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Monday, September 3, 2007 (read 916 times)
9 things to love about Salamancaby Erin
Here are 9 things to love about Salamanca, selected a couple of years ago by Christophe Rousseel, a Belgian student and writer who worked with don Quijote during his internship. Christophe spent at least 4 or 5 months here, enough to offer all sorts of advice about how to enjoy Salamanca - by day and by night:
9 things to love about Salamanca
Nicknamed the Oxford of the Spanish world, the university of Salamanca boasts a student population of roughly 32000 Spanish students and some 6000 foreign students. There are even more students, since these figures don't include the considerable number of Spanish learners attending private schools in Salamanca. The high concentration of Spanish and foreign students - there is one student for every 3 or 4 Salmantinos - bestows a unique atmosphere on the small city.
Insiders will tell you that Salamanca nightlife can rival any other city in Spain. Or as they say here: Salamanca por la noche, como ninguna. Perhaps it's not as trendy as Barcelona or as acclaimed as Ibiza but Salamanca at night is custom-made for students. Prices are adapted to student budgets; 5 Euro for an open bar is no exception. The city is easy to get around: you can get anywhere on foot. It is also a lot safer than the bigger party capitals. And last but not least, nightlife is not at all limited to the weekends; you can go out seven days per week (although I advise against it).Notwithstanding the fact that it's a small city, Salamanca offers a plethora of bars and clubs: progressive, laid-back bars like "Birdland" on Plaza de España (named after the landmark jazz club in New York) or "Clavel Ocho" (near Gran Vía), cosy sidewalk cafés for a quiet talk (like "Erasmus" on Rua Antigua), crowded discotheques like "Khandavia" (on Bermejeros) or "Circus" (on Correhuela), the list is endless… Apparently there even are some after-hours clubs but seeing that after hours in Salamanca means after 9am I have never lasted long enough to get to know them. And if I did I wouldn't remember anyway…
When the sun hits Salamanca's sandstone architecture - and it usually does from May until October - the buildings radiate a pleasant, warm glow that earned Salamanca the nickname La Ciudad Dorada, the golden city. Some of the highlights are:
- Casa de las Conchas (house of the shells)
- The old Romanesque cathedral and the adjoining "new " cathedral, that combines late Gothic architecture with the Plateresque Renaissance style
- The Roman bridge over the river Tormes
- Casa Lis, an art nouveau mansion, now a museum
- El Convento de San Esteban (Saint Stephen's Convent)
- The University of Salamanca, a masterwork of Plateresque style
- And of course the Plaza Mayor, the pinnacle of the Spanish baroque style
This square, without a doubt one of the most beautiful public spaces in the entire world, bustles with life 24 hours per day. The entire city revolves around the Plaza Mayor, also known as the living room of the Salmantinos. Students and Salmantinos alike generally meet up with friends debajo del reloj, under the (Plaza's) clock.
While you're wandering through Salamanca's narrow, cobblestone streets, packed with historic buildings, the history of the place becomes palpable. Hernán Cortés dwelled in these same streets, as did Christopher Columbus, Ignatius Loyola and Miguel de Unamuno.
Salmantinos are a warm-blooded and loud-voiced lot, but always hospitable. By now they are accustomed to dealing with the droves of extranjeros coming and going from Salamanca.
The inhabitants of Salamanca are said to speak the purest Spanish in the world. For this reason it is a beloved destination for Spanish learners all over the world.
Unless you are a strict vegetarian you'll probably find your liking in Salamanca. Completely in tune with Spain's machista reputation, meat (especially pork) is abundantly available. Somewhat less macho but equally popular are all things sweet: cakes, biscuits, sweetmeats, confectionery, flan, marzipan,…And of course there are tapas: the most famous tapa neighbourhood stretches along "Calle Van Dyck".
You haven't really been in Spain unless you've sampled cava: the Spanish version of champagne. Connoisseurs may look down on cava but to a layman like me it's indistinguishable from its posher French counterpart… and a lot cheaper too, prices range from 1.5 Euro to 10 Euro.Then there are some other typically Spanish drinks that may seem peculiar at first but do give them a chance. Kalimocho for example (red wine and Coke) is no desecration of wine but an original way to make bad wine drinkable. The same goes for Tinto de Verano (red wine, seltzer, martini and lime) or Rebujito (white wine or cider with SevenUp or Sprite).