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During the fall of 2004 I spent four months living in the legendary university town of Salamanca. Visiting nearly every city in Spain over the course of my stay in the country, I can honestly say I feel Salamanca is one of the most vibrant, charming, completely alive towns on the entire Iberian Peninsula.
Located smack dab in the center of town, the entire city is constructed around the Plaza Mayor square. With its grandly lit archways and expansive central floor, there are few ways better to enjoy an evening or afternoon than to grab a café con leche at a summer café in the open heat of the Plaza Mayor. Extending north from the Plaza is Calle Toro, the main shopping thoroughfare and the main gateway to the northern part of the city and the train station. Lacking a metro but offering decent public bus service, the majority of people in Salamanca opt to get around the old fashioned way of simply taking a stroll along the cobblestone streets.
While there are seemingly more bars around town than students, a large majority of the bars and nightlife options are located down Gran Via. While everyone has their own personal favorites, a perfect Salamanca night in my mind would consist of a small botellon at a park around town, heading to La Chupiteria for some early evening chupitos, down Gran Via to Medievo for more drinks and dancing, back up to the student-happy and legendary Irish Rover, and then either to Risko’s or Leonardo’s for some late night burgers, or to a late-night club such as Circus for an all night bender. In Spain, everything is shifted back a couple of hours in terms of nighttime festivities. Dinner finishes at 10 or 11pm, and many clubs don’t even get going until 2 or 3am, with the latest ones closing around 8 or 9 in the AM. Simply put, it’s easy to tie one on while you’re in Spain. Those interested in Salamanca nightlife can check out salamancafiesta.com
While the nightlife is a large draw for many towards Salamanca, no chapter on the area would be complete without mention of the University. Set in and amongst the base of two towering cathedrals, the Univerisity of Salamanca is one of the oldest on the entire European continent, and its sprawling campus and traditionally classic architecture is still a draw for university students the world over.
Those looking to break a sweat can head down to either the Salas Bajas athletic complex across the river on the south side of down, or out to the Aldahuela complex on the far outskirts of town. The Aldahuela complex also plays hose to the weekly rastro, or flea market, where local goods can be bought and sold at the usual fraction of the cost of stores around the Plaza Mayor.
An incredibly proud people, residents of Salamanca and Castilla-Leon truly believe that their city is one of the best places in the world to call home. Sitting in the grandeur of the Plaza Mayor, staring up at brilliantly illuminated cathedrals, watching a sea of pedestrians out for a late evening stroll, it is really hard to argue that they aren’t exactly right.