Salamanca – Where the Purest Spanish Is Spoken
Located some 50 miles from the Portuguese border and a two hours’ drive from Madrid, Salamanca is the capital of the Province of Salamanca and an important educational center in Spain. The University of Salamanca is actually the most important one in the country, attracting thousands of international students every year. Consequently, the city flaunts a very diverse environment that the modern tourists will definitely love.
People say that this is an excellent place for anyone to learn Spanish, arguing that the influence of the university is felt even in the way locals speak. This is reportedly one of the cities in the country where visitors can hear the purest spoken Spanish. The importance of the university goes even further than that, the institution representing one of the main sources of income for the city, next to tourism.
So, obviously, you should start your tour here. Founded in 1134, the University of Salamanca is the third oldest university in Europe that is still in operation today, and the oldest university in Spain. This is the first European higher education institution to formally receive the title of ‘University’, when it was granted by King Alfonso X back in 1254. The following year Pope Alexander IV officially recognized it as such as well. Two of its main highlights are the amazing library at the upper levels and the beautiful entrance façade, which is often referred to as an intricate tapestry in sandstone.
Another remarkable landmark is the Baroque Plaza Mayor, which is located right at the heart of the city. The vast square was constructed between 1729 and 1755 and it is the most important public space in Salamanca today. It is also one of the most beautiful squares you will see all across Spain – especially at night – which makes it that more irresistible to tourists. Once used for Spanish bullfights, it is now one of the most popular gathering areas in the city, lined with tourist shops, ice-cream parlors, cafés, restaurants, and jewelry shops. The main building here is the City Hall.
A very interesting fact about Salamanca is that it boasts two major cathedrals instead of one. The custom was to build the new church over the remains of the old one, but people here decided to keep the Old Cathedral and build another one next to it. The first was founded in the 12th century and completed two centuries later in a Romanesque/Gothic style. The much bigger New Cathedral was built between the 16th and 18th centuries with a beautiful Gothic and Baroque architecture. They are both worth an unhurried visit, just like the rest of the city is.
- The best time of year to visit the city is between May and June, or September-October.
- When you visit the Old Cathedral, take some time to admire the majestic apse with its 53 painted tables and the fresco above them, illustrating the Final Judgment.
- Recommended luxury hotels in Salamanca: Grand Hotel Don Gregorio, Hotel Palacio de San Esteban and Hotel Alameda Palace.