Difference between revisions of "Salamanca"
Revision as of 18:34, 14 May 2012
Salamanca  is a town of around 150,000 inhabitants situated in western central Spain. It is the capital of Salamanca province, which is itself part of the autonomous region of Castile and Leon (Spanish: Castilla y León).
The city lies by the Tormes river on a plateau and is considered to be one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in Europe. The buildings are constructed of sandstone mined from the nearby Villamayor quarry, and, as the sun begins to set, they glow gold, orange and pink. It is this radiant quality of the stones that has given Salamanca the nickname La Dorada, the golden city.
In 1218, Alfonso X of León (Alfonso The Wise) founded the University - one of the first in the world. In 1254, Pope Alexander IV called it "one of the four leading lights of the world".
In 2002 Salamanca was the European Capital of Culture.
The city is not too big to see on foot, especially the main attractions, which are all quite close to one another. For slightly longer journeys there are taxis, and numerous bus routes - tickets are cheap, and you can buy them directly from the driver on board. Salamanca city bus 1  can take you between the train station and Plaza Poeta Iglesias, which is right next to Plaza Mayor
Villages around Salamanca
There are some interesting villages around Salamanca. Béjar is a town of around 16,000 inhabitants, which offers:
The combination of Castile-Leon's reputation for pure Spanish and Salamanca's reputation of learning, due to its venerable university, means that there are lots of language schools in the city that cater to those who wish to immerse themselves and learn Spanish in Spain.
Shopping is a large part of life in Salamanca. Traditional family owned stores mix with many national and international retailers throughout the city. Calle Toro, which begins at the northwest corner of the Plaza Mayor, in particular has many options for shoppers.
The city also boasts a mall (centro commercial) which offers variety of stores and restaurants. However a car, bus or taxi ride is needed to access it.
Most stores open around 10AM, close for two or three hours during lunch time (2PM) and remain open until 9 PM. Almost all stores, including grocery stores, are closed on Sundays. There are a few convenience stores, known as 24 hour stores, which never close.
Lunch is Spain's big meal of the day, and Salamanca abides by that rule religiously. This means that restaurants will have their best food and their biggest portions anywhere from 1PM-3PM.
Dinner usually happens from 8PM-11PM, and isn't really a meal as such. In spite of the many restaurants open at dinner time (with a full menu), one of the traditional Spanish habits is to eat tapas with friends over a glass of wine, which consists of regional appetizers served at bars, restaurants, and cafeterías. In Salamanca there's no definitive guide to tapa-ing, instead, try to stroll around the center of the town and try different places and, who knows, meet new friends.
Locals gather slightly north of city center for their nightly tapas on a street named Van Dyck. The tapas here are generally of a higher quality and a lower price of those found near the plaza. Almost every street out from the center will have at least one small bar, and many of them will serve tapas. The price difference between having or not a tapa with your drink is negligible (around 2€ for each beer/wine+tapa, 20-30 cts less only the beer) so go on a try them!
Popular tapas are any sort of roasted pork parts: ribs (costilla), sausage (chorizo), ham (jamon), bacon (panceta) or face (jeta). Try the "pincho moruno", a brochette of pork pieces marinated in paprika and garlic. A local speciality (if you find it appealing) is "chanfaina" a spicy rice dish with liver and/or blood that is served in many bars as a tapa on Sundays.
In the summer most restaurants set tables outside for both lunch and dinner. Be forewarned that with the privilege of sitting outside you often get charged a euro or two extra per person.
Salamanca is atop the small portion of Spain where you can purchase jamon iberia (Iberian ham). This expensive pork is very rich, very expensive and in the opinion of most Salamancans the most delicious thing there is to eat.
Vegetarians will have to work a little bit to find food. Tortilla de patata is always a safe bet (a frittata-type thing with potato and egg) but it can get old after a while. Meat (especially pork) finds its way into a majority of dishes here. When you're asking waiters if a dish does not have meat (carne), make sure you specify that you don't want chicken (pollo) or fish (pescado) either.
You can drink a Cerveza in Plaza Del Mercado in San Justo. In spring students drink Botellones in the streets (San Roman).
Try one of the following bars: (all located very close to Plaza Mayor) Camelot, Puerto de Chus, Submarino, Moderno, Cum-Laude and El Sol
Chupiteria Daniel's, Paniagua, Potemkin, Plutos, Capitan Haddock, La Posada de las Almas, Niebla, and many more bars are excellent for a very late night out!
Book early - that's very early - if you are planning on staying in Salamanca during Easter (Semana Santa) or during the fiesta of the Virgen de la Vega.
Salamanca is considered to be one of the safest cities in Spain. Violent crime is for the most part unheard of. As with the rest of Spain, you should be aware of pickpockets, but they are less common in Salamanca than in the bigger cities.
While the streets are filled with international tourists and students from countries around the world most locals do not speak English. It is not uncommon to find even the hotel staff in Salamanca only able to speak Spanish to you. With that said, the locals are used to people butchering their language and are willing be patient with you.
Salamancans (Salmantinos in Spanish) are very schedule oriented. They wake up, work, eat, shop and sleep at around the same time every day. Almost all stores close at exactly 2PM for a few hours so the staff can lunch. This can be hard for outsiders to adjust to but it's something you have to deal with for however long you are in town.