A Day Trip to Salamanca
Salamanca is one of the most Renaissance cities in Europe and the ‘El Dorado’. This golden city is home to the oldest university in Spain which was founded in the early 13th century.
Fun Fact: With each sunset and sunrise the city of Salamanca glimmers like gold with orange and pink hue because of the beautiful sandstone from Villamayor nearby. This earned the city its name ‘El Dorado’ or the city of gold.
Salamanca is a treat for eyes and a must-visit day trip from Madrid. It can be easily done in a day trip although if you spend more time here, there’s plenty to do and see here.
I visited it in late February with the arrival of spring.
Check out my Vlog about the Salamanca trip below on YouTube.
Getting to Salamanca from Madrid
Salamanca used to be a bit difficult to get from Madrid but with new high-speed trains make it a swift, quick journey. I purchased my train tickets in advance via Trainline online in advance.
Note: Trainline prices are higher than the official Renfe prices. Use Chrome browser to open the Renfe website because it is quite bad and only in Spanish, I think. You can also buy tickets at the spot which can be tricky in high season. You can use the email version of tickets and don’t need the printed version.
The trains leave from Charmatin station in Madrid and take an hour and 30 minutes to arrive in Salamanca.
Note: The high-speed trains only go to the train station outside the city centre and you will need to take the bus from there or taxi.
I ended up missing my train and got the bus which took rough 2 and a half hours, the journey was comfortable and I used my return train ticket to come back to Madrid.
The positive was the bus being cheaper and the station being much closer to the city centre.
Salamanca is part of Castile and Leon region of Spain and pork is the main constituent here for most dishes which is a bit of a bummer for anyone who doesn’t eat pork. The speciality here is Hornazo. It is pork baked in pastry but there’s plenty of Tapas places for other options. I loved the confectionary with nice, moist cake slices.
The biggest meal of the day is lunch here and lunchtime usually starts after 1 but don’t leave it too late because most of the restaurants close for siesta afterwards. Do I really need to tell you about Tapas here?
Salamanca is quite small and flat; you won’t need to take public transport except to get to and from the train station which is bus line 1. Most historical sites are at easy walking distance. Just follow the map below and you will be able to see it all in a day.
One Day Itinerary of Essential Salamanca
As I mention before there’s a lot to be seen and done in this beautiful city but if you are making a day trip like I did you need to see the essential places that you can’t afford to miss.
Note: If you follow my itinerary you will get the best lighting for your photos. I started around 12pm.
I started walking to Plaza Mayor from the bus station which took 10 minutes and the city already started making its impression. The architecture is impressive, the colour of the buildings enticing and the presence of the city grand.
Plaza Mayor is the most beautiful square in the whole of Spain. It is built in Baroque style and was used a bull fighting ring till 19th century. It is the heart of Salamanca in every sense of the word.
A 15-minute stay here will prove this to you with people coming and going, protestors, cafes, old people soaking sun, tourists taking pictures, children playing; the square offers every aspect of life in this beautiful city.
I headed to the Tourist Information centre and grabbed myself a map. The lady helped me mark the route and I was set to explore Salamanca.
This street is probably the most important street with most places to explore located on or around it. It has a lot of touristy restaurants with outdoor seating in the sun. I suddenly felt hungry but didn’t want to go to a tourist trap place. I asked around and found a great place for food. You can find the details in the Insta stories. It is called Tapas 3.0.
All freshened up, I headed to the next and probably my favourite place in Salamanca.
House of shells – La Casa de las Conchas
Entry Fee – Free
This beautiful house was made by the Maldonado family specifically by Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado who was a member of the order of Santiago de Compostela and a university professor.
He imprinted 300 shells on the walls of his house to show his devotion to the order but also as a sign of his love to his wife. There’s a story about a hidden treasure behind one of the shells but please do not try to rip them apart, it is a beautiful building.
The entrance opens into a courtyard with a well and arches around the centre, it is relatively simple but the real surprise was upstairs. There was an exhibition happening but from the balconies upstairs I could see the truly stunning Baroque, ornate towers of La Clericia. It just made my day!
La Clericia Towers
Entry Fee – €3
This beautiful church is famous for its beautiful towers, only one of which was open. I purchased the tickets and started climbing the wooden stairs which got narrower until I reached the very top. The last part with circular stairs is very narrow. The views of the city are just amazing including the dome of the church and the views of the Cathedral of Salamanca.
It was a beautiful sunny, spring day and I got another chance to smile about the stunning ‘El Dorado’ from up the tower.
University of Salamanca
The next stop on the way is the University of Salamanca. The prestigious and venerable university is what gave Salamanca its importance. There are a few buildings but the most beautiful is the entrance to the old building which has an interesting frog hidden in all the decoration. Find it and you will pass your exams, fail it and…
Two Cathedrals of Salamanca
Entry Fee – €6
There are two cathedrals in Salamanca and both are connected. The new Cathedral is grand and imposing and the interior rivals any big cathedral in Spain. The décor is extensive and beautiful. The old cathedral is relatively simpler and smaller (understandably).
The square outside the Cathedral (Plaza de Anaya) is a great place to sit and relax if you feel a bit overwhelmed or just need a green tea break like me.
Garden Huerto de Calixto
Entry Fee – Free
Another alternative is the small and adorable garden of Huerto de Calixto which served two purposes; to get some rest and also not to miss the views of the cathedral from the other side.
It is a peaceful place with water fountains and plants and shade, just what I wanted. I walked to the edge of it and realised, the garden also offers great views of the Monastery of San Esteban and cathedral both, something I was happy not to have missed.
It was 4pm by now and I had three more spots to cover!
Roman Bridge & Tormes River
The Roman bridge is a must-do in Salamanca. I heard some people not being enthusiastic about it but the views its offers of the city and the cathedral are unparalleled. River Tormes is a very small river and the bridge was quite long. I saw plenty of people on the river shore chilling on the grass or san.
I walked over to the other side of the river and the view was absolutely amazing. It reminded me of Cordoba which has almost the exact same setting.
Convent of San Esteban
Entry Fee – €4
The next stop was the Convent of San Esteban which was the longest stretch of walking between two spots on the day. The small streets of Salamanca were a treat and finally I was at the convent.
This is a Dominican monastery and a building of absolute grandeur. The entrance door is as grand as it gets with such detailed decoration, I was lost for words. I could comfortably say, no expense was spared in the construction of this gigantic building.
I sat there for 15 minutes just admiring the figures that appeared and reappeared in the façade until I realised it would close soon. The interior was equally stunning.
Don’t forget the beautiful church inside but my favourite part was the peaceful courtyard in the middle. There was a sense of calm despite all the tourists around.
The stairs to go up are exquisite and the second level has more views overlooking the courtyard.
Palacio de la Salina
Entry Fee – Free
The last spot I covered was the relatively unheard-of Palace of La Salina. It is a relatively simple palace but the reason I really like it are the supporting statues holding the ceiling up. Don’t forget to miss them.
It was almost 6pm and time to head to the main train station. I graabbed some ice cream on the way from Rua mayor and headed to catch the bus which brought me to the train station and I was back in Madrid by 8pm at Charmatin station.
I am so happy I got to explore this beautiful city and while I wish I have had more time, it was a blissful, lovely spring day that I will cherish forever. If you have any questions feel free to reach out.