Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to the teaching of the Spanish language. Salamanca supplies 16% of Spain’s market and attracts thousands of international students, generating a diverse multicultural environment. It is situated approximately 200 km (124 mi) west of Madrid and 80 km (50 mi) east of the Portuguese border. The University of Salamanca, which was founded in 1218, is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest western university. With its 30,000 students, the university is, together with tourism, the economic engine of the city. Salamanca is the capital of the province of Salamanca, which belongs to the autonomous community of Castile and León(Castilla y León). With a metropolitan population around 192,000 it is the second most populated urban area in Castile and León, after the capital Valladolid (369,000), and closely followed by Leon (187,000) and Burgos (176,000).
Sightseeing in the city, many of them within the «Old quarter», are:
La Plaza Mayor: of Baroque style, designed by architects Alberto and Nicolás Churriguera is the most important of public spaces and the heart of the city.
Campo de San Francisco: First public garden in the city on grounds of the former convent of San Francisco Real.
Huerto de Calixto y Melibea: Garden near to the cathedrals where, some say, lies the plot of the novel La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas. Besides it are remains of the Roman Walls.
Plaza del Corrillo: Small square adjacent to the Plaza Mayor. On the left is the Romanesque church of San Martín and the right a series of houses with porches formed by columns of stone completed in pads representing the days of the week (a moon for the Monday, a Mars for Tuesday, etc.).
The Main Square of Salamanca is the political centre of the city, the social centre and the main meeting point. The collective and the individual are both mixed in this point of reference, where the political life of the Town Hall offices and the one which is dreamt about at the cafés, make the Main Square become the heart that breathes blood and life into the city.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SEEN
As the central nucleus of the urban life, the main square has been being and still is the place where any kind of public activities takes place. The open arcades were built to receive the stalls of the dealers and the balconies to multiply the capacity for performances and celebrations. But the square has always been a place of encounters, especially for young people. Thus, not so many years ago, men used to walk around the square, walking the opposite way women did, with the only aim of seeing each other s faces. Nowadays, things seem to be more direct, but looks still play an important role.
From the urban point of view, this is the most important open space in the old part of the city of Salamanca. It is like a big living-room-hall, a place where into which all the ways flow and from which all the ways start. . .
The Main Square of Salamanca is the AESTHETIC CULMINATION of all the Castilian main squares. It is baroque, but it receives influences from other
styles: Herreriano and Renaissance.
Each of the spandrels of the archways of the square contains a medallion with a portrait. These are commemorative elements, which have an instructive purpose: exaltation of monarchy, evocation of the History of Spain and gallery of heroes and illustrious figures from Salamanca.
A Royal Gift
La Plaza was financed by the city in order to honour the arrival of king Felipe V. It presents a uniform an homogeneous architectural construction, although there is a different side, where the Town Hall is situated. This side has a palace façade which highlighted the municipal power in front of the rest of the owners of the square.
If you want to enjoy the beauty and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city, just take a sit in a terrace and devote yourself to observe and feel the pulse of the city, day or night.
Underneath the arches of the square, there are many cafés and bars. Civil servants, cattle raisers, students, lawyers, bull fighters, intellectual people, poets without poetry, professors of life…get together in these cafés in order to share the chattering of social gatherings; this is what happens at the Novelty Café, with the discreet and eternal presence of the hyper-realist sculpture of the writer Torrente Ballester.
EL CORRILLO SQUARE
From the Main Square, towards the south direction, there is an arch that goes directly to El Corrillo Square, a reminiscent vestige of the Castilian popular architecture, where the Church of San Martin is located. It used to be called “Corrillo de la yerba”, because it was a small place with high grass that was used as pasture for the animals that lived in the centre of the city. The tradition established that this high grass was justified because it was the border between San Martin side and that of San Benito, which was “nobody’s area”: the salmantinos never dared to cross or walk around it.
LOS BANDOS SQUARE
According to the metaphor of the popular thought, this place symbolises for the salmantinos the political ambition and the noble violence. It is surrounded by The
House of Maria la Brava, who is a figure that represents the fights of the nobility in Salamanca in the XIV and XV centuries. The nobility was divided in two opposite sectors that fought to get the control of the government of Salamanca and provoked a period of cruelties and revenges that involved all the city.
TORO Y ZAMORA
This square is the place where some streets, like Toro or Zamora streets, start; these streets used to receive the people who arrived in Salamanca to offer their goods after trespassing the doors of the wall. Nowadays, they are pedestrian areas with lots of shops.
Behind the right side of the plaza, under an iron structure, we can find the market which offers the products of the fields of Salamanca. It is the antithesis of the sophisticated shopping streets.
The square is the main element of the night life; the most famous pubs of the city are located in the east and west areas of the main square.
Information courtesy of Salamanca Tourist Board