Coming from Spain, the Douro flows from east to west across Portugal, then out into the Atlantic at Porto. In the old days, skippers still transported barrels to the wineries by boat, but today proud vineyards still adorn the riverbanks and along the river, medieval towns captivate with their beauty. This region attracted Romans, pilgrims, and aristocrats, all of whom created idyllic gems here. One of our most popular stops along the Douro is the stunning ancient city of Salamanca, in Spain, and today, that’s the focus of our blog.

Salamanca – A Brief Overview

Salamanca is a city in western Spain, located in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is known for its rich history, architectural beauty, and prestigious university, which is one of the oldest in Europe.

Historical Significance: Salamanca has a history that dates to the pre-Roman era. It became an important Roman settlement and later thrived under the rule of various kingdoms. The city’s historical centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Plaza Mayor: One of the main attractions is Plaza Mayor, a magnificent square considered one of the most beautiful in Spain. It features a baroque style and is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists.

University of Salamanca: Founded in 1218, the University of Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. It played a significant role in the cultural and intellectual development of the country. The university’s buildings, such as the famous Plateresque façade of the Escuelas Mayores, are impressive examples of Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

Cathedrals: Salamanca is home to two stunning cathedrals. The Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja) is a Romanesque structure dating back to the 12th century. The New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva) is a Gothic masterpiece built in the 16th century. Both cathedrals are connected and can be visited together.

Casa de las Conchas: This iconic building is known for its unique façade decorated with more than 300 shells. It was built in the late 15th century and currently houses a public library.

Festivals: Salamanca hosts several popular festivals throughout the year. The most famous is the Semana Santa (Holy Week) procession, which takes place in the week leading up to Easter. The city also celebrates the Feria de Salamanca in September, featuring cultural events, concerts, and traditional bullfights.

Salamanca is a captivating city with a unique blend of history, culture, and youthful energy. Its architectural treasures, vibrant atmosphere, and renowned university make it a must-visit destination for river cruise guests exploring Spain on a Douro cruise.

The History of Salamanca

The history of Salamanca spans over two thousand years, with evidence of human settlement in the area dating back to the prehistoric era.

Roman Era: The city was originally known as Helmantica and became an important Roman settlement during the 1st century BC. It served as a strategic location on the trade route between the north and south of the Iberian Peninsula.

Visigothic and Moorish Rule: Following the decline of the Roman Empire, Salamanca came under the control of the Visigoths in the 5th century. The region was later invaded by the Moors in the 8th century, and Salamanca became part of the Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus.

Reconquista and Christian Rule: The city was recaptured from the Moors by the Christian forces during the period known as the Reconquista. Salamanca became a frontier town on the Christian Kingdom of León’s southern border.

Foundation of the University: In 1218, Alfonso IX of León founded the University of Salamanca, making it one of the oldest universities in Europe. The university played a crucial role in the intellectual and cultural development of Spain and attracted scholars from various disciplines.

Golden Age and Renaissance: During the 15th and 16th centuries, Salamanca experienced a period of great prosperity and cultural flourishing. The city became a hub of learning and attracted renowned scholars and artists. Many of the city’s architectural gems, such as the Plaza Mayor and the university buildings, were constructed during this time.

Modern Era and Contemporary History: In subsequent centuries, Salamanca experienced periods of economic decline and political unrest. The city played a significant role in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and its university suffered during the Franco dictatorship. However, with the return of democracy in Spain, Salamanca has regained its status as a vibrant cultural and educational centre.

Today, Salamanca stands as a testament to its rich history, with its well-preserved architectural heritage, prestigious university, and status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s historical significance and cultural vibrancy attract tens of thousands of river cruise guests each year.

Salamanca - lET'S eXPLORE tHE gOLDEN cITY

The Iberian Experience

In 2024, nicko cruises will be offering several sailings during which guests can enjoy an optional day excursion to the city of Salamanca on our Iberian Experience itinerary. Lunch is included on this tour and it’s always popular with guests.

The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, characterised by steep slopes and stunning wine terraces. On this cruise you will explore the beauty of Porto’s architecture and be transported back to the Middle Ages in the charming cities of the Portuguese hinterland. The Spanish city of Salamanca is a “living museum” where you can practically touch history in the form of centuries-old buildings. You will also be able to take a guided tour through the tranquil city of Pinhão, for dinner at a traditional vineyard, before visiting charming city of Guimarães.


Sailings Featuring Salamanca 

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