Located in Spain’s Castile and Leon region, the city of Salamanca is not a city that most tourists think of as a holiday destination, and yet it is a city that has much to offer to the casual visitor.
Situated some 200 kilometres northwest of Madrid, and just 100 kilometres from the Portuguese border, it is a relatively easy city to get to. There is no international airport at Salamanca, although there is one catering for internal flights. Spain’s internal road network, also makes Salamanca easily accessible.
Salamanca is probably most widely known for its history, and for being the site of the Battle of Salamanca during the Peninsular War of the early nineteenth century.
The earliest history though is traced back to Celtic tribal activity, before being conquered by Hannibal’s Carthaginians and subsequently the Romans. Salamanca became a relatively important hub in Roman Spain, and elements of this history can be seen today including parts of a Roman Bridge still in evidence today.
Like many other Spanish settlements, Salamanca passed into the hands of the Visigoths and the Moors, although it was one of the cities recaptured early on by Spanish forces. Recaptured in 939 A.D., it was once again a fully fledged city by 1102 A.D. The Napoleonic era of Salamanca is famous being the site where the forces of Wellington fought back against the occupying French forces.
It is evidence of this long history that draws most tourists who do visit Salamanca.
Many of the most eye-catching buildings of Salamanca have been constructed from local sandstone, although it is the city square, the Playa Mayor, which attracts the most visitors. Possibly the largest and finest of the town squares anywhere in Spain, it is a place where locals and visitors spend time to relax and drink and eat at one of the surrounding cafes.
Salamanca is home to two cathedrals that adjoin one another, the twelfth century Romanesque cathedral and the sixteenth century Gothic one.
Around the city centre are other notable buildings including the Palacio de Monterrey, the Palacio de Orellana and the Palacio de la Salina. One of the most intriguing though is the Casa de las Conchas. The Casa de las Conchas is today a public library but was originally built for one of the professors at the University of Salamanca, and is intriguing because of the three hundred or so shells that decorate the building.
Of the historic sites in Salamanca the university is one of the most interesting and impressive. One of the earliest of European universities, Salamanca University dates back to 1218, and has for centuries been a seat of learning for Spanish and international students. There have been many famous teachers and students at the university, where Columbus taught and Cortes studied.
The university population has ensured that there is a lively night life in Salamanca, and indeed has a higher number of bars per head than even some of the tourist resorts of the Costa del Sol.
Salamanca is in many ways similar to other large cities of Spain, including the likes of Seville, but has been ignored to a certain degree. It is though one of those places that is well worth taking the time to walk around and take in the ambience of the city.