Salamanca

What I love most about Salamanca is that it’s something of a hidden treasure in Spain; from the prestigious University of Salamanca to the towering cathedrals and monasteries, there are countless historical gems and lively sites in the city.

One of the city’s most interesting spectacles is the cathedral, or rather, cathedrals. The old medieval cathedral was maintained during the construction of the gothic-renaissance new cathedral, so unlike many cities that had demolished the antiquated versions of their current cathedrals, Salamanca has double the size and double the architectural beauty. Towards the beginning of my trip, I was able to do a rooftop tour of the cathedrals, where I had an expansive view of the rest of the city.

A few blocks away, tourists and students alike can marvel at the facade to the University of Salamanca, which recently celebrated its 800th year as a university. The facade marks the peak of the plateresque Renaissance style, which entails intricate and well elaborated architectural design. You can spend the better part of an hour simply looking at every nook and cranny sculpted masterfully in the Villamayor stone. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find the legendary frog, which grants good luck on tests for students who encounter it without hints.

Close by, the Plaza Mayor marks the heart of the city, and the Churrigueresque architecture of the buildings makes Salamanca’s plaza the most impressive constructed in eighteenth century Spain. In addition to an ever-energetic array of restaurants, stores, and terrace seating for the hordes of residents that traverse the plaza each day, the plaza has medallions that mark some of Spain’s most important historical figures and monarchs. To me, the best part of the plaza, aside from the beautiful sculpture work, is the fact that this plaza is not simply a tourist hub, but rather a place where the locals frequent, which I’m sure lends itself to the fact that Salamanca doesn’t receive as many tourists as nearby Madrid or Toledo.

I could go on listing historical sites in Salamanca, as it is a city that flourished especially in the Renaissance and Baroque and now boasts beautiful art and historical tidbits, however, Salamanca is by no means behind the times. The nightlife in Salamanca is always energized no matter the day of the week, and streets such as Gran Via will often have entire strips of bars, restaurants, and clubs that are wildly popular among the many university students. Even for tourists, these places are not to be passed up and are definitely worth visiting after a day of historical touring.