My friend, April, said it best. Salamanca is the best authentic Spanish town for visitors. Meaning that it’s great for tourists to get a real look at typical Spanish life without things being too cheesy or specially tailored to tourists. The Plaza Mayor wasn’t flooded with men trying to shove selfie sticks in my face, there weren’t men throwing English menus at me as I walked past their restaurant, it was perfect-I felt Spanish.
A nice and cheap 3 hour bus ride from Madrid, Salamanca is towards the top of my list of favorite Spanish towns/cities. It’s charm, authenticity, and beauty made me feel right at home like I was a local.
The sights of Salamanca.
Plaza Mayor. This is my favorite town square in all of Spain. Like I said before, there aren’t men trying to sell selfie sticks or random men dressed up in costumes asking for money in exchange for a picture. It is a common meeting ground for friends and families to exchange stories. It’s lined with various cafes to grab a “cafe con leche” or a “cañita” without prices being marked up to take advantage of tourists. It was a sunny weekend so the outside tables were always occupied despite the 40* degree temperatures. Many restaurants will actually have blankets to cover up chilly legs.
Catedral Nueva y Vieja. The new cathedral is constructed together with the old cathedral from the early 12th century. The new cathedral was constructed between 1513-1733. The idea to construct a new cathedral came in the 15th century with the popularity of the university. It’s gothic style and plans were created by the same architects who planned the cathedrals in Toledo and Sevilla. It’s so big and the architecture is absolutely stunning.
The astronaut. In the main facade of the cathedral within all the beautiful carvings is a small astronaut. It was added during the renovations in 1992. There is also a lynx eating ice cream. It’s like a real life Where’s Waldo?!
Universidad. The University of Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in the world. It was founded in 1134, officially recognized by King Alfonso IX in 1218, and given the official university title by King Alfonso X “El Sabio” (the wise) in 1254. In another life, I would study Spanish literature here, have afternoon beers with friends in the plaza mayor and get married in the cathedral. (I don’t even know if you can get married there)
La rana. The frog is another hidden carving in the facade of the university building. Much to my disappointment the entire wall was covered because it’s under restoration or construction. There was a small picture of the original wall and some jerk scratched off where the frog would be. I had to settle for seeing it on a postcard or google images. The legend of the frog is a bit controversial. I’ll share what I’ve found but I’ll have to ask the expert, my old UD professor, who’s from Salamanca for the real story.
#1: If students could find the frog upon the skull, it would bring them good luck and they would pass their exams.
#2: A little saucier story depicts the frog representing sexual temptation and the skull a sign of failure or death. Spanish history uses toads to symbolize sexual tension and perhaps it’s a toad instead of a frog. It was a warning for students to beware of women who could distract them from their studies.
#3: The final local legend says that the skull represents Prince Juan, a son of the catholic kings who died in his teenage years. The frog is supposed to represent Doctor Parra who cared for the prince and tried to save him with no success. The frog had been nick-named “Parrita” as a remembrance of the Doctor.
I think it might be a combination of all the stories. Votes in the comment section below! One lucky winner will receive a lucky frog keychain!
Casa de las Conchas. The Shell House is currently a public library. It was constructed by Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, a knight of the Order of Santiago de Compostela and a professor in the University of Salamanca. The shell is a common symbol for the Order of Santiago as well as a symbol for the pilgrims who complete El Camino De Santiago (The Way of St. James).
There are many more things that Salamanca has to offer so you might just have to go experience it for yourself!
Also I totally have to recommend Hotel El Toboso right next to the Plaza Mayor. I hope you get the pleasure to interact with Marian the receptionist who is a pure delight. Trip advisor 5 stars!!! PS.) this is post is not sponsored, I just loved this hotel so much!