Whether your interests are architecture, religion, art, history, music, education, food or sport Salamanca has something for you. I went as an independent visitor travelling from Segovia by bus having already visited Irun, Hondarribia and Toledo, all with ease and comfort either by train or bus. All the towns had some interest for me in some way but Salamanca had everything.
The two co-joined cathedrals – the old circa 12th century and the “new” circa 16th century are simply stunning in their own different ways – from the still preserved vibrant murals produced during the late 1100′s to the stunning, breathtaking sheer size of the new. Stroll around both taking in their beauty and history with the interesting audio guide in your own language.
The highlight of the visit to the two cathedrals has to be to climb up the medieval Cathedral Ieronimus towers. The various rooms now open to the public – the dungeon, Jailor’s and Governor’s rooms, the watchtower, the outdoor viewing platforms, clock tower and magnificent bell tower were all in ruins as a result initially of the Lisbon earthquake. They have now been carefully preserved and provide a fascinating insight into both churches as well as the surrounding town and countryside.
Restoration of the cathedrals has given the opportunity for modern day craftsmen to add their own marks and sense of humour on to the facade which may create questions in the centuries to come – an astronaut and a dragon eating an ice cream cornet!
The Roman bridge over the river Tormes provides a pleasant stroll to a great activity and sports area for young and old alike.
Salamanca is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe and is high on the list of students wishing to study abroad. This means that the town has a vibrant youthful feel and is host to many cultures and styles.
The undergraduates college has free entry and you can stroll around the colleges like at Oxford and Cambridge and get a feel of student life but you can also enter any exhibition. I managed to admire the beautiful pale blue fresco of the universe as it was known at that time 1480 painted on the ceiling – El Cielo de Salamanca.
Food is well served by numerous bars serving providing complimentary tapas with every drink, tapas bars with more adventurous tapas and raciones and restaurants producing serious roast dishes and stews as well as vegetarian and a Michelin starred venue. Beware though servings are large. We found that Restaurante el Mesón de Gonzalo was good but we preferred the lighter choices offered at Vino Diario. The owner was charming and rightly proud of the products his area and bar/restaurant had to offer customers.
There is no doubt that if you are staying in Salamanca then you must try and get a room at the Hotel Rector – I have stayed at many hotels both large, swish and swanky and small, intimate and few bedroomed but this hotel has to be the very best I have stayed in. Beware however if you want to include it in your itinerary as this hotel only has 13 rooms.
From the initial welcome – it was raining as the taxi drew up and immediately there was someone to greet us by name and usher us in to the help with our onward journey you are made to feel valued friend not a customer. The room had every convenience – luxurious bedlinen and bathroom facilities, space, incredible double glazing (the hotel is on a main road but you hear no noise whatsoever) and an amazing choice of delicacies for breakfast. Rooms are available on a room only basis or B&B – you certainly don’t need a hotel that serves dinner with such an abundance of restaurants within walking distance serving food to satisfy every palate.
All Salamanca’s attractions are within walking distance of the hotel – the nearest being Casa Lis which is home to a stunning collection of art noveau and deco all held in a magnificent building of the period.
Salamanca is often missed by visitors to Spain as the country has so much to offer but Salamanca has as much to offer, if not more, than many of the towns on the tourist routes. I can thoroughly recommend a visit.