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Old City of Salamanca

By Kemkem Casinelli

What is the Old City of Salamanca?

Salamanca is the capital of the Salamanca Province which is part of the autonomous region of Castile and León in western Spain. With a history beginning in the third century BC, Salamanca has a rich past and has been ruled by dynasties including the Carthaginians, Roman Empire, and the Visigoths.

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The UNESCO site includes many different locations, most of which are in the Old Quarter. The Plaza Major, the University of Salamanca, the Salina and Monterrey Palaces, and the Old Cathedral and San Marcos are particularly notable.

An ornately-decorated church. On the right, the entrance with a red door in the stone-colored building. Decorated with stone-carved details on the whole wall above the door as well as the small decorative towers on either side of the door. To the left the building continues, with two towers, again very detailed, and many smaller turrets.

Why is Salamanca a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The old city of Salamanca is on the UNESCO list as of 1988 because of its outstanding universal value: especially the Plaza Mayor is a “unique artistic achievement in Baroque art.” The city has continued to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the cultural sites. These sites include convents, churches, and the Old Quarter of the city, many of them deriving from the Churriguera family, a dynasty of architects and artists.

What can you expect on a visit to Salamanca? 

A visit to this vibrant city will show you why it’s known as the Golden City. The uniformity of the buildings means all changes have to be approved, and the use of the same sandy-colored sandstone even in newer refurbishments gives the old center a golden glow, especially at sundown.

You will also get to see the University of Salamanca, one of the oldest universities in the world, with stunning architecture. Other places of interest include the Casa de la Conchas, the Cathedral Viejo (Old Cathedral), the Cathedral Nuevo (New Cathedral), the Roman Bridge ( a bit of a distance from the old quarter, but worth seeing). The highlight of any visit is the Plaza Mayor, perhaps the most beautiful plaza in the whole of Spain.

A large paved plaza. In this photo two sides of the plaza are partly visible: a large ornate building of 3 stories with a bell tower at the top with 3 bells. It appears to continue around the corner to the other side of the plaza. The ground floor on both sides is a succession of arches.

Is Salamanca worth visiting?

Without a doubt, yes. If you are in Spain, I would make a point to visit if you have any interest in history, art or architecture. The history, the sites, and the gastronomy are superb. Plan on at least two days for a good visit, especially if you plan on doing tours.

Book your accommodation in Salamanca here.

What sort of travelers would like Salamanca?

Salamanca is perfect for people of all ages, as there is so much to do and see. There is a high student population there, so it has a hip and lively vibe. This, in turn, makes it a great destination for people on a budget as food and drink are cheaper.

A very ornate building of stone: arched openings all along the ground floor, windows on the upper two floors that are all surrounded by decorative stonework and with iron balconies, and a small bell tower in the center top with three bells in a row.

Tips for visiting Salamanca

Comfortable, and sturdy shoes are a must for walking around the old town, which has lots of cobblestones.

Sit and have a drink at the Plaza Mayor (the setting for the movie Vantage Point). Some of the restaurants will provide a bottle of wine (as opposed to a glass) with their daily menus.

Some parts of the city are hilly.

Where is Salamanca? 

Salamanca is just under a three-hour ride from Madrid’s Atocha station or by bus (Madrid Moncloa station).

By car, it’s a two-hour drive from Madrid, but there is very little parking in the old city.

For more information about all the historic sites included in this UNESCO World Heritage site, including opening hours and admission fees, contact the Salamanca office of tourism located in the Plaza Mayor.

Have you been to Salamanca? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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