Nestled in the northwest of Spain, little more than two hours from Madrid, Salamanca is a charming city stopped in time. Home to the oldest university in Spain, the city attracts a vibrant student population, making it a prime choice for many Erasmus students and international tourists. There’s plenty on offer here in the city to while away a weekend full of sightseeing, great value food and breathtaking scenery.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the beautifully preserved old town in the center of the city is impossible to miss. The unmistakable sandstone architecture is scattered throughout and found among some of the city’s most famous monuments. Salamanca has an innumerable amount of museums, cathedrals and convents, but if you only have time to visit one, the old and new parts of the cathedral are must-sees. Sitting proudly in Plaza de Anaya, also home to the university’s historic languages department, the cathedral offers tourists the chance to see the city from the intricate tower at the very top. A little insider tip: on Sundays from 3-5pm, it’s completely free for the public to look around!
Calle Van Dyck is renowned in Salamanca for its fantastic selection of tapas bars at unbelievable prices. Despite the considerable student population, the mouthwatering choice of food attracts all ages and offers something for everyone – both taste and budget. Salamanca has retained the traditional feel of classic tapas bars, with high bar stools, people flocking to chat and mingle, a glass of wine in hand and a pincho (small tapa) to nibble on with friends. You may have to push through the hordes of Friday and Saturday night goers to get to a bar, but for the truly vibrant atmosphere and great quality food, it’s more than worth the struggle! Top spots among the numerous choices include Rufo’s (Avenida Torres Villarroel, 44) for amazing value sharing offers, such as six pinchos for only 8.50! Another well-deserved mention is 100 Montaditos, (Calle Concejo, 3) the closest thing you will find to a chain tapas restaurant in Salamanca. Offering ‘montaditos,’ tapas in a little bread roll, which is something all visitors in Salamanca must try, the bar offers every one on their never-ending menu for only one euro on Sundays and Wednesdays!
The world famous siesta here is taken very, very seriously. So, what’s a better thing to do at lunchtime than to feast on the menu of the day and take your time? Salamanca has some fantastic gems to get sucked into, with a particular local and student favorite being Mandala (Calle Serranos, 9), where you can order two huge portions of food, a drink and one of their gorgeous desserts for only 10.50 euros on weekdays and 12.50 during the weekend. Another excellent option is the ‘Arroz Negro,’ black rice with seafood. Another great choice, only a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor, is Blue Tomato (Plaza del Mercado, esquina Calle Varillas), which specializes in pizzas, steaks and burgers, with a handful of bargains every day.
Leading out of Plaza Mayor, Calle Toro is one winding street holding all of your shopping needs in one place. Think Sephora, Pull & Bear and H&M, as well as plenty of independent stores. Calle Zamora, little more than two minutes away from Calle Toro, is also home to a few favorites such as the Body Shop and Zara Home. Be sure to take in the gorgeous sight of the Plaza Mayor, preferably at night when the whole square lights up in gold. Rúa Mayor is a bustling main street leading up to the cathedral, with plenty of the touristy shops to find a little souvenir plus a few antique bookshops to explore by the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells). Many of the smaller shops close during siesta time; however, many of the bigger stores along Calle Toro remain open, which is highly recommended if you prefer peaceful shopping.
Thanks to the outgoing student population, Salamanca has bars, pubs and clubs galore scattered all throughout the center, catering to everyone’s tastes. Popular with the Erasmus crowds are the host of Irish pubs and Paniagua, a relaxed bar with a student atmosphere, great alternative music and unique drinks (The Agua de Valencia is a must – a liter of Vodka, Fanta and Champagne). Even more popular are the city’s shot bars, offering hundreds of different flavors and concoctions for under a euro! For a more sophisticated evening, many bars offer cocktails, and a particular favorite with the after-work crowd is The Doctor Cocktail (Calle Dr. Piñuelas, 5). With so many options available at reasonable prices, you’ll feel spoiled for choice. Salamanca is home to many clubs, which don’t start to fill up until around 3am, so there is no rush! Top picks are Khandavia, Bisú and Berlin, all within footsteps of each other, on Calle Correhuela.
No matter how heavy your night out has been, nothing will clear a fuzzy head and a hangover better than a walk around Parque de los Jesuitas (Calle Príncipe de Vergara, 34). Lined with enough benches to accommodate the entire city and dotted with arches and trellises in the vast green space, you’ll feel a million miles away while being only a few minutes away from one of Salamanca’s most important streets, Gran Vía. Many locals come here on Sundays for walks with the family and their children, and it is a haven for keen runners. Come at sunset for the perfect way to round off a weekend in the Golden City.