SUNNY, SPECTACULAR, SURPRISING: SALAMANCA, SPAIN

Site of the oldest and most prestigious university in Spain, Salamanca has a special ambience that appeals to everyone. Whether you are relaxing on the Plaza Mayor, taking classes or enjoying the many shops and historical buildings, this town has something for everyone.


First, find a place to stay: try the Parador Salamanca, a four star hotel overlooking the city with a pool, Turkish bath, tennis, gym, sauna and authentic regional cuisine. Or stay in a renovated convent at the edge of the city center, Hotel Palacio de San Esteban.


Then be a tourist:

  • Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988
  • Plaza Mayor – considered the most beautiful square in Spain
  • Old and New Cathedral (12th c. and 16th c. respectively)
  • University façade – find the hidden frog and you’ll come back here
  • Casa de las Conchas – 15th c. Gothic palace

A little history lesson:

  • Pre-ancient Rome – city founded by a Celtic tribe, the Vacceos.
  • Romans conquer “Helmantica” (check out the Roman bridge, still in use).
  • Visigoths and other tribes rule after the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Moors invade in 712 but are pushed out in 939 AD.
  • King Alfonso IX grants a charter to the university in 1218.

Love museums?

  • Casa Museo Unamuno – Unamuno’s home when he was rector of the University
  • Bullfighting museum
  • University Museum and Library
  • Cathedral Museum
  • Casa Lis, the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco

Grab a bite to eat:

  • “hornazo” – bread filled with meat
  • “toston” – roast suckling pig
  • “tapas” – small snacks to have with a glass of wine

Off the beaten path:

  • Day trip to La Alberca, Ciudad Rodrigo, Alba de Tormes or Bejar
  • Visit a bull ranch and “fight” the baby bulls (capes only, no weapons)
  • Hike the mountains surrounding Salamanca

For a nice break in your day, head over to Café Novelty, the oldest café in Salamanca (1905) or Meson Cervantes, both on the Plaza Mayor. And if you get caught up in the charm of this ancient city, stay for Spanish language classes. You won’t regret it.

8 comments

  • Pablo y Maria

    If your kids are too young for a bullfight, go to a bull ranch where aspiring bullfighters train. (No blood is shed.) Ask at the tourist office in Salamanca. Some farms are wide open. Horseback riding is also a fun thing to do. Since most ranches are out in the countryside, they are more easily reached by car.

  • Wilhelm und Ursula

    We found the “Salamanca Card” to be worth it – 19 euros for a 24 hour period with free admission to museums and churches (one time in each place). It also provides discounts at various restaurants and shops. A 48 hour one is also available.

  • The tourist offices in Salamanca give out a free scavenger hunt for kids called “Salamanca en detalles” which shows them how to look for animals in the architectural designs of buildings all around town (like the famous frog in the facade of the university). The historic center of town is now a pedestrian only zone so parents can relax as the little ones run freely. Sit at a cafe, have a snack and people-watch. The Plaza Mayor is also a great spot for that.

  • Be aware that restaurants will never open for dinner until 8 pm at the earliest. The biggest meal of the day is taken in the afternoon. This is a big adjustment for many American children. I always travel with granola bars and try to find healthy local snacks and fruit to tide them over. Peanut butter is hard to find but Nutella (the Italian chocolate hazelnut one) is all over. Open air markets sell nuts and sunflower seeds to snack on as you walk.

  • Ciudad Rodrigo is a walled medieval town a short ride from Salamanca. It’s like something out of a fairy tale for the kids!

    • Don’t miss the Cathedral of Santa Maria. And to stay overnight, the most impressive spot is the Parador (inn) overlooking the town which was once a castle. The dining room there serves delicious regional food like the famous Iberico ham. Even if you don’t stay there, go up and enjoy the views and have lunch.

  • Do what the salamantinos do and go for “tapas” around 6 pm. If there are 6 people in your group, tradition says you go to 6 different bars and each person buys a round (usually wine). Bars have different “nibbles” so check it out before you go in ( tortilla in one, olives in another, empanadas in another, etc.) Dinner is not until 8 or 9 (at the earliest) so feel free to eat up!

  • Eleanor and Peter

    If your Spanish is not so fluent, ask directions from a teenager. They all study English and love to practice and have more time than adults rushing to work. They also will know what’s playing at the local movie theater, where to find a burger, if there is a soccer match going on, etc. – things your kids may want to find out about.

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