Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, it is known for its monuments and its University, which is the oldest in the country. Because of the large number of students this brings to Salamanca, the city is also well known for its pleasant atmosphere during the day and at night.
The daylight hours are perfect for a stroll through the beautiful streets of the city, enjoying the Baroque and plateresque style of the main monuments. At night, it’s easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of the many student parties that take place in the city. If you really want to experience Salamanca, there are several things you’ve got to see.
The Plaza Mayor of Salamanca, is the social hub of the city. Various surrounding streets provide entry points to the plaza, which is enclosed by arched arcades housing numerous bars and restaurants. On days of fine weather and on holidays, the square becomes packed with street performers and students meeting up for a drink.
If the social centre of the city is the Plaza Mayor, the cultural centre is the University, which is another mandatory stop on any tour of the city. The University of Salamanca, with its imposing plateresque façade, is the oldest university in Spain. A small statue of a frog is hidden within its elaborate façade and, having become an emblem for the city, is its most typical souvenir.
Legend has it that students able to find the frog will have luck in their exams. Another architectural curiosity of Salamanca (that is practically unique in Europe) is that the city houses two cathedrals: the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral.
Usually, by definition, a city can only have one cathedral. However, when Salamanca decided to build a new cathedral, they left the older one standing for parishioners to use during the construction. For this reason, Salamanca now has two, known respectively as the Old and the New.
The New Cathedral features the somewhat anachronistic figure of an astronaut, which was sculpted in 1993 during restorations of the main entrance, which had become quite deteriorated by the passage of time. There is no particular legend surrounding the astronaut that I know of (like that of the frog), though I guess it could be a novice pilot or an aeronautical engineer or something similar.
I could list many more things to see, such as the impressive mural that covers the roof of the university library with astrological motifs (known as “El Cielo de Salamanca” or ‘the Salamanca Sky’), La Casa de Las Conchas (or ‘The House of the Shells’, which has an original Facade decorated with more than 300 shells), or the orchard of Calixto and Melibea, which was the setting chosen by playwright Fernando de Rojas for his famous work “La Celestina”…
And yet, we can’t talk about Salamanca without mentioning parties, which are another of its main attractions.