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Top-Rated Attractions and Things to Do in Salamanca: A Walking Tour of Spain’s Historic Capital

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Get ready to discover the wonders of Salamanca, Spain's historic capital and one of Europe's most beautiful cities. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a treasure trove for history buffs, art lovers and architecture aficionados alike. The best way to explore this fascinating city is on foot - you'll find that the old cobblestone streets offer an endless array of sights and sounds.

Things to do in Salamanca Spain

Whether you're looking for great photo locations, places to enjoy the local cuisine or places to visit in Salamanca spain, we've got it all covered with our walking tour!

Plaza Mayor

Begin your tour of Salamanca at the Plaza Mayor, a historic square in the city center. As you walk along its cobbled streets, soak up some history with one of our guide's fascinating stories about this UNESCO World Heritage Site! Learn about how it was used for public executions and bullfighting until 1967. You'll discover that many great figures in Spanish history have walked these streets, including Christopher Columbus and Miguel de Cervantes.

The buildings on the Plaza Mayor were originally built in 1729 based on the designs of Alberto de Churriguera, but most of them were later remodeled in a more classical style. The square is dominated by the Pabellón Real (Royal Pavilion), a Churrigueresque building that was once used as a prison. At the southwest corner of the Plaza Mayor, you'll find the Calle del Prior which leads to the Palacio de Monterrey - an Italian-style Renaissance palace with a splendid Plateresque exterior.

Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells)

One of the most popular attractions in Salamanca is Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells). The facade at this historic home is decorated with carvings depicting scallop shells - an allusion to pilgrims traveling the Way of Saint James.

The palace was originally used as a residence, but it now houses the Salamanca Public Library and an information office. Visitors can enjoy the inner courtyard of the building, which is a lovely two-story space with arcades and marble pillars.

Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells)
Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells), Salamanca Spain
Catedral de Salamanca - Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral)

Presiding over the town from a commanding hilltop location, the New Cathedral is a monumental building that outshines the Old Cathedral in size and Gothic grandeur. Although this cathedral dates back to 1513, it is called "new" because the town's original cathedral was constructed beginning in the 12th century. The Old Cathedral and New Cathedral stand beside each other. The New Cathedral was begun in the early 16th century by Juan Gil de Hontañón and completed in the 18th century by Alberto de Churriguera.

Because it took two centuries to build, the architects incorporated a variety of styles into its design, resulting in an eclectic mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. Highlights of the New Cathedral include its beautiful stained glass windows, marble altars and ornate ceiling.

Jamón Ibérico and tapas

As one of the provinces home to the black Iberian pig, Salamanca is famous for its delicious cured ham. It's no surprise that Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (cured Spanish Ham) is a local favorite. You can sample this tasty treat at any number of tapas bars and restaurants in town - it pairs perfectly with a cold beer or glass of wine.

Salamanca is also known for its tapas, small plates of food that are served as appetizers. Some popular Salamanca tapas include tortilla española (Spanish potato omelet), gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and patatas bravas (spicy potatoes). So be sure to leave room for lunch or dinner - you won't want to miss out on these tasty local specialties!

Catedral Vieja de Santa María de la Sede (Old Cathedral)

This Romanesque/Gothic masterpiece was founded by Bishop Jerome of Périgord, in the 12th century and completed in the 14th century. It is dedicated to Santa Maria de la Sede (Saint Mary of Seat). The apse houses a large cycle of 53 tableaux, 12 painted by Dello Delli between the years 1470 and 1514. They are considered to be among the masterpieces of Spanish painting in that period, being an example of Italian Renaissance style.

The Old Cathedral's crossing tower inspired American architect H.H. Richardson's celebrated 1872 design for the central tower of Trinity Church (Boston).

Salamanca Old Town

After walking through the historical center of Salamanca, you'll understand why it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This quaint and colorful area is home to many beautiful streets lined with brick-and-stone buildings from centuries past.

The most popular street in town is Calle Mayor which runs between Plaza Mayor (Main Square) and the cathedral square - an ideal place for people watching! Many of the attractions discussed here are spattered throughout the old town.

Convento de San Esteban

Salamanca's Convento de San Esteban is a former monastery that now houses the city's Archaeological Museum. The museum is home to a large collection of Roman ruins and artifacts, as well as treasures from other periods in history.

Other highlights include an impressive collection of Roman mosaics, carved stone reliefs and sarcophagi.

If you're looking for a little history during your time in Salamanca, be sure to visit the Archaeological Museum!

La Clerecía, Salamanca

Queen Margarita of Austria, wife of Philip III of Spain, commissioned the construction of this historical edifice beginning in the 16th century and finishing it under Juan Gomez de Morales. It was a Jesuit religious institution with a college component.

The church and school rooms of the Clerecía Church in Salamanca, originally known as the Royal College of the Company of Jesus, are a public section - including a Jesuit chapel and classrooms where they taught - and a private area, where the monks resided. The cloister of the church is colossal with three floors. The Salamanca Pontificia University's current headquarters are here.

From the outside, you may walk up each of these churches and look down at the magnificent views from high above. You can also explore inside them and enjoy the stunning vistas from up high.

Museo de Historia de la Automoción de Salamanca (Museum of Automotive History of Salamanca)

The Gómez Planche Museum is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of automobiles and their creators. It was established in 2002 in the former headquarters of Salamanca's electricity company. It seeks to illustrate the development of automobiles from the ancient era through today and into the future. Over 150 vehicles are on display in the permanent exhibition, which includes the earliest internal combustion vehicle, the Benz Motorwagen – which went into production in 1885.

The following is a list of automobile manufacturers that have been represented in the collection: Rolls Royce, Hispano Suiza, Jaguar, Pegasus, BMW, Cadillac, MG, and Mercedes-Benz are among the most prestigious names in the business. Ford Motor Company, Buick Automobiles Inc., Citroen Motor Company (Peugeot). Recent Formula 1 racing cars are also shown. There are exhibits of engineering equipment, bicycles, and design items like posters and insignia. The museum changes its displays on a regular basis to illustrate the vehicles in their historical context.

Domus Artium (Museum of Contemporary Art)

The Domus Artium 2002 (DA2) was built in 2002, the same year that Salamanca was designated as European Cultural Capital. The prison was restored and expanded, making it the largest museum in Spain dedicated to contemporary art and new technologies.

Palacio de la Salina

The Palace of the Saltworks was constructed by Rodrigo de Messía and Gil de Hontañón. It is in the Renaissance style. The name "salina" refers to the site's former use as a salt repository. There is an irregular-shaped courtyard with twisted body figures on the inside. The Salamanca Provincial Government occupies the building now.

St. Stephen’s Convent (Convento de San Esteban)

Within its the Convento de San Esteban, the greatest minds of the era met to debate life and the world.

It was established by one of Cardinal Fernando Alvarez de Toledo's descendants in the 16th century. The stunning façade, which is made of Villamayor Sandstone and shines various colors as the light fades, immediately attracts you. The magnificent church features an exquisite interior with a stunning staircase, intimate cloisters, and an incredible altarpiece. It has served as the headquarters of The Dominicans of Salamanca since it was home to some of the world's greatest thinkers and individuals, including Christopher Columbus, Diego Deza, Ignacio de Loyola, Teresa de Jesus, and many more.

Casa Lis: Museo Art Nouveau y Art Déco

The Art Nouveau and Art Déco Museum is a museum dedicated to decorative arts that covers the last century of the nineteenth century until World War II in one comprehensive tour. This short period of roughly sixty years was one of the most prolific periods in applied art history. The bulk of the objects on display in the Museum are practical items that meet demanding aesthetic criteria. This is the polarity that, on one hand, makes them fascinating as a record of daily life at the time and, on the other hand, causes some to go obsolete owing to their frequent usage.

Convento de las Dueñas

The Convent of the Two Mayors is a Dominican monastery in Salamanca. It was erected during the 15th and 16th centuries. Juana Rodriguez Maldonado established the convent in her own mansion in 1419. The church and cloister were completed around 1533. One of the old mudejar gates from the palace was preserved inside the convent. The tops of both stories' capitals are among the most renowned examples of Plateresque architecture.

Feria de Salamanca

The Feria de Salamanca (Salamanca Fair) festivities which runs early to mid September every year, goes from the Roman bridge on the southern edge up to the northern Plaza de Toros (bullring) and everywhere in between.

The religious-themed day of the Virgen de la Vega (Our Lady of the Valley), which starts the weeklong Feria de Salamanca, is ironically a hectic week of gluttonous eating, drinking, and celebration. Every year, in commemoration of one of the city's most renowned saints, "Salmantinos" (as the locals are known) flood to the Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral), where her likeness, a beautiful bronze statue dating from the Romanesque period, stands front and center on the altar. There is also a lovely procession because, after all, what would a Spanish festival be without one?

After completing their religious obligations, Salmantinos devote the rest of the week to pure joy as Salmantinos. The city's open plazas become stages for a variety of ethnic, traditional, and contemporary concerts and events day and night, with the Plaza Mayor as an example.

During the day, parades joyfully meander through the city, while top-notch bullfights take place in the late afternoon. Visit the riverbank to discover local artisans selling items from all corners of Spain, or head to the Parque de San Francisco for a food fair with regional specialties from across Spain's many regions.

The Feria de Salamanca turns up another notch at night. In addition to street partying, fireworks illuminate the sky, concerts and performances keep the mood lively, and many of the city goes to the Aldehuela Fairgrounds, where you may ride on the ferris wheel, play a variety of typical fair games, and sample the numerous food stands.

There's even more to do in Salamanca

When it comes to tourist destinations, Salamanca is a hidden gem in Spain. Not as well-known as Barcelona or Madrid, this city offers a wealth of history and culture that is worth exploring. And what better way to experience all that Salamanca has to offer than by taking photos of the beautiful architecture and sampling the local cuisine? There are even more secret places to discover and share with the world so please don't hesitate to send us your hot tips of where we missed.



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