Of all the places in the world, Spain is where my heart lives. Are you planning a trip to Spain but not sure where to go? Looking for a fun place to visit on day-trip from Madrid? Or perhaps, you’re considering studying abroad in Spain? Find out why you should add the city of Salamanca to your Spain travel list. In this article, I’ll tell you how to get there, give you options for places to stay, and how to spend 24 hours in the prettiest town in all of Spain.
Tribe, what’s good! My name is Sadé (pronounced Sha-Day). Welcome to my very first travel blog post! I couldn’t think of a better place to start with than travel tips and things to do in Salamanca, Spain. Why? Because, Spain was the first country I visited overseas, and as things go, it would the place that changed me forever.
A Little Background
Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Miami, Florida, I had everything I needed – nothing more, nothing less. As a child, I was an ambitious student. I made good grades. However, my world was small. It was as small as a caterpillar’s. Like most people from my neighborhood, the perception of leisure-travel was that it was only accessible to the rich. The idea of traveling was far outside my purview. I recall as a school-aged kid, most of my classmates – myself included, were black. Furthermore, I hadn’t shared a classroom with any other white students until I’d reach high school. It wasn’t until college that I’d have classmates of all backgrounds, namely Asians, Arabs, blacks, whites, Hispanics, to describe a few. College was the my first experience such high-diversity in a school. It was a genuine culture shock.
How I Came to Study Abroad in Spain
While in college, I shared classrooms with several exchange students from all over the world. I said to myself, ‘Wow, you can do that?!’ You can attend university in another country? I had no clue! Then, my next move was to seek-out my advisor for information on the study abroad programs. On the list was a student exchange program in Spain. I have a Spanish background. I speak both English and Spanish fluently. Traveling to study abroad in Spain was a no brainer!
Next thing you know, I was boarding a plane to Madrid. All of my anxieties and insecurities began kick in. Up until that point, I hadn’t really given much thought to that fact that I’d be traveling to a foreign country, for the first time, alone. It would be my first test of true survival. I stepped onto that plane an ignorant, meek and scared person. Subsequently, just as a caterpillar evolves into a butterfly, I grew wings. With those wings, I could see the whole world, all of its people, and all of its possibilities – all of my possibilities.
HOW: Traveling to Salamanca from Madrid Airport
Located in the province of Castilla y Leon, Salamanca is a small, college town approximately 2.5 hours northwest from Madrid. To travel to Salamanca, Spain if arriving via Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD), I recommend taking the Metro at Terminal 4 (T4), which runs every 30 minutes to Chamartin Railway Station. You can purchase your ticket on-site near the Metro platform entrance. There are a handful of automated kiosks available that will accept most major credit cards and cash. A one-way fare will cost you around 5€.
At Chamartin Railway Station, you’ll need to purchase a separate ticket at the Renfe ticket counter. You may purchase your ticket in advance, however, it is not necessary. Fares vary according to time of departure and type of service. Express trains may be more costly. Nevertheless, expect to pay anywhere between 24€ – 40€ for a one-way fare. During my latest visit to Spain in October of 2018, Uber was not available. This may change in the future, however, do not fear. There are always local taxi services waiting just outside, gassed up and ready to take you to your final destination.
WHERE: Hostels, Hotels & AirBnB’s in Salamanca
Low-Tier Accommodations: $
Now, if you’re like me, I’d rather not spend a penny more than I need to when traveling. I’m a budget (a/k/a cheap) traveler all-the-way. That is why I prefer taking public transportation and staying in hostels or AirBnB’s. Luckily for me, traveling throughout Spain is super affordable! If you’re traveling solo, I recommend finding a good hostel inside of the Old City. You’ll most likely be spending your days exploring, so why waste loads of money on a fancy room that, let’s keep it real, will only be used to $h!t and sleep. Additionally, hostels are a great way to meet other travelers and to make new friends from all around the globe! Whether you are traveling solo or with friends, meeting new people is just as much an integral part of a traveler’s experience as meeting new places. Nuff said. Next!
Mid-Tier Accommodations: $$
During my semester abroad in Salamanca, I stayed with a local-host family. My second time around, my friends and I booked a quaint, two-bedroom AirBnB flat five minutes walking distance from the Ancient Old City. The flat was nicely renovated, clean, located in a quiet neighborhood, and, most importantly, budget friendly. Also, the churro stand on the corner of the building was an added bonus!
High-Tier Accommodations: $$$
Lastly, for those who have a few coins to spare and want something a bit more luxurious, I recommend the Hotel Catalonia Plaza Mayor Salamanca. It’s a modern hotel ideally situated in the center of town. Depending on the time of year and grade of room, your nightly stay could cost around $80 – $200 USD per night. During my semester studying abroad in Salamanca, my parents came to visit and stayed at Hotel Catalonia. They loved it!
WHAT: Things To Do & See in Salamanca
Salamanca has a population of just over 144,000. It is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. Admittedly biased, Salamanca also touts one the most beautiful plazas is all of Spain called the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Plaza Mayor is located inside the Ancient Old City. The Plaza, fundamentally, is the heart of Salamanca. If you travel to Salamanca, it should be your first stop. You’ll find that most Spanish cities have a central square, where – let’s say, families of three generations, local residents, visitors, and tourists alike, will meet-up for an afternoon cafécito, or grab a glass of wine with tapas. It is definitely a must-visit site.
One great advantage to visiting Salamanca is that the Old City is walker-friendly. Exiting out of either vein from the Plaza, you’re instantly transported back in time. Between the cobblestone roads, baroque and Gothic-style buildings, it feels like you are on a filming-set of HBO’s hit tv show, Game of Thrones.
Constructed in the 16th century, the Salamanca Cathedral was declared a national monument towards the end of the 19th century. Don’t be surprised if, during your visit, a holy celebration is taking place. Religious processions through the streets Salamanca aren’t uncommon. Thousands of people will flock to the Salamanca Cathedral, drawn by the beat of drums, to get a glimpse of what appears to be a 5-ton Mother Mary floating on the backs of 100 men in perfect synchronization.
Once during my spring semester abroad, there was a night procession of dozens of men dressed in garbs that resemble klansman- like hats and robes. Talk about freaking out! Obviously, it has nothing to do with, nor does this display have any affiliation with, that terrorist group. As my Professor later described, it’s always her American students that are the most shocked by this religious display, undoubtedly, because of our American history. For my fellow #TravelingWhileBlack tribe, don’t be alarmed. It’s all good (lol). OK – moving on!
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As previously mentioned, the University of Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in Europe. Established in 1218, it is Spain’s first institute for higher education. The student population of around 30,000 allows for a young, energetic, stylish and lively ambiance throughout the entire city.
Although my study abroad program was affiliated with a smaller institution for international students rather than University of Salamanca itself, I still felt a sense of pride to be studying down the street from the historic college. It was as if the entire Old City was an appendage of the University of Salamanca Campus. So much of student life spills over into the streets. That is why, in my opinion, a visit to the school while visiting Salamanca is a must-see.
The plateresque façade of the entrance is totally instagram worthy. According to legends, if a student can spot the small frog nestled on top of the head of a cadaver carved into the building without any assistance, they will have good luck on their exams.
The historical library is also worth a visit, but there is an entrance fee. Although pictures inside are prohibited (sorry Instagrammers), the grandeur and antique display of books reminds me of something out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’s castle.
If paying money to enter a library isn’t really your thing, you’re in luck! Casa de las Conchas is a 16th century, Gothic palace that functions today as an exhibition hall and public library, where admission is FREE! It is also an insta-worthy spot, as its façade is adorned with cutest seashell motifs.
is a crossing located on the banks of the southern part of the city. It is one of Salamanca’s historical points of interest and offers some of the best skyline views of the Old City.
The Roman Bridge of Salamanca, up until the 20th century, was a main access point into the city. The date of construction is not precisely known. However, of its twenty-six arches, fifteen date back to the Roman era.
As beautiful as the Old City appears in daylight, I highly recommend that you visit the bridge and walk around the city at night. After sunset, the entire Old City is lit in this golden, amber lighting. Puente Romano is the perfect spot to capture some of the most spectacular views of this whimsical place.
Are you hungry yet? Now that we’ve worked up an appetite exploring Salamanca, let’s quickly go through some of my recommendations for where to grab a bite to eat or where to go out for tapas & drinks!
With thousands of delectable restaurants and bars to choose from, you could literally throw a stone and it’ll most likely land in front of a great place to eat. The Plaza Mayor alone has many variety restaurants. However, if you’re only visiting Salamanca for one day, here is my short list of places that are worth trying:
- Chocolatería Valor is one of the most popular churros and hot chocolate cafés in town. Churros are swirly-stems of fried-dough, often dusted in cinnamon-sugar and are beyond delicious. They are a local-favorite pastry and are a must-try while visiting Spain. For my chocolate lovers, I also recommend pairing your churros with a cup of Valor’s famous, molten chocolate, perfect for dipping.
- La Chupitería is a small, corner bar that holds a special place in my heart. I spent many nights here – most of which I can barely remember, throwing back euro shots like-a-boss! LOL! There isn’t much to the space. However, if you’re a budget traveler looking for a dope spot that plays Billboard music, has a great atmosphere, and sells dozens of different flavored shots for 1€, La Chupitería is the place for you. Personally, I could spend my entire evening here, but it’s also a great place for pre-game drinking. I should also voice an obviously disclaimer: please drink responsibly! Salamanca is a very safe city, but try to spare some of those brain cells in the rare case that you’ll need to use them (lol).
- Eramus Café is more of your typical dive bar but offers a restaurant menu, just in case sustenance is needed to soak up some of that alcohol (lol). My friends and I also spent many nights partying at this bar, which has a friendly atmosphere and a bit of a quirky, scandalous decor. Reasonably priced, the menu offers tapas and an expansive list of beers to choose from.
Salamanca will forever hold a special place in my heart. Even as I write this blog, my heart flutters with a sensation of indefinite nostalgia that no other place could ever replicate. Ten years later and those memories are still vivid and metamorphic. If I was like a caterpillar, Salamanca was my cocoon.
That’s all for now, Folks!
Thank you SO much for taking the time to read this article. I hope you’ve found it helpful in preparation of your trip to Spain. Comment below if you plan on visiting Salamanca or have any feedback. Regardless of how you choose to spend your brief stay in Salamanca, I know that you will fall in love with her just as much as I have.
For more travel content on my trips exploring Spain, you can check out those vlogs here. If you’d like to stay connected, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter below. I promise to never send you spam. You’ll just receive updates when new blogs are posted. =) You may also subscribe to my YouTube channel here and/or follow me on Instagram here. Happy travels!