Sunday, 13 October 2013

Weekend Breaks: Salamanca's Enchanting Streets

In my native tongue, salamanca means magic. I only spent a weekend in the Spanish city of Salamanca but I am truly blown away by its charms. Her name fits her well, it is truly an enchanting place.

Beautiful Salamanca is a city on the north of Madrid. It is only a three hour train ride away from the capital, but it has a very laidback, young vibe that makes it a perfect weekend destination. The word refreshing comes to mind. It is a university city with utterly clean, beautiful cobblestone streets and yellow brick buildings. Salamanca is home to fourth oldest university in Europe, the University of Salamanca, and is touted to have the most beautiful Plaza Mayor in all of Spain.

The city is small, and by small, I mean one can roam around the city by just walking. No need for trains and buses, although there are public buses and a touristic train is also available for those who are in no mood to walk.

The Tormes River surrounding Salamanca

A bridge across Salamanca

The path to the old city

One of Salamanca's cathedrals overlooking the river park

Though there are a lot of foreign visitors in Salamanca, both tourists and students at the university, there is no tourist trap vibe to this city. In fact, after visiting close to nine cities all over Spain, I remarked how in Salamanca, there is something genteel in the way the people treat visitors. Warm and not overbearing, the perfect mix to make people like me to feel more like a part of the place and not a stranger looking in.

I stayed at a charming, family-owned inn, Hosteria Sara. And it was right next to one of Salamanca's famous buildings, the Casa de las Conchas, or literally, the house of Conch shells.
Built in the 15th century, the house's facade is littered with conch shells. It now houses the Salamanca library.

The House of Conch Shells at night.

The conch shells up close.

A view of one of Salamanca's elaborate cathedrals from The House of Conch Shells.
Salamanca has many churches, the most famous are the two cathedrals. One is an old cathedral, built in the 12th century and the newer one is close to 600 year old. And they are right next to each other.

Salamanca is jaw-dropping in its cleanliness. Not once did I see litter or garbage on the streets of Salamanca.

Here are some of its spic and span, picturesque streets.

Even non-catholics like me are awed by the elaborate facade of Salamanca's cathedrals.

Right in the middle of the old city is Spain's oldest university, The Universidad de Salamanca.

The University's ornate facade.

Though the university's grounds is not as expansive as my beloved alma mater, The University of the Philippines, it is still beautiful, considering how old and well preserved their school buildings are.

More snapshots of the University of Salamanca.

The university has a lot of foreign students, thus most shops and commercial establishments in Salamanca are conversant in English, so asking questions and directions is not a problem for foreign visitors.

To most visitors though, the crowning glory of Salamanca and, may I add, its shimmering jewel is the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza Mayor is a square surrounded by beautifully intricate old buildings.

The Plaza Mayor is fabulous by day.

A perfect way to enjoy the plaza is order a drink at one of the restaurants, nibble on the free potato chips and people watch.

But to truly appreciate Plaza Mayor's spectacular beauty, one must see it at night.
The plaza is surrounded by restaurants, taba bars and dessert places. A testament to how clean the plaza and the city is, is the fact that at night hordes of students sit in groups at the plaza's floors, chatting, drinking and enjoying the night away.

Do visit Salamanca if you get the chance! This small but beautiful university town with charming streets and a youthful vibe is worth the two and a half hour trip from Madrid.

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