While studying abroad in Granada, I’d heard so many rave reviews of Salamanca, the university city nestled in the north-western region of Castilla y León. It boasts the oldest university in the country, and also one of the most impressive cathedrals (which says a lot in cathedral-laden Spain). This year I finally got the opportunity to visit on the way back from Morocco, as we were flying into Madrid and Salamanca is only a 2-hour bus ride away.
We arrived at the city at night, and were greeted by the lit-up cathedral, perched across the river on a towering hill. I could instantly see what all the hype was about.
In our two days there, we explored the tiny city on foot, appreciating its Roman bridge, riverfront, the old university (blowing the University of Granada buildings out of the water), the cathedral, and Plaza Mayor, an enormous square that gives Madrid’s a run for its money. We were lucky with absolutely impeccable weather, and spent one afternoon napping in the plaza and soaking up the rays, trying to get a base tan before heading back to Bilbao’s inevitable rain.
But the real highlight of Salamanca were the tapas. Who new a place so delicious and cheap existed?! We hit home runs with all the bars we stumbled into, where we tried decadent pintxos of codfish, paella, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and mini lentil burgers for the budget-approved pricetag of 70 cents a pop. Bilbao is very affordable compared to the U.S., but double the price of much of the rest of Spain, so Salamanca was truly a shocking treat. Between the architectural beauty and the affordability of Salamanca, it was hard not to fall completely in love. In fact, it reawakened a love-affair with Spain that I haven’t truly felt since Granada. Basque Country is wonderful, but as the Basques themselves will tell you, it’s NOT Spain—for good and bad.
So hear my cry: If you plan a trip to Spain, make sure to include this lively university city on your itinerary. Salamanca deserves the hype.