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Location of Salamanca in Spain
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Salamanca (Castile and León)
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Salamanca (Europe)
Coordinates: 40°58′N5°40′W / 40.967°N 5.667°W / 40.967; -5.667
Country Spain
Autonomous community Castile and León
Province Salamanca
  Total38.6 km2 (14.9 sq mi)
802 m (2,631 ft)
 (2020) [1]
  Density3,800/km2 (9,700/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Area code(s) 34 (Spain) + 923 (Salamanca)
Official nameOld City of Salamanca
Criteria Cultural: (i)(ii)(iv)
Reference 381rev
Inscription1988 (12th Session)
Area50.78 ha (125.5 acres)
Buffer zone130.3 ha (322 acres)

Salamanca ( /ˌsæləˈmæŋkə/ SAL-ə-MANK, Spanish:  [salaˈmaŋka] ) is a city in western Spain and is the capital of the Province of Salamanca in the autonomous community of Castile and León. The city lies on several rolling hills by the Tormes River. Its Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. As of 2018, the municipality has a population of 143,978.


It is one of the most important university cities in Spain and supplies 16% of Spain's market for the teaching of the Spanish language. [2] [3] Salamanca attracts thousands of international students. [4]

The University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest western university. Pope Alexander IV gave universal validity to its degrees. [5] With 30,000 students, the university is, together with tourism, a primary source of income in Salamanca. It is on the Via de la Plata path of the Camino de Santiago.


Remains of a house at the archeological site of the Cerro de San Vicente (c. 800-400 BC), a hamlet assigned to the Early Iron Age. Salamanca. Cerro de San Vicente - 2.jpg
Remains of a house at the archeological site of the Cerro de San Vicente (c. 800–400 BC), a hamlet assigned to the Early Iron Age.

The city originates as a Celtiberian fort of the pre-Roman period, built by the Vaccaei or the Vettones as one of a pair of forts to defend their territory near the Duero river. In 220 BC Hannibal laid siege to the fort and captured it. [7] With the fall of the Carthaginians to the Romans, the city of Helmantica, as it was known, began to take more importance as a commercial hub in the Roman Hispania Lusitania due to its favorable location on a Roman road, known as the Vía de la Plata, which connected it with Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida) to the south and Asturica Augusta (present-day Astorga) to the north. Salamanca's Tormes bridge, built in the 1st century, was a part of this road.

The origin of the name is unknown. Polybius calls it Helmantike, while Ptolemy has Salmatike. Titus Livius and Plutarchus have Hermandica and Salmatike, respectively. Polyaenus has Salmantida or Salmatis. In a foundational myth, the city was associated with Teucer, mythological king of Salamis.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Alans established in Lusitania. Later the city was conquered by the Visigoths and included in their territory. The city was already an episcopal see, and signatures of bishops of Salamanca are found in the Councils of Toledo.

Salamanca surrendered to the Umayyad invasion, led by Musa bin Nusair, in 712 AD. The area from this city on the Tormes River north to the Duero River then became the main battlefield between the Christian kingdoms and the Muslim Al-Andalus rulers. The constant fighting of the Kingdom of León, later reinforced by union with the Kingdom of Castile, against the Caliphate depopulated Salamanca and reduced it to an unimportant settlement.[ citation needed ] After the battle of Simancas (939) the Christians resettled this area. After the 1085 seizure of Toledo by Alfonso VI of León and Castile, the definitive resettlement of the city took place. Raymond of Burgundy, instructed by his father-in-law Alfonso VI of León, led a group of settlers of various origins[ which? ] in 1102.

One of the most important moments in Salamanca's history was the year 1218, when Alfonso IX of León granted a royal charter to the University of Salamanca, although formal teaching had existed at least since 1130. Soon it became one of the most significant and prestigious academic centres in Europe.[ citation needed ]

A 1614 painting depicting a lecture at the University of Salamanca. Class at Salamanca.jpg
A 1614 painting depicting a lecture at the University of Salamanca.

The 15th century was plagued by social conflict and tensions among the urban elites (a complex development, often oversimplified as an infighting between bandos), with occasional outbursts of grave episodes of violence, conveying a chronic feeling of insecurity. [8]

The late 15th century population has been tentatively estimated at 15,000–25,000. [9] By the turn of the 16th century most of the population dwelled at the right (north) bank of the Tormes, with a small arrabal in the south bank inhabited by roughly 300 people. [10]

During the 16th century, the city reached its height of splendour (around 6,500 students and a total population of 24,000). During that period, the University of Salamanca hosted the most important intellectuals of the time;[ citation needed ] these groups of mostly-Dominican scholars were designated the School of Salamanca. The juridical doctrine of the School of Salamanca represented the end of medieval concepts of law, and founded the fundamental body of the ulterior European law and morality concepts,[ citation needed ] including rights as a corporeal being (right to life), economic rights (right to own property) and spiritual rights (rights to freedom of thought and rights related to intrinsic human dignity).

In 1551, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ordered an inquiry to find out if the science of Andreas Vesalius, physician and anatomist, was in line with Catholic doctrine. Vesalius came to Salamanca that same year to appear before the board and was acquitted.

Salamanca suffered the general downturns of the Kingdom of Castile during the 17th century, but in the 18th century it experienced a rebirth.[ citation needed ] In this period, the new baroque cathedral and main square (Plaza Mayor) were finished.

In the Peninsular War theatre of the Napoleonic Wars, the Battle of Salamanca took place on 22 July 1812 in the nearby fields of Arapiles, in which an Anglo-Portuguese Army led by Wellington decisively defeated the French army of Marmont. The western quarter of Salamanca was seriously damaged by cannon fire. The battle which raged that day is famous as a defining moment in military history [11] and thirteen thousand men were killed or wounded in the space of only a few short hours.

Salamanca City map in 1858. Slm1858.jpg
Salamanca City map in 1858.

During the devastating Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) the city quickly went over to the Nationalist side and was temporarily used as the de facto headquarters for the rebel faction. Francisco Franco was proclaimed Generalissimo on 21 September 1936 while at the city. In April 1937, the FET y de las JONS, the single party of the ensuing dictatorship, was created via a Unification Decree issued at the city upon the merging of the fascist Falange and the traditionalist carlists. The Nationalists soon moved most of the administrative premises to Burgos, which, being more central, was better suited for this purpose. However, some administrative apparatus, Franco's headquarters (located at the Palacio Episcopal, next to the Old Cathedral) and the military commands stayed in Salamanca, along with the German and Italian fascist delegations, making it the de facto Nationalist capital and centre of power during the entire civil war. [12] [13] Like much of fervently Catholic and largely rural Leon and Old Castile regions, Salamanca was a staunch supporter of the Nationalist side and Francisco Franco's regime for its long duration.

In 1988, the old city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1998, it was declared a European Capital of Culture for year 2002 (shared with Bruges). During 14 and 15 October 2005, it hosted the XV Ibero-American Summits of Heads of State and Governments.

Since 1996, Salamanca has been the designated site of the archives of the Spanish Civil War (Archivo General de la Guerra Civil Española). The original documents were assembled by the Francoist regime, selectively obtained from the administrative departments of various institutions and organizations during the Spanish Civil War as a repressive instrument used against opposition groups and individuals. [14] The socialist government moved the Catalan part of the archive to Barcelona in 2006 despite opposition from the local authorities and popular protests.



The city lies on the banks of the Tormes river, a major left-bank tributary of the Douro. It is also part of the Vía de la Plata, an ancient S–N path in Western Spain. [15] It is situated approximately 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of the Spanish capital Madrid [16] and 80 km (50 mi) east of the Spanish-Portuguese border.


With an altitude of over 800 meters, Salamanca has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb) according to the Köppen climate classification, with some cold semi-arid climate (BSk) climatic influences, resulting in large diurnal temperature variations, with hot summers and chilly winters, and nearly-semi-arid levels of precipitation. Salamanca doesn't have a real wet season. Most of the precipitation falls outside of the summer, with upticks at the end of the spring and during the winter; all winters have snow during few days per year, although heavy snowfalls are uncommon, but not unheard of. [17] The city averages around 7 days of snowy days per year, morning frost during winters is very common, as on a normal year, Salamanca has on average 76 days with low temperatures below freezing. [18]

Climate data for Salamanca Airport 790 m (2,590 ft) 1981-2010 normals, 1945-2021 extremes
Record high °C (°F)19.8
Average high °C (°F)8.6
Daily mean °C (°F)4.0
Average low °C (°F)−0.7
Record low °C (°F)−15.6
Average precipitation mm (inches)30
Average precipitation days65578422477764
Average snowy days2211000000117
Average relative humidity (%)82736362595247515971798365
Mean monthly sunshine hours 1181542112242653173583302511831301042,667
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología [19] [20]


Plateresque facade of the University of Salamanca. University of Salamanca and statue of Fray Luis de Leon.jpg
Plateresque façade of the University of Salamanca.

The University of Salamanca was founded in 1134 and in 1218 it was given the royal charter of foundation ("Estudio General") by Alfonso IX of León. It was the first university to receive the title of "University" in 1254. Under the patronage of the learned Alfonso X, its wealth and reputation greatly increased (1252–1282), and its schools of canon law and civil law attracted students even from the Universities of Paris and Bologna.[ when? ] In the 16th century, the city's fortunes depended on those of the University. About the time Christopher Columbus was lecturing there on his discoveries, Hernán Cortés took classes at Salamanca, but returned home in 1501 at age 17, without completing his course of study. (About ten years later the conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was born in Salamanca.)


Plaza Mayor at night WLM14ES - 03082013 234425 SALAMANCA 0609 - .jpg
Plaza Mayor at night

The city's economy is dominated by the university and tourism, but other sectors including agriculture and livestock rearing along with construction and manufacturing are also significant. Not surprisingly, in December 2007 83% of the working population, equivalent to 55,838, were employed in the service sector. [21]


Industrial activity accounted for 5% of the working population, or 3,340 workers employed over 360 businesses. [21] Two of the largest businesses, both of them numbered among the largest 100 enterprises in the region, are the veterinary vaccine manufacturer "Laboratorios Intervet", and the fertilizer specialist manufacturers S.A. Mirat, which is the city's oldest industrial company, having been established originally as a starch factory in 1812. [22]


The New Cathedral from the Tormes river Reflejos de la Catedrales de Salamanca.jpg
The New Cathedral from the Tormes river



The Roman bridge. Pont romain et cathedrales vieille et nouvelle de Salamanque (1967-08-07).jpg
The Roman bridge.

Other roads


Salamanca Airport, located in the military base of Matacán, is located about 14 km (9 mi) east of the city.

Public transport

There are 13 bus lines during the day and two night lines. Also, a tram line has been proposed. [23]

Culture and sports

The Old City of Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. [24] In 2002, Salamanca shared the title of European Capital of Culture with Bruges. In 2005, Salamanca celebrated the 250th anniversary of the construction of the Plaza Mayor with a number of European events (Plaza Mayor de Europa).[ citation needed ]


Holy Week

Holy Week procession. Procesion Cristo Amor-6.JPG
Holy Week procession.

The Holy Week in Salamanca (Semana Santa) is the most well-known feast in the city. Salamanca is renowned for the solemn and sober processions celebrated during Holy Week. 16 confraternities, 10,000 brothers or "cofrades", 50 floats or "pasos" celebrate the Passion of Christ with 20 processions and thousands of followers, tourist and visitors.[ citation needed ]

Some of the celebrations have been performed for centuries. The confraternities carry artistic pasos created by important Spanish artists such as Luis Salvador Carmona, Alejandro Carnicero or Mariano Benlliure. in 2003 the Semana Santa of Salamanca obtained the official declaration of International Touristic Interest. [25]


Salamanca is also famous throughout Spain and the rest of Europe for its celebrations of "Nochevieja Universitaria," loosely translated as "University New Year". [26] [ better source needed ] It is usually held on the Thursday of the last week of school in December and two weeks before the real New Year's Eve. On this day, students congregate in the Plaza Mayor, Salamanca to watch free performances and take part in the countdown to midnight.


Helmantico Stadium Estadio Helmantico - Spain vs China 2005.jpg
Helmántico Stadium

From 1923 onward, "Los Charros,” formally the Union Deportiva Salamanca, were the Salamanca football team. In 2013, the club went bankrupt and its activities were abandoned. [27] After its dissolution, some managers of the entity decided to refound the farm team to continue competing, maintaining the legacy of the historic club. Thus they created the Club de Fútbol Salmantino.

The first high jump over 8 feet (2.44 m) was made in Salamanca, by Javier Sotomayor in 1993. His jump, of 2.45 m (8 feet 0.46 inch), is still the world record in the event.

Local teams


The picturesque setting provided by the city has been featured in several films, including Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Miloš Forman's Goya's Ghosts . Alejandro Amenábar's 2019 historical film While at War is set in Salamanca and features scenes shot there. Salamanca was also the setting for the 2008 political thriller Vantage Point , although the movie was almost exclusively filmed in Mexico.


Typical hornazo. Hornazo (Salamaca)-Cerca01.JPG
Typical hornazo.

Among many local dishes, chanfaina  [ es ] (steamed rice with pork) is very popular. Another distinctive dish is the cocido, a slow-cooked chickpea-based casserole.[ citation needed ] However, hornazo , a meat pie, is the most popular dish.

Sister cities and twin towns

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

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Coordinates: 40°57′42″N5°40′03″W / 40.961612°N 5.667607°W / 40.961612; -5.667607