basketweave” pattern on the bottom and a shield midway. The Torre del Clavero currently houses […]
Location: Torre del Clavero C. Consuelo, 34 37001 Salamanca Spain | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Torre del Clavero

Palacio de Anaya

SONY DSC
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Hugh Llewelyn
Currently, the Philology Faculty of The University of Salamanca, the Anaya Palace was designed and built in 1760, by José Hermosilla and Juan de Sagarvinaga after the damage caused to the city by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It was founded by Sir Diego de Anaya and served as the old College of San Bartolomé […]
Location: Anaya Palace C. Salamanca Zamora, 3 37008 Salamanca Spain | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Palacio de Anaya

Catedral Viejo y Nueva

Salamanca Cathedral
When we speak of the Cathedral of Salamanca in fact we are referring to two churches joined next to each other. The Catedral Viejo or Old Cathedral, was built in the Romanesque and Gothic styles from the 12th-13th centuries. It has a basilica ground plan that resembles a Latin cross with a central nave and […]
Location: Salamanca Cathedral C. Benedicto XVI 37008 Salamanca Spain | Hours: 10am-8pm Apr-Sep, to 6pm Oct-Mar | Price: adult/child incl audio guide & Catedral Vieja €6/4 | Website | Distance: 1.10km
Visiting Catedral Viejo y Nueva

Salamanca Puente Romano

Salamanca Roman Bridge
Some historians date the construction of the bridge to the first century A.D. under the Roman Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus. The bridge crosses one of the widest stretches of the Tormes River and is located on rocky subsoil. It is 176 m long and 3.70 m wide with 26 round arches and robust pillars. Only […]
Location: Roman bridge of Salamanca Puente de Sánchez Fabrés 37008 Salamanca Spain | Hours: 24 Hour | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Salamanca Puente Romano

Best Time to Visit Salamanca

Visiting Salamanca in Spring

Spring, from March to May, is one of the best times to visit Salamanca. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). The city’s parks and gardens are in full bloom, adding vibrant colors to the historic surroundings. Spring is also a time for cultural events and festivals, such as Holy Week (Semana Santa), which features impressive processions and religious ceremonies.

Visiting Salamanca in Summer

Summer, from June to August, is the peak tourist season in Salamanca. The weather is warm, with temperatures often reaching 30°C (86°F) or higher. Despite the heat, summer offers a lively atmosphere with numerous outdoor activities, concerts, and festivals. The annual Salamanca Fair in September marks the end of summer, celebrating with music, dance, and traditional events.

Visiting Salamanca in Autumn

Autumn, from September to November, is another ideal time to visit Salamanca. The temperatures are cooler, ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F), making it comfortable for sightseeing. The city is less crowded than in the summer, and the changing colors of the leaves add a picturesque quality to the city’s historic sites. Autumn also brings cultural festivals and the beginning of the academic year at the University of Salamanca, adding a vibrant student presence to the city.

Visiting Salamanca in Winter

Winter, from December to February, is the off-peak season in Salamanca. The weather is colder, with temperatures ranging from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F). Despite the chill, winter has its own charm, with festive decorations and a cozy atmosphere. The city’s Christmas markets and celebrations create a magical ambiance. Additionally, indoor attractions like museums and historic buildings are less crowded, allowing for a more relaxed visit.

Average Temperatures in Salamanca

  • January 11°C 5
  • February 14°C 5
  • March 15°C 5
  • April 21°C 6
  • May 25°C 3
  • June 30°C 3
  • July 35°C 1
  • August 33°C 1
  • September 28°C 4
  • October 23°C 7
  • November 15°C 6
  • December 13°C 6

How to get to Salamanca

By Air to Salamanca

The nearest major airport to Salamanca is Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD), located approximately 215 kilometers (134 miles) away. From Madrid, you can take a direct bus or train to Salamanca. Alternatively, you can fly into Valladolid Airport (VLL), which is about 125 kilometers (78 miles) from Salamanca. From Valladolid, you can reach Salamanca by bus, train, or rental car.

By Train to Salamanca

Salamanca is well-connected by train, with the Salamanca Railway Station serving as the main hub. From Madrid, high-speed Alvia trains take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Salamanca. Trains from Valladolid take about 1.5 hours. The train station is conveniently located near the city center, making it easy to access local attractions.

By Bus to Salamanca

Several bus companies operate routes to Salamanca from various cities in Spain. From Madrid, buses take around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach Salamanca. From Valladolid, the bus journey is about 1.5 hours. The main bus station in Salamanca is also centrally located, providing easy access to the city’s sights and accommodations.

By Car to Salamanca

Driving to Salamanca is a convenient option, especially if you plan to explore the surrounding regions. From Madrid, the drive takes approximately 2.5 hours via the A-50 and A-6 highways. From Valladolid, it takes about 1.5 hours via the A-62 highway. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and visit nearby attractions.

By Local Transportation in Salamanca

Once in Salamanca, you can explore the city by walking or using the local bus network operated by Salamanca City Transport. Taxis are also readily available for getting around the city and are a convenient option for short trips. Walking is particularly enjoyable in Salamanca due to its compact size and the close proximity of major attractions.