Why should I choose Salamanca for my year abroad?
This jewel of a town owes much of its fame to its world-renowned university, Universidad de Salamanca, founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX. Famous alumni include none other than conquistador par excellence, Hernán Cortés, the Spanish queen, Isabella la Católica and Christopher Columbus lectured there in his heyday. Boy, talk about a history lesson. Today, you may not meet the next world explorer at the university, but you'd be hard pushed to find better language schools than the ones that about this little town (Instituto Cervantes can have you cedilla-ring in no time).
The university is still popular, with more than 30,000 students paving its corridors daily. If you happen to be standing at the entrance of the university itself, make sure you examine it very carefully. For somewhere amongst the puzzle of heraldic stone carvings is the emblem of a small frog. Legend has it that any student, who is able to spot this frog motif without any assistance, will be blessed with good luck!
The town is praised for its magnificent historical buildings and architecture styles (even the public library is a sight to behold). So much so, in fact, that it earned the title of 'European Cultural City of the year' in 2002 and was declared a world heritage city by UNESCO. Locals will tell you that the best way to experience Salamanca's treasures is simply to see it all by foot, for walking through Salamanca truly feels as though you've taken a step back in time. But this doesn't mean to say that old, historic Salamanca doesn't know how to party.
Thanks to its important student population, little tapas bars with lively music have mushroomed across the town, and a fair few clubs ensure that students can boogie from time to time. Put your Borges to bed for the night, and party with the locals, trying out (at least once) the bar de litros, fine drinking establishments offering, quite literally, drinks by the litre, for a mere €3 last time we checked. If you don't really fancy any paint stripper going down your gusset, you could always head to Casco Histórico, a popular area with students, foreign and local alike. All in all, a feisty little academic town!
- Recent graduate, Andrew, has set up Salamanca Students based on his year abroad experiences.