Salamanca

"City of Gastronomy, Culture and Spanish Tradition." - Reviewed by Lisa

  • Miguel says: “Bulls or no bulls, the city streets are beautiful – especially the Plaza Mayor.”
  • Lisa says: “The youthful atmosphere lends an energy for late-night partying.”
  • Aaron says: “After a chupito hangover, I recommend the empanadas!”
  • Francisco says: “A sophisticated city with first-class hunting on the doorstep.”

I arrived in Salamanca on a glorious Sunday morning with blue skies above. The golden city rose up from the River Tormes and I knew we were going to be friends. I had just left the incredible property of our local host, Alfonso Fabres, and here I was entering across the Sanchez Fabres bridge – I guess this family has been around for A LONG time!

Salamanca, part of the Spanish region known as “Castilla y León” (Castile and Leon), has been declared a UNESCO “World Heritage Site”. Known for its university, which received its royal charter back in 1218, this city west of Madrid is famous for its culture and student atmosphere.

Although it is actually a medium-size city, Salamanca has the feel of a cozy campus. As with all old European university towns, it abounds with beautiful architecture, impressive halls of learning, forums for the arts and sciences and scholarly places of worship.

As we all know, students have a great potency for fun and food. So, as you’d expect, Salamanca is full of friendly bars, cafés and restaurants – lining the bustling streets and tucked away in quiet corners. The climate here can be quite extreme with super-hot summers and bitterly-cold winters. The local gastronomy reflects this and you’ll find many incarnations of the local staples: pork and game.

Interestingly enough, it’s not just the University that is one of the first in Spain. One of the oldest Carnivals in the country is celebrated every year in the nearby town of Ciudad Rodrigo: The Carnival of the Bull. This epic event is a mixture of brass bands, colourful costumes, and – something very Spanish – bull fights. Maletillas, or aspiring bull-fighters, come from all over Spain looking for an opportunity to make their mark. They hope their fame may be found in front of an agent who could make them apprentice matadors.

In order to get the bulls to these young, brave hearts, expert horse riders – called garrochistas – run the fighting bulls to the city from nearby fields. It is quite a sight to watch the herds of bulls running through the open countryside accompanied by men on horseback. Once they arrive at the pens on the outskirts of the city, the townspeople take over and bravely run with them in the direction of the Plaza. Meanwhile, the town bell tolls to warn of loose bulls in the streets.

Having read this, I bet you’ll look behind you next time you hear a bell ring in Salamanca province!

LOCATION

  • 220 km (about a 2-1/4-hr drive) from Madrid