Salamanca, located in the northwestern part of the country is considered one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Spain and it’s part of GetAway Travel’s Porto to Porto River Cruise. Take our river cruise and experience Portugal, Port Wine and Salamanca which visitors have compared to walking into a spectacular movie set because of its elegant architecture.
The “glow” and some history
Salamanca started as a village on top of a hill and a walk through the city especially the Historic Center, reveals architecture in the style of Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque. It is nicknamed La Dorada or the Golden One because the sandstone building appear to glow gold in the early morning sun and during sunsets. Take in a breath-taking sunset on the Roman Bridge when the fading sun makes the bridge glow.
Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and a European Capital of Culture in 2002 due to its well-preserved cultural and artistic sites including the university and Mayor Square.
The university and joined cathedrals
The Universidad de Salamanca is one of the oldest examples of university facilities. Not only is a monument to international education, but it is also a piece of fascinating architecture.
International students flock to the university and their presence in the city adds color and vibrancy. Founded in the 1100s, the university was recognized as a key intellectual center in the 15th and 16th centuries.
It played host to such notables as Miguel de Cervantes, Christopher Columbus, Ignatius Loyola and Hernan Cortés. The library boasts 160,000 leather-bound volumes.
Visitors stand and study the fabulous carvings on the facade of the building searching for the frog sitting on the skull. It is a tribute to Prince Juan who fell ill and died in his teens. The frog represents his physician, Dr. Parra.
Salamanca’s New and Old Cathedrals were built in different centuries, but are joined together. The Cathedral of Santa Maria or Old Cathedral was built from the 12th to the 14th century. The interior has beautiful tombs of bishops and nobility as well as paintings, murals and carvings. The exterior of New Cathedral has fascinated visitors because of its mysterious futuristic carvings. One carving appears to be an astronaut and another seems to be a gargoyle snacking on an ice cream cone. Take the tour of the New Cathedral (ask us about “skip the line” tickets) and you will get to the highest point of both cathedrals with fantastic views.
The renowned plaza and other sights
The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is thought to be one of the most beautiful plazas, or city squares in Spain. It is THE meeting place, day or night. Formerly a bull fighting arena, it features 88 porticoed arches with carved medallions of famous people. The architectural style of the buildings is called Churrigueras, named after the family that created elaborate ornamental decorations on the outside of the buildings around the square.
A short walk from the square takes you to the Casa Lis Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. There’s decorative art from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. You’ll find glass, porcelain figures, ivory, bronzes, enamels, paintings, furniture, jewels, toys and a Fabergé egg!
The House of Shells, or Casa de las Conches has a history dating back to the Roman times. The front is studded by carved stone shells and the door is decorated with dolphins which were a symbol of love in the Renaissance era. Legend has it that under one of the shells is a hidden treasure.
The Ciela de Salamanca is small, but worth visiting. The ceiling fresco was painted by Fernando Gallego and it depicts the symbols of the zodiac along with their constellations. As you stare at the ceiling in the darkened interior, your eyes will adjust and the golden stars appear out of the gloom.
A word about the food — fabulous. There’s tapas, hornazo which is a pastry stuffed with ham, bacon and sausage; suckling pig, farina which is a white Spanish sausage and a great bakery at the with cakes and candies. And this is just one stop on our planned getaway!