Image and Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette
This blog post was originally posted November 5, 2014, and was updated April 9, 2018.
Some travelers visit Salamanca as a day trip from Madrid, but in need of a little getaway from my au pair duties, I spent an entire weekend there. Sunny and unseasonably warm for fall, I had perfect weather for exploring!
Just 120 miles west of Madrid, Salamanca is home to one of the most important university cities in Spain: the University of Salamanca. I felt right at home among all the international students. There’s something special about being around people who value travel and adventure.
How to get to Salamanca from Madrid
By Bus: Buses leave every hour from Madrid’s Estación Sur station. The company is Avanza Bus, and the website has an English option. Round-trip tickets cost approximately €40 ($50 USD). Travel time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
By Train: On an average weekday, there are 10 trains traveling from Madrid’s Chamartín station to Salamanca. The average journey time is 2 hours and 23 minutes. The fastest journey time is 1 hour and 36 minutes. Round-trip tickets cost €33-€53 ($40-$65 USD).
My friend, Ellie, and I rode the bus. I find buses comfortable, and it’s actually my preferred way to travel in Spain. We left the return tickets open, giving ourselves more options for coming back than we would have had with the train.
Where to stay in Salamanca
When we arrived Saturday morning, Ellie and I met up with her college pal, Heather. Heather brought her Spanish friend, Laura, who studied fine arts at the University of Salamanca. She called the city “home” for six years and agreed to be our own personal tour guide!
We stayed at the Sweethome Salamanca hostel (Calle Jesus 24). Located right in the city center, it was approximately a 10-minute walk from the bus station. Rooms sleep between one and three guests. A standard double bed private room including en suite bathroom costs €42 ($52 USD) per night. Complimentary services include WiFi, breakfast and towels.
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What to eat and drink in Salamanca
When I’m traveling, I often spend quite a good portion of my travel budget on food. Not in Salamanca though!
Many bars give patrons a free tapa (snack) with their drink. It’s not the baby bowl of olives or tiny tostada you find elsewhere in Spain. In Salamanca, the free tapas are significant in size and ranged from paella to pulpo (octopus). It was easy to make a meal out of bar hopping.
Popular dishes include:
- Chanfaina: Steamed rice with pork.
- Charreria: Slow-cooked stew made with chickpeas, similar to cocido.
- Hornazo: A mega-popular meat pie.
What to see in Salamanca
The Old and the New Cathedral
One of Spain’s most impressive examples of Gothic architecture, the New Cathedral stands next to its Romanesque counterpart. Climb the towers and walk along the battlements for Instagram-worthy views of the city.
- Admission costs €4,75 ($6 USD).
- Hours: 10 a.m.-7:15 p.m. Monday thru Sunday.
If you’re coming from Spain’s capital, Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor might give you déjà vu. It looks A LOT like Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. Grab a table, order a drink and enjoy the plaza vibe.
University of Salamanca
Because of its intricate facade, the university is considered one of the most beautiful universities in the world. Crane your neck and search for “frog on a skull.” Finding it supposedly brings good luck. As a challenge, students must spot the legendary carving before they can graduate as doctors.
Once you’ve found the frog, look for “the astronaut” and “the ice cream eating gargoyle.”
Casa de las Conchas
Don’t miss the House of the Shells, especially if you’re a former Camino de Santiago pilgrim! This building, which houses, the public library and information office is decorated with more than 300 shells. Completed in 1517, a knight of the order of Santiago de Compostela built it.
You may also like: How to (Sort-of) Prepare for the Camino de Santiago
The Roman Bridge
Measuring 176 meters in length (577 feet), the bridge spans the River Tormes and has 26 semicircular arches. Its construction is thought to have taken place in the first century A.D. Head down after dark to see it lit up.
Where to party in Salamanca
With so many young people living in Salamanca due to the university, the city has a fun nightlife scene. After going to a few different spots for tapas and wine, we made our way to Clavel Ocho (Calle Clavel 8).
The club has two different spaces for music. Downstairs get your groove on with disco, funk, rock, 80s and 90s music. Upstairs features electronics music. To each his own! Entry is free.
Have you ever been to Salamanca? When you visit a new city, what’s more important to you–sightseeing by day or partying all night?
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