Lifestyle & Culture

Mónica Da Silva: Salamanca is Spain’s best kept secret

Salamanca is a small city located in the northwest of Spain only two hours away from Madrid. It’s a student city, so most of its activity and economy revolves around the University of Salamanca. It is also a very international city because it’s a famous Erasmus destination. The University of Salamanca is the oldest Spanish university, one of the oldest in Europe and it was extremely relevant during the Renaissance when matters of human rights started being discussed. 

I came here for six months with the Erasmus+ programme as a part of my Bachelor’s in European Studies and I’m absolutely in love with this city. In fact, I like it so much that I’ve decided to stay for a year!

For some time I’ve been struggling to settle down in one place. There are just so many beautiful places in the world that having to choose only one, makes me very anxious.  Now, this doesn’t mean I’ve decided to settle down in Salamanca. I still have this lust for being on the road, but for now I must admit I feel very comfortable here.

What makes Salamanca special

For me to feel comfortable living in a certain place, there must be a combination of things that I haven’t even been able to put into words yet. So, I will try and list everything that I love about Salamanca, and hopefully figure out what’s so special about it for me. 

First of all, I love how small and walkable the city is. I’ve only used public transportation twice since September because it’s easier and faster to walk everywhere. I am definitely not a fan of huge cities. Also, architecture is definitely a must for me! I love being surrounded by beautiful ancient buildings, I love this feeling of looking around me and seeing human-made beauty. It’s the same feeling I had when I visited Porto. The city center of Salamanca was actually declared as a World Heritage site in 1988. 

But, of course, not everything is rainbows and flowers. Something I’m still trying to adapt to is siesta time, everything is closed after lunch for at least two or three hours and I have lost count of how many times I have tried to run errands, get ready, leave the house only to realize that everything is closed. Siesta time is a thing in Spain in general, not only in Salamanca, but I’m still not used to it. 

Second of all, people have been nothing but kind to me, it seems they are used to an international crowd. I have never had any bad experiences since I’ve arrived and that’s more than I could say about Lisbon, for example. I find Spanish people to be very straightforward when communicating, but rarely to the level of being rude. 

Party nightlife is not necessarily my cup of tea and because of the high numbers of young people, there are so many clubs, bars and pubs everywhere. However, I feel a lack of spaces and night-time activities for people like me who aren’t so into partying. I guess I’m not the business target for nightlife in Salamanca!

There is, however, a beautiful place to go anytime of the day that I love, which is the Tormes River. 

Finally, the University of Salamanca is also one of the most recognized places for learning Spanish. A lot of students come here to either start from zero or improve their Spanish language skills. They offer several courses of different lengths for each level. Plus, there are some specialized courses to adapt to the needs of each student, such as: business Spanish, international finances, Spanish culture and Spanish art. 

Here are some wonderful places I’m currently obsessed with: 

Magenta Café 

It’s a cozy family-owned café where I spend more time than I’d like to admit. Everyone in the city knows about their delicious cakes. They don’t offer whole menus, but they have freshly made tapas all day long. Also, the vegetables they use are organic and locally grown. Did I mention everything is vegetarian with some vegan options and they make the best matcha latte in Salamanca? Honestly, I like to be as impartial as possible when writing about restaurants, cafés and bars, but I only have good things to say about the place. 

Café Atelier

I’m actually very lucky that this place isn’t closer to where I live because otherwise, I would be going there everyday for a delicious lunch. This is also a vegetarian café with vegan options but they do offer lunch menus that vary everyday. After lunch, they offer yummy fresh tapas. The staff is really nice and attentive and their food is healthy, homey and definitely life-changing. Either if you live in Salamanca or are just passing by, this place is a must go. 

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Mónica da Silva is half-Venezuelan, half Portuguese and has lived in Venezuela, Portugal, Spain and Germany. She has studies linguistics and has a Bachelor’s Degree in European Studies. Besides contributing to Dispatches, she works remotely as an English teacher, which allows her to be on the move as often as she wants. 

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