Following an afternoon of exploration and adventure (and conquering that pesky fear of heights) in the Spanish town of Avila, we found ourselves back at the Renfe station and ready to board another train. However, instead of heading back to Madrid, we decided to continue west to the historic college town of Salamanca.
Salamanca is located in the Spanish province of Castilla y León some 200km west of Madrid, and just 80km east of the Portuguese border. It is one of the most important university cities in all of Spain, and is home to the University of Salamanca, which was founded in 1094 (not a typo). Each year, hundred of international students move to the city to continue their studies.
The Old City of Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, thanks in part to the University and other notable monuments in the surrounding area.
Just over an hour after boarding the train, we had arrived in Salamanca. After a quick Google search to situate ourselves on the map we were off! Down Paseo de la Estación we strolled, passing Parque de la Alamedilla and admiring the more modern side of Salamanca. Before we knew it and without much effort, we found ourselves at the doorstep of Plaza Mayor, the historic centre of the city.
Weighted down by our overnight bags (which were really day bags) we decided to check into the hotel and then set out on the town.
As dusk settled in around us, we explored the city, admiring the sights without really knowing what we were looking at – one of the joys of having two days to explore a small town, you don’t need to immediately know what you’re looking at.
We spent hours that night exploring the city; navigating the narrow, cobblestone alleys; and admiring the architecture, which was beautifully illuminated and glowing against the clear night sky. We walked around and around until our feet just couldn’t take it anymore.
We had plans to be up bright and early the next morning, but the blackout curtains in our extremely comfortable hotel room had other plans. By the time we were actually back out on the streets it was close to noon #oops.
With just a few hours to explore, we wanted to make the most of our time, so after a quick and delicious breakfast (read, coffee) we were off, and our first stop was Plaza Mayor.
Although we’d visited the night before, seeing it in the daylight was something else. Packed with people, Plaza Mayor is everything: a hangout, a restaurant, a meeting place and a pretty spectacular feat of architecture.From Plaza Mayor we continued on, walking south through the city to the Puente Romano de Salamanca, where we were treated to stunning views of the city, the Cathedral and the surrounding park. Standing on the far edge of the bridge it was easy to see why so many students and people choose to call Salamanca home: it’s a city where historic charm and nature meet.
After crossing the bridge and taking one too many photos (many of which I ruined with a terribly awkward smile) we continued our walk into the city, making our way to the grand New Cathedral of Salamanca.
Built in the 16th century, in both the Baroque and Gothic styles, the New Cathedral dominates the Salamanca skyline. From almost any point in the city, we could see the tip of the tower poking through, standing above the rest.
Salamanca is an incredibly walkable city with amazing sights around every turn, so following our stop at the Cathedral, we decided to put away the map and just “see what we see”. It was a refreshing change to be a tourist without a checklist.
And for the rest of our afternoon we simply wandered; we walked up and down the alleys with no agenda, just happening upon sites like the Iglesia de San Sebastian, Plaza de San Isidro, Casa de las Conchas, and then Convent of St. Stephens. And, just as quickly as our trip began, we found ourselves back at the Renfe station and ready to board the train back to Madrid.
Another fabulous day trip from Madrid was in the books.
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