Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the ancient University town of Salamanca houses one of the oldest universities in the world. Its beautiful golden sandstone architecture, world-class cuisine, laid-back Spanish charms and youthful vibes are some of the reasons why Salamanca is one of Spain’s top tourist destinations. If you’re a first-time visitor, with only 3 days, planning the trip and narrowing down the itinerary can be a daunting task. With our suggested itinerary, your visit to Salamanca will be much more relaxed, and you’ll get a greater sense of the diversity of its landscape, food, and people. You can absolutely make any changes you like to adapt the tour to your preferences.
Things to know before traveling to Salamanca, Spain:
Language – Spanish is the official language of Spain. Also called Castilian, it is the first language of over 72% of the population in the country. Other languages are also spoken in certain areas such as Catalan in Catalonia, Galician in Galicia, Basque in the Basque Country and Valencian in Valencia. Speaking at least some Spanish phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals. Some helpful phrases are as follows:
Buenos días = Good morning
Buenos trades = Good afternoon
Buenas noches = Good evening
Habla inglés? = Do you speak English?
Por favor = Please
Gracias = Thank you
Cómo está? = How are you?
Cuánto cuesta? = How much does it cost?
Currency exchange – The official currency of Spain is the Euro (EUR), the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Exchanging money in Spain is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Europe. The best way to get local currency (Euro) is to use the ATM and withdraw in Euro to get the best rate. You may also transact with Banks and Bureaux de change.
Social life and etiquette – Spanish people usually have breakfast at around 10:00 am, while lunch (la comida), the biggest meal of the day is normally from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Dinner is no earlier than 8:00 pm and often start as late as 10:00 pm, and it is a very light meal followed by a leisurely stroll (paseo). Tipping is a common practice in Spain, although not always expected. People in Spain tend to be always on time so it is important to get used to the time zone.
Getting around – San Sebastián features an extensive public transport network consisting of trains, buses (run by the company Dbus), tourist buses, catamaran, and funicular railway. The center of the city is a fairly compact area which can be explored on foot or on a bicycle. You can bike on your own and enjoy the city’s bidegorris (cycle paths) or join one of the guided biking tours offered in the city. If you have extra bucks to splurge, get a bird’s eye helicopter view of San Sebastián.
Where to stay – There’s a great variety of accommodation in Salamanca, ranging from small family-run pensions to five-star luxury hotels. In almost any neighborhood, there’s something for every level of comfort and budget. If its your first time in the city, it is recommended to stay in the Old Town (Casco Historico) to get easy access to the city’s famous attractions and get plenty of accommodation options.
Hotels to consider in Salamanca:
NH Salamanca Puerta de la Catedral
Hotel Hospes Palacio de San Esteban
Day by day itinerary: Best way to spend 3 days in Salamanca, Spain
If you are coming directly from Madrid, then you can travel to Salamanca by train or by bus. By high speed AVE trains, it only takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to the city from Madrid Chamartín Railway Station. For time table and ticket information, visit Renfe’s official website. From the train station, walk or take a taxi to get to your chosen accommodation. Rest and settle in before you start the walking tour.
There is no better way to get acquainted in the city than walking along the historic Old Quarter of Salamanca. Located in the heart of the city, the old quarter is surrounded by old buildings with Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and Renaissance architecture. You’ll also find picturesque little houses, restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops.
Your first stop is Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor, which is considered to be the most beautiful central square in Spain. Here, you will find the Baroque-style City Hall (El Ayuntamiento de Salamanca), which is the municipal government of Salamanca. Just a short walk from here you will find the Romanesque-style Saint Martin Church (Iglesia de San Martín) built in the 12th century. Another church you should not miss in this area is the Church of San Julian (Iglesia de San Julián y Santa Basilisa)
In the afternoon, once you are through with the old square and churches, take a stroll in Salamanca Central Market (Mercado Central de Salamanca). Housed in an old historic building, the market boasts a great selection of seafood, meats, cold cuts, cheese, among others. If you’re on a budget, it’s the best place to get your food for 3 days.
On Day 2, head for the Gothic Romanesque-style Old Cathedral of Salamanca (Catedral Vieja), built in the 12th century for Saint Mary of the See. Your next destination is the Gothic Baroque-style New Cathedral of Salamanca (Catedral Nueva), built in the 16th century by the order of King Ferdinand V of Spain. Its façade with contemporary carvings of an astronaut and a faun eating an ice cream continues to baffle every tourist. Because of its monumental architecture and historic relevance, we recommend joining one of the guided tours offered in the city. Audio guides are also available in various languages for those who would to explore the two cathedrals DIY-style.
Just a short walk from the cathedrals, you will find Saint Stephen’s Convent (Convento de San Esteban), a Dominican convent originally built in the 13th century. Another Dominican convent in this area is Dueñas Convent (Convento de las Dueñas), known for its lovely courtyard and Plateresque façade.
With time remaining, go for a stroll through San Benito Square (Plaza de San Benito). In the evening, do not miss to try the traditional tapa bars and stand at the bar while eating tapas and drinking lager beer. Visitors will surely appreciate Salamanca’s unpretentious bar scene and vibrant nightlife.
You can dedicate Day 3 for the University of Salamanca (Universidad de Salamanca), the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in the world. Biking around the university is a great option which allows you to enjoy the area at your own pace. Check out its central courtyard, classrooms and art galleries. Squeeze in some souvenir shopping at Mercado Central before you head back to your hotel and prepare for your departure. Or, you can choose to stay in Salamanca longer and travel to other parts of Spain.
Have you been to Salamanca or anywhere else in Spain? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: View of City of Salamanca, Spain (carlosvelayos / Shutterstock.com)