Entering the city by the Roman bridge at some times of the day, Salamanca seems made of gold: so much of the city is built of sandstone. Salamanca has always been one of Spain's central spots of learning, home to one of the oldest universities in Europe.
Plaza Mayor - While certainly not as grand as the Plaza Mayor of Madrid, it is much more graceful and welcoming. Like most central plazas in Spain, it's where people come to meet, sit in a cafe and relax. But in this plaza you may find yourselves entertained by students casually playing guitars or even Las Tunas, the student bands of minstrels dressed in Renaissance costumes. This is where you'll find the tourism office too.
This is a city that invites strolling, and leaving from the Plaza Mayor a stroll will take you past some of the city's most beautiful churches,including the Iglesia de la Purisima, Monastery of Saint Ursula, the Capuchins Church, and the Monasterio de los Irlandeses.
Las Tunas - Not a place, but a "sight." Modern day troubadours, these are University of Salamanca students who group according to their college and travel the streets of Salamanca singing for the public. They dress in 16th century costume, complete with buckled shoes and capes covered by ribbons given them for serenading ladies. They play renaissance mandolins, tambourines, and guitars - you'll find yourself swept up in their fun.
The University Quarter - The Universidad de Salamanca was one of the greatest center of learning in Europe especially from the 12th century through the 17th century. A favorite story here is about Frey Luis de Leon, a scholar during the Spanish Inquisition. Another professor denounced him to the Inquisition and he was seized from his classroom and imprisoned for four years. When he was released, he walked back to his classroom and resumed his lecturing with the simple statement, "As we were discussing..." Quite rightly, there's a plaza here named for Frey Leon.
The University of Salamanca is one of the oldest in the world, founded about the same time as the universities in Bologna and Paris. Many of the buildings were built in the reign of Los Reyes Catolicos - you know, the ones who gave Columbus his ships. The facades are covered with many small figures that kids will have fun trying to decipher.
The University Library has over 160,000 books, but your kids may find the staircase more interesting: bas relief scenes of bullfighting compete with the marks of students who, over the centuries, came here to celebrate passing their exams.
Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco - No matter whether you've always yearned for an authentic Tiffany lamp or know your kids hate the whole era, no one could resist being captivated by this magical fairy land from the minute its incredible stained glass facade appears before you. If possible, wait until dark to see it for the first time: the whole building seems to glitter with radiant color.
"Casa de las Conchas" (House of the Shells) - Across from the Clerecia, this sandstone house is covered with large shells. It was built in the 16th century by a knight and courtier to the court of Fernando and Isabel, Sr. Maldonado. Even the iron work has shells in the design. The house now serves as a cultural center, so it's a great place to stop in to find out what's worth seeing while you're in town.
Go down to the ranch - This region of Spain is famous for the bulls it raises. While you may not want to take children to a bull-fight, you can take them to a ranch and watch the young apprentices learn: no bloodshed - just the balletic moves of the young men (and women!) who are training for the ring. Ask about farms at the Tourism office: some farms are fairly open, others are quite secretive. If a bull ranch isn't for you, then go horseback riding.
Around Salamanca -
is a village inside in a wild-life reserve for lynxes and rare mountain-goats.
, about an hour or so from Salamanca, is a medieval town walled city. With a Romanesque Cathedral
, 15th and 16th century buildings and palaces, definitely one of the "must see" towns of this area.
Alba de Tormes
is a must-see for anyone fascinated by Saint Teresa. The Saint's body is in the Convento de las Carmelitas
, but there are also many other historic buildings there.