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Salamanca is a city of thought and knowledge, famous for its university, one of the oldest in Spain. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage City and is full of history and culture. Ideally one should spend at least two days in this city, but it is possible to do a day trip from Madrid using the train, for people who do not have the time to stay in this city for a longer period of time.
The earliest train that leaves the Chamartin Station in Madrid for Salamanca is the MD 18901, leaving at 08:45H and reaching Salamanca at 11:22H. The last train leaving Salamanca for Madrid is the MD 18908, leaving at 19:59H and reaching Madrid at 22:38H. The round trip price is 35.80 euros. This would give a day tripper 8.5 hours in Salamanca, enough to see some things.
Read Buying Renfe Tickets Online to check the schedules (they do change) and to buy tickets.
The train station in Salamanca is located at the Paseo de la Estacion. The distance from the train station to the Plaza Mayor is 1.4 km and Google Maps says it takes 17 minutes to walk. One can also take a taxi from the train station to save time.
There is a tourist office at the Plaza Mayor, (Casa de Postas).
1. Plaza Mayor - This plaza is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. Alberto de Churriguera was the person who designed its Baroque style and started its construction in 1728. The square has arcaded buildings, three stories tall, in a uniform architectural style. The buildings have semicircular arches and balustrades. The City Hall is located on the north side and was built by Andres Garcia de Quiñones, built as a Baroque building that has five granite arches and a steeple decorated with allegoric figures. There are medallions of Charles I, Alfonso XI, Fernando VI, Cervantes, and Saint Teresa. The eastern facade of the square has the Royal Pavilion and has a large semi-circular arch that opens up to the Calle de Toro. There is a balcony over the arch which was used by Royalty to view the events held in the square. The colonnaded square is decorated with medallions that show kings and famous men, and these were done by the sculptor Manuel de Larra Churriguera. This square is the center of life in the city.
2. Salamanca Cathedral - Salamanca has two cathedrals, the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral, and these are located side by side and connected. The New Cathedral was started in 1513 and finished in 1733. The style is a mixture of Late Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The first architect was Juan Gil de Hontañon, followed by Juan de Alava and Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon. The tower was started in 1705 and later the Churriguera brothers built the dome. The dome had to be reinforced in 1763 because of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The bell tower, called the Torre de las Campanas, was also reinforced because the Lisbon earthquake also affected it. The main facade has arcades that are decorated with scenes from the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi, created in 1661 by Juan Rodriguez.
The inside of the church follows the Latin cross plan. The interior has 5 naves with wide pillars and side altars, and the dimensions are 105m x 50m. The dome starts 80m over the floor. The pews in the choir are some of the most famous of the Spanish Baroque and were done by Joaquin and Alberto de Churriguera. There are 104 choir pews made of walnut. One organ was made in 1568 and the other in 1745. There are two famous chapels, the Golden Chapel (which contains the sculpture museum) and the Chapel of Christ of the Battles. In the treasury is the bronze crucifix that was carried into battle before El Cid.
The Old Cathedral was constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries in the Romanesque style, but there are touches of the Gothic in the interior. One has to pay a nominal fee to see it. It has 3 naves and a beautiful hexagonal dome, called Torre del Gallo. The vault has a fresco of the Final Judgment, painted by Nicholas Florentino. In its Main Chapel, there is a beautiful Gothic retable from the 15th century, considered as one of the most beautiful 15th century altarpieces, consisting of 53 panels depicting the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, divided into 5 stories with 11 columns. This was finished in 1455. There are also big cloisters that started out as Romanesque, but later were remodeled at the end of the 18th century. The church has Europe's oldest organ, installed in the Chapel of Bishop Diego de Anaya. The Chapel of San Martin has the tomb of Bishop Rodrigo Diaz and the transept has the tomb of Don Alfonso Vidal, the Canon of Salamanca.
3. Casa de las Conchas - The House of the Shells was built at the end of the 15th century in the Gothic style, but it has Renaissance and Mudejar elements. Its mixture of styles is called Isabelline. The person who had the palace built was Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, who was a Knight of the Order of Santiago. There are over three hundred shells covering its outer walls, the shell being the symbol of the Order of Santiago. The building suffered cracks in the 18th century, so it had to be remodeled and the upper parts do not have shells because of this. There is a Gothic coat of arms with lilies (fleur de lys) above the entrance door, which was the Maldonado coat of arms. The coat of arms also appears on the walls and around the windows, and these are supported by angels, sirens, lions, or wreathed in laurel. There is a beautiful patio in the interior, which has two floors. The arches are supported by beautiful pillars and columns. The building contains the Provincial Library today.
4. Salamanca University - This famous school was founded in 1218 by Alfonso IX of Leon and became famous all over Europe as a great teaching center. The main building was constructed in 1433 and has a square base and a central patio with surrounding galleries that looks like a cloister. The facade is famous for its Plateresque style. The building contains the University Library, with more than 250,000 books. The facade has statues of Queen Isabela and King Ferdinand, and also the coat of arms of Carlos V. These are surrounded by floral motifs and heraldic emblems. There is a frog hidden here that is supposed to give students good luck on their exams, if they can locate it. There are several buildings that comprise the university. Today about 35,000 students attend the university.
5. Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco - Casa Lis is the name of the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco that opened in Salamanca in 1995 and is one of the most popular museums in Castilla-Leon. The museum has 19 different collections from the late 19th century and early 20th century. There are about 2500 items in the museum. The pieces were donated by Manuel Ramos Andrade, an antique dealer who was born in Salamanca. The building itself is a work of art with a beautiful stained glass ceiling and stained glass façade, and this was ordered by Don Miguel de Lis, a local merchant who was in love with Art Nouveau. Chriselephantines are small sculptures made of bronze and ivory and the museum has 120 of these pieces, created by 52 of the best known artists of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. There are more than 300 porcelain dolls from France and Germany that are on exhibit. There are more than 200 glassware items created by famous artists such as Emile Galle, Rene Lalique, and the Daum Brothers.
6. San Esteban Church and Monastery - This is a Dominican monastery built in the 16th century in the Gothic style, but with Plateresque and Baroque decoration. The Cardinal Juan Alvarez de Toledo ordered the church to be built, as he had been a monk at San Esteban (St. Stephen). The Monastery was started in 1525 with the architect Juan de Alava, and it was completed in 1618. The facade of the church was constructed in 1660 and looks like a tapestry in stone, Plateresque in style, with an arch divided into three sections. The ground section has the church door and the second section has a stone figure of the Martyrdom of San Esteban by Juan Antonio Ceroni, created in 1610. The top section has a Calvary scene by Cellini. The ground plan of the church is the Latin cross with one nave. The high altarpiece has spiral columns and this was constructed by Jose de Churriguera. The main panel is a painting by Claudio Coello with a scene of the martyrdom of San Esteban. There are three cloisters, the most beautiful being the Royal Cloister. There is the Pantheon of the Theologians which has tombs of prestigious Dominican priests.
7. Puente Romano - The Roman Bridge was built in the 1st century A.D. during the reign of Marcus Ulpius Traianus. The bridge crosses the Tormes River and has 26 semicircular arches, with strong pillars. The measurements of the bridge are 176 meters long by 3.7 meters wide. The bridge was part of the Via de la Plata Roman road that went from Merida to Astorga. There is a sculpture of a male pig or boar beside the bridge that was created by the Celts and is shown over the shield of the city. The bridge is open only for pedestrians. In 1931 the bridge was declared a national monument.
8. San Martín Church – San Martin Church was built in the 12th century by the Count Martin Fernandez on top of an old chapel for St. Peter. The building is considered one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Spain. The floor plan is rectangular, with three naves and three apses. The columns have capitals decorated with acanthus leaves, plain leaves, and allegorical figures. The Romanesque south portal is decorated with archivolts. One niche shows a relief of St. Martin sharing his tunic with a pauper. The high altarpiece was made by Alberto de Churriguera in 1731. One of the impressive tombs belongs to Pedro de Santiesteban and the choir is also noteworthy.
9. Torre del Clavero Tower - The tower was built in the 15th century and is part of the Palace of Sotomayor. What is unusual of its architecture is that it has a square base that later turns into an octagon as it goes up. There are small cylindrical towers on each of its eight angles. The decorations of the tower include coats of arms. At present the Salamanca Provincial Government occupies the building.
10. Palace of Monterrey - This palace was ordered built by Alonso de Acevedo, the third Count of Monterrey and Viceroy of Naples, in 1539. It is one of the most important Spanish Renaissance buildings. The architects were Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon, the Dominican Martin de Santiago, and Pedro de Ibarra. The most impressive feature of the building is the Plateresque decoration of the towers. The third floor windows are decorated with Corinthian columns. Only the outside of the building can be seen, since it is a private property owned by the Duchess of Alba.
11. La Purísima Church - The Count of Monterrey Manuel de Fonseca y Zuñiga and his wife Doña Leonor Maria de Guzman (the sister of the Conde-Duque de Olivares) had this church built in 1641as a place for their family pantheon and as a convent for his daughter and the Augustinian nuns. The architects were B. Picchiatti and C. Fandango from Naples. The construction of the church took more than a hundred years. The ground plan is a Latin cross and the church has barrel vaults on the ceiling. The portico has semicircular arches resting on fluted pilasters. The most impressive feature of the church is the high altarpiece, which has two rows of Corinthian columns with inlaid stone framing the painting of the Blessed Virgin, which was painted by Jose de Ribera, and the church was designed around it. Ribera has other paintings in the church, the San Jenaro, the Adoration of the Kings, the Birth of Christ, and La Piedad. Giudo Reni painted the St. John the Baptist. The tabernacle uses lapis lazuli, malachite, jasper and gilded bronze and the statues are also in gilded bronze. The side altars also use these semi-precious stones. There are statues of the Count and Countess of Monterrey on either side of the high altar that are sculpted in Carrara marble, made by Giuliano Finelli. The proportions and the colors of the stones used make this Baroque church one of the most beautiful churches in the city.
12. San Marcos Church – San Marcos Church is located at Calle de Zamora. The Romanesque building has a circular floor plan and was built in the 11th century, although the date is uncertain. It was built on the orders of Count Raimundo de Borgoña and his wife Doña Urraca, daughter of King Alfonso VI. What is known is that in 1202 the church was completely built when King Alfonso IX turned it over to the Clerecia, priests from Salamanca. The steeple is Baroque. There are three naves that end in a semicircular apse. There are 14th century Gothic paintings of scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. In 1967 the church was restored to return it to a purely Romanesque church.
13. Archbishop Fonseca College - Don Alfonso de Fonseca was the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela and Toledo and he was the one who had this edifice built in 1538. His architect was Diego de Siloe. The courtyard has two galleries, the lower one with semicircular arches and the upper floor with low arches. There are medallions to decorate both floors, being the work of Juan de Alava and Pedro de Ibarra. The main facade has sculptures of San Agustin and San Ildefonso. The chapel has an altarpiece made up of paintings and sculptures of Alonso de Berruguete. The courtyard is outstanding and is a jewel of the Spanish Renaissance. It was designed by Diego de Siloe and constructed by Pedro de Ibarra. It has two galleries of arches that are crowned with a cornice with pinnacles. There are beautiful balustrades and medallions that have male and female effigies in the arches. Today the building houses a residence of the university.
14. Church of San Benito - This church was built in the 12th century and later the Romanesque church was replaced by a new Gothic design. It was commissioned by the Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca, who was baptized there. The Maldonado Family lived opposite the church and helped in its construction. The church contains the tombs of Arias Perez Maldonado and his wife Elvira Hernandez Cabeza de Vaca, located at the high altar. There is a carving of the Calvary and this is attributed to Diego de Siloe. The facade of the church is in the Isabelline Gothic style and it contains a scene from the Annunciation that has the figure of God the Father, with the Fonseca and Acevedo coats or arms.
15. The Clerecia - The Pontifical University occupies the Clerecia, which is also known as the Real Colegio del Espiritu Santo, once belonging to the Jesuit Order. It was founded by Felipe III and Margarita of Austria. It was designed by Juan Gomez de Mora, and construction started in 1617. There is a church and two large buildings that were used as residences for the priests and students, and also a courtyard. There are two very high towers that are very impressive in height. The facade is decorated with many Corinthian columns and is very impressive also. The high altarpiece is Baroque and has wreathed columns, designed by Cristobal de Honorato. The courtyard is built with huge Corinthian columns and is flanked by a building with three stories. This is one of the most beautiful patios in Salamanca. The building has been the seat of the Pontifical University since 1940.