I went to Salamanca with an intention to see and feel the city thinking it would become my home for a couple of months while I would be studying Spanish there. Well, it did not work out, but at least I enjoyed the tourist attractions of Salamanca. It is a very old city and the buildings are very old as well: there are many from the 12th century. History hides between its majestic walls and magnificent churches. And here is my list of things to do in Salamanca, Spain, so that you do not miss anything important 🙂
If you are interested in more practical information, like where to stay, how to get, where to eat in Salamanca, check my guide on 3 days I spent in the city.
Things to do in Salamanca: convents and cathedrals
When I was searching for info on the Cathedral of Salamanca, I always came across posts saying that there are two cathedrals. It was confusing, so I thought I would deal with it when I was there.
So, here is what I found out. The Cathedral of Salamanca is actually two cathedrals connected to each other: the so-called new (Catedral Nueva) and old (Catedral Vieja). The old cathedral was built in the 12th century and it still contains those old elements I saw in movies only like stone statues in niches, faded frescoes, cold, nothing fancy. If you ask me, this is how I imagine the churches of King Arthur times, if he existed 🙂
The new cathedral of Salamanca is about 400 years younger: it was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Just like the Andalusian cathedrals I saw before, it is simply stunning! It is huge with tall mighty columns, arched passages and exquisitely decorated organ and altar. The stainglass windows, intricate ceiling and dome with coat-of-arms and smaller columns are fantastic. The skill of the builders definitely deserves recognition!
Useful info: the cathedrals form one building. It means that you enter the new cathedral first where the ticket office is. And when you finish with viewing it you just go the old cathedral right from there: there is a passage, so no need to go out. The ticket you buy covers entrances to both cathedrals.
Entrance fee: 4.75 EUR, audioguide included.
Ieronimus is a name given to the cathedral’s tower. Naturally, it offers panoramic views of Salamanca, a better view of the cathedral’s roof and dome, and a view from above of the new cathedral’s interior. Trust me, all these views are spectacular!
Useful info: when I was there, ladies at the ticket office did not speak a word in English. Luckily, the price is just written there. You can find more info here.
Entrance fee: 3.75 EUR
Convent of St. Stephen (Convento de San Esteban)
The Convent of St Stephen is one of the most notable tourist attractions of Salamanca. The construction of the modern buildings started in the 16th century, and the convent has elements of many architectural styles with the Gothic and Renaissance ones being prevalent.
Frankly, I was so surprised when I entered the convent that I was left speechless. I did not expect it to have this kind of courtyard. Usually, all the monasteries in Spain I have visited have similar courtyards: there is a garden in the center and some columns or simply walls around. But the Convent of St. Stephan is different: its courtyard is surrounded by big arched windows with mullions which made quite a spectacular sight. The walls itself are plain being a huge contrast to the monastery’s facade with hundreds of small elements.
Keeping it short: just go there! It is a very beautiful place and it was almost empty when I was there. Well, I visited Salamanca at the end of October, so this might be the reason 🙂
Interesting fact: Christopher Columbus stayed at the convent when he came to Salamanca to seek for help for his big project that lead to the discovery of America.
Entrance fee: 3.5 EUR. More info is here.
Las Duenas Convent (Convento de las Dueñas)
Actually, the name is the Convent of Santa Maria. It was called las Duenas because the aim of its founder Juana Rodriguez Maldonado was to create a place where noble ladies could retire. The magnificent cloister of the monastery was built in the 16th century, and my favorite part is the arches around the courtyard. Just look at all those decorations! Someone had quite an imagination 🙂
Entrance fee: 2 EUR.
Iglesia de San Martín de Tours
Just like many other buildings in Salamanca, this one is very old. The church of San Martin de Tours was build in the Romanesque style in the 12th century and was restored multiple times throughout history. I saw two entrances to the church and I took the one facing Plaza Mayor.
The church is roughly split in two parts: the old part that can be entered after paying a fee and the church itself.
The old part contains some altarpieces and a very old stone work with curious details and heads. The church is very simple with stone coffins and statues in niches and a modest altarpiece.
Entrance fee: 1.5 EUR.
Iglesia de la Purísima
Iglesia de la Purisima is a beautiful church opposite the Monterrey Palace. There were not many visitors inside, at least not when I was there. The entrance is free so make sure to come by and see the paintings by Ribera and the famous high altarpiece. Make sure to have a look at its dome: I love the color!
Capilla de San Francisco
Not far from the Iglesia de la Purisima is another magnificent church: the chapel of St Francisco. Just look at those intricate details of the walls and the altarpiece!
The baroque chapel built in the 18th century was a part of the Convent of San Francisco Real that does not exist anymore. Now it belongs to the Capuchin Convent.
Calle Zamora and Parroquia de San Marcos
Calle Zamora is a nice street with fancy buildings, restaurants and clothing stores. If you see a Granier shop, make sure to get in: their pastries are yummy!
Calle Zamora starts at Plaza Mayor and ends at the church of San Marcos. It is old, very old: it was built in the 12th century. Why do I think you should visit it? Because it is different. The church is of circular shape, there is not rich decoration inside, but some fading paintings. It is a very simple church yet with its own charm.
Convento de las Úrsulas
Yet another convent in Salamanca 🙂 Frankly, I did not figure out its opening times so whenever I passed it by it was closed. I was lucky once and went in. As far as I remember entering the church is free, but if you want to see its museum with a collection of religious objects, you will have to pay. And I had hard time finding the door as there are 3 of them if I remember it correctly, so I had to pull and push all of them. And by the time I actually went in I was not interested in it anymore, and I don’t even remember which door I used!
The building is impressive, so you may just go there and have a look.
Entrance fee: 2 EUR.
Things to do in Salamanca: the university
University of Salamanca
I could not miss visiting the University of Salamanca! In fact, it was the main reason I chose Salamanca over other Spanish cities: I had planned to study the Spanish language if I liked it there.
It is the third oldest university in the world that still serves as an educational institution. In 1218 the university was granted a royal charter of foundation, while it was founded much earlier, in 1134. Anyway, all the signs around the university clearly stated that in 2018 it would be celebrating its 800th anniversary.
So, what about the access inside? The part the tourists get to see is Las Escuelas Mayores, which are in the old university building. In Las Escuelas Minores mentioned below visitors can see the courtyard only.
In Las Escuelas Mayores you will see the old lecture halls, a small museum and the old library (access to the library is forbidden, you will see it from the entrance only).
Frankly, I was disappointed: there is nothing special in the lecture halls, just bare walls with tapestry here and there. But, again, I had very big expectations. Well, as always 🙂 But, still, I am happy I went there and saw it.
Useful info: I did not see a ticket desk there and as far as I know tickets are bought from the ticket machine at the entrance. Don’t remember anyone speaking English there either.
Entrance fee: 10 EUR, including access to the Archbishop Fonseca college (I did not go there as it was late already).
Escuelas Menores and el cielo de Salamanca
Las Escuelas Menores is a part of the University of Salamanca. Its courtyard is open to visitors and is free to enter. The building itself with fancy arches is from the 15th century.
But people do not come here to see the courtyard. The most interesting exhibit is in the room opposite the entrance: everyone comes here to see the famous Sky of Salamanca (el cielo de Salamanca). It is a huge mural depicting the sky with the astronomical and astrological elements. Trust me, the painting is very impressive! And the best part is that the entrance is free.
Useful info: the Sky of Salamanca is open to everyone, but it is my understanding that it may occasionally be closed during the school year.
A visit to Clerecia (the clergy from Spanish) is a must. The building itself is imposing and its towers offer a panoramic view of the city.
The construction started in the 17th century and lasted for about 150 years. The building was to serve as a school and home for the Jesuit brotherhood. Now it houses the Pontifical University of Salamanca.
The visit to la Clerecia is a kind of split into two parts: Scala Coeli (a stairway to heaven or sky from Latin) which includes climbing the towers and Vita Ignatii, which includes touring the building itself.
I was skeptical about the Vita Ignatii at first, but I liked the tour. It is translated from Latin as the life of Ignatius, meaning Ignatius of Loyola, the famous Jesuit. There are dozens of paintings depicting his life, hence the name. If you take this tour, you will see a magnificent staircase, a couple of stunning halls, a chapel and the cloister.
I did not climb the towers, I thought that Ieronimus was enough. I regret this decision now 🙁 The view from above must be spectacular. Anyway, just keep in mind that there are more than 150 steps up.
Useful info: visit to the towers is unguided, but Vita Ignatii is with a guide only. They have a timetable of tours, about every 45 minutes. The thing is that the tour is in Spanish but they give a leaflet in English. I took the last tour at 19:15 and I was the only one there. I hoped that if I was alone the tour would be in English, but no: the guide did not speak English. I know Spanish a bit and after reading the leaflet it was not a problem for me to listen to her. Anyway, I had the entire building for myself 🙂
– the towers only: 3.75 EUR
– Vita Ignatii: 3 EUR
– the towers and Vita Ignatii: 6 EUR
Things to do in Salamanca: plazas and parks
My favorite place in Salamanca! The Jesuitas Park is quite far from the historical center of Salamanca and when I was there I saw locals only.
It is a quiet place with rows of trees that look spectacular in autumn when the leaves turn red and yellow. There are many benches so the park is just perfect to rest one’s feet after a day of walking around the city.
There is a pond with ducks at the end of the park and the bridge above it is a popular place for selfies and pictures.
And, if you are into sports and like to keep fit while traveling, you will love this place: I saw an open-air gym in the park 🙂
Huerto de Calixto y Melibea
This is a small and very nice garden not far from the Cathedral of Salamanca. Make sure to go there when you are nearby: the views of the cathedral open from here.
I guess every Spanish city has its own Plaza Mayor 🙂 This rectangular plaza is the center of Salamanca and, naturally, it is all about fancy buildings and many restaurants. Just like in other main plazas, there are no benches, and restaurants are the only places to have a sit.
It is always crowded, people come here for selfies and pictures mainly.
Luckily, when I was in Salamanca there was a book fair: books and travelling are the things I love 🙂 They sold many books, mainly Spanish ones, and I saw some really old and expensive tomes.
Plaza de Anaya
You will not miss this plaza: it is right between the cathedrals of Salamanca and the university buildings. Plaza de Anaya is a green and lively area, perfect to spend som time there and contemplate the masterpieces of Salamanca’s architecture. Nice views of the cathedral open from here.
Things to do in Salamanca: other notable tourist attractions
Cueva de Salamanca
Cueva or cave of Salamanca is right in the city center not far from the main cathedral. Well, it is not exactly a cave in a sense we imagine one, it is ruined walls and a tower that offers views of Salamanca. The entrance is free, so you may give this place a try.
Frankly, the history of the cave is much more interesting than the cave itself. There were no signs in English, just in Spanish, and I found some info online about the place, in Spanish again. My Spanish could be better, so I hope that my translation is correct 🙂
There is a legend that Hercules himself started a school there, but the locals did not show much interest in studying.
Another, a more popular legend says that the devil chose seven disciples and taught them magic, astrology and other occult sciences in the cave. It is said that one of those disciples had to serve the devil forever as payment for the knowledge given. That someone was Marquis de Villena: the tower bears his name. But he was really smart and outwitted the devil escaping him, but lost his shadow in action. Very curious legend, in my opinion.
What is known for sure is that there was a church dedicated to St Cyprian right there, but it was destroyed in the 16th century.
Casa de las Conchas
Who has not heard about the famous shell house? Casa de las Conchas is right in the city center opposite to the Clerecia and about 200 meters away from the main cathedral.
It was built in the 15th-16th centuries under the order of Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, a professor at the University of Salamanca. Well, the most striking features are hundreds of shells on its facade.
The building now houses the library, so only the courtyard is open to visitors. Luckily, the entrance is free. But, frankly, the house’s facade is simply stunning.
This old Roman bridge which is also known as the main bridge is over the River Tormes. It is not far from Casa Lis and the historical center of Salamanca.
The arched stone bridge which is present in Salamanca’s coat of arms is an impressive structure and I strongly advise you to go there. The area around Puente Romano is very picturesque: the marshy Tormes, a lovely park and views of the city are worth a short walk.
Palacio de Monterrey
When I was Salamanca, this plateresque palace was under renovation, so there is absolutely nothing I can say about it. Well, except the fact that it looks quite impressive from outside.
The palace was built in the 16th century for the Monterrey family and is owned by the Duke of Alba now. I saw some pictures of the interior and they are truly amazing: there are paintings and magnificent furniture.
If you are in Salamanca and the palace is open to visits, make sure to book time in the tourist information office, as the tours are guided only and number of groups is limited. Some more info in Spanish can be found here.
Palacio de Salina
This palace is quite a famous tourist attraction of Salamanca. It is another plateresque building erected in the 16th century. The palace got its name Salina because it was used to store salt.
I did not go there, did not think it was worth my time as only the courtyard is open to visitors. At least, the entrance is free 🙂
Torre del Clavero
In my opinion, this is one of the tourist attractions in Salamanca that is not worth your time, unless you are somewhere nearby.
The tower was a part of the palace that belonged to Don Francesco de Sotomayor. Today it houses a government office and the entrance inside is forbidden.
Casa de las Muertes
Mmm, I am still not sure I know what is so special about this place. All that visitors to Salamanca get to see is the facade of the house. It is said that the building got its name – the House of Deaths – because of the skulls below the upper windows. A legend says that there were strange deaths inside the house, hence the name.
Anyway, the area around is lovely, so don’t miss the place 🙂
Things to do in Salamanca: museums
Museum of Salamanca
The Museum of Salamanca is next to las Escuelas Menores, so you will not miss it. It houses some archaeological and ethnographic exhibits and a huge collection of religious paintings and sculptures, not something I am interested in.
At least, the entrance was free when I was there.
Entrance fee: 1 EUR, free on Saturdays and Sundays.
Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco Casa Lis
I did not visit this museum as it was closed when I passed it by, and I never came back there. Anyway, the visitors like it, and you will most likely like it too if you are into arts. In Casa Lis there are exhibited bronze sculptures, paintings, vases, and many people seem to like its doll collection.
Just like I said, Salamanca is just one of the cities I visited in Spain, so if you are curious, I have a detailed, day by day itinerary for those 3 weeks I spent in Spain.