When someone decides to visit Salamanca, they normally have a precise scope: to know one of the greatest cities in Spain, famously known all over the world as a university centre. English people say that the Salamanca University, the oldest in Spain, corresponds to their Oxford, the Italians could compare it with the institutions in Bologna and Padova. What is clear, anyway, is that the city conserves an incredible heritage, that was also recognized by UNESCO in 1988. So, if you are planning your next Erasmus placement or a study holiday to learn Spanish, here you have the perfect destination to choose.
Enjoy the University inside and outside
There are many universities in Spain, but no one can exceed the USAL (Universidad de Salamanca/University of Salamanca) tradition. You will have the possibility to do lessons in long classrooms that have stood since the XIII century, and to have your break walking in the ancient, bright cloisters.
Students come to Salamanca from all around the world, so you will share your courses with many young people of every culture and language. Within a short time, you will begin to recognize faces and spots around the city, feeling more at home each day.
The magnificence of the university will strike you also from the outside. Don’t miss the main facade, known also as “La Puerta de Salamanca” added by the Catholic Kings in 1592, and famous for its incredible carvings and low reliefs. Stop in front of the facade and try to find the little frog, as the students have done since the XVI century. The legend says, that the students attending the university had to find the tiny frog amongst the carvings, and if they managed this without any help they would pass their exams and be lucky.
Discover Plaza Mayor, not a common main square
This huge square, in Baroque style, will embrace you with its stunning details and its 88 porticos, offering a central and spectacular meeting place to all the visitors and the students. Notice the small figures sculpted on every arcade - those are the famous ’medallones’, or medallions, that resemble the important people who spent some time in Salamanca, like kings, nobles, and artists. Moreover, every side of Plaza Mayor hosts a great number of bars, restaurants, and traditional Spanish locals, so choose one and sit in the sun, watching as the people pass through.
Have a literary coffee at Cafe Novelty
This beautiful square also contains the most ancient coffee bar of the city, that’s been here since 1905. Don’t forget to make a visit to witness this exceptional presentation of Spanish culture. Cafe Novelty will offer you seating arrangements at the same tables that hosted, in the XX century, the greatest proponents of Hispanic literature, like Miguel de Unamuno, Juan Marsé, José Ortega, and even the winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa. If you are real book lover, you can also continue your literary tour by visiting the amazing ancient library of the university, a hidden pearl in the main building since the XIII century.
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Visit the city of two cathedrals, and explore the historical centre
Not many cities have two cathedrals, however, Salamanca does, and they are known as the Old and the New Cathedrals. They are connected, and always full of people trying to figure out the significance of each carved figure. If you want to join the search, try to solve the mystery of the most peculiar details, such as the carving of an astronaut; really incredible for such ancient architecture! I suggest you also go up to the towers, to admire one of the best views of the city as well as the old bells. Once your visit is finished, take some time to tour the entire city centre, because every corner in Salamanca conserves a piece of history. The fifteenth-century architecture is visible everywhere: along the cobblestone streets, the ancient bridges, and the noble buildings, such as the famous “Casa de las Conchas” (House of Shells) or the Monterrey Palace.
Try typical tapas, nightclubs, and a very original New Year’s Eve
Another aspect of Salamanca is its incredible variety of nightclubs, concerts, tapas bars, and events that will give you a wide selection to choose from to enjoy the students’ nights out. Prices are low almost everywhere, and the tapas are delicious and very typical. You will find the Spanish tortilla, ‘jamón’ and ‘queso’ (traditional ham and cheese), ‘huevos revueltos’ (scrambled eggs), ‘chorizo’ (pork sausages), and ‘gulas’ (angulas) as well as international dishes. Though I do recommend that you try the Spanish plates, to help you get used to the new culture. About the nightclubs, you will just be spoiled for choice, but they will hardly disappoint you. One of the most characteristic nights to celebrate, is the so-called Students New Year’s Eve. It includes all the usual traditions of New Year’s Eve, but not on the 31st of December! In fact, this is normally celebrated around the middle of the month, in order to let all the International students participate before returning home for the holidays.
Free to feel like a student again
Whether you are still a student or not, Salamanca will let you feel like a university student anyway. The University welcomes everyone to come and explore its historical past.Take the chance to know international people by enjoying a city that is the real treasure of Castile and León.
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