Top 5 "patios" in Salamanca
by John Bascombe on Thursday, April 10, 2014
When we visit a city we are almost never able to see what’s behind the doors of the homes and historic buildings that we pass by and when we do, more likely than not, we’re paying for a ticket to get in. Spain has many hidden nooks and crannies and Salamanca is no exception. The patio or claustro is a typical element in the construction of the buildings in Spain; even today you will find blocks of flats constructed with an interior patio. This means that some of the best tourist attractions aren’t even on the map and the tourist don’t know that they are even attractions! So I’m going to let you in on 5 hidden gems hiding behind the walls of some of the most historic buildings in Salamanca. If you’re looking to get off the beaten track and want to soak up some history, here is where you need to go when you are in Salamanca:
5. The patio of the Anaya Palace
This is one of the few neo-classical buildings found in Salamanca and was constructed at the end of the 18th century. Four big ionic columns meet you as you enter this university building that now houses the department of Spanish Philology and as you pass through the doors you will be met with a patio that has two galleries and a lot of classic columns—32 to be exact. It may be hard to meditate here since this is a building that holds classes but the view and relaxed atmosphere are worth it.
4. La Universidad Pontificia
The Pontifical University has an imposing patio located behind the walls of the La Clerecía church. This building was completed in 1754 and took almost a hundred and forty years to build. The patio, called El Patio de los Estudios, is found within four 4-story high walls built with the famous yellow sandstone that decorates many buildings in Salamanca. Imposing with a regal tone, you will be able to imagine a very different time as you are standing next to the well in the center.
3. Claustro de los Reyes
The Cloister of the Kings forms part of the Convento de San Esteban in the old town. This building can lay claim to the fact that Columbus slept here when he came to defend his theory about sailing west to reach India against some reluctant academics of his time. This Cloister was constructed at the end of the 16th century and has gothic and renaissance elements. Around the cloister there are some famous Spaniards buried here like Franciso de Vitoria or Domingo de Soto. Plus, in the center of the patio there is a beautiful shrine.
2. Have you seen the frog?
If you know what I’m talking about that means you’ve seen the façade to the old university building. This historic monument was constructed in 1553 and somewhere on the plateresque wall is a tiny frog and, no, I won’t tell you where it is. When you’ve finished looking for the frog be sure to go through the door and take in the patio that awaits you. Here you will find one of the few sequoia trees growing outside of the US right in the middle! Be sure to go upstairs to see the library that is located directly behind the façade. Although you can´t go in, there is a glass entryway that permits you to look inside.
1. The patio in the Colegio de Fonseca
This, for me is the most beautiful patio in Salamanca mostly because of the lawn and garden that is found here instead of the usual cobblestones found in so many others. The great thing about the Fonseca is that you can sleep here - but only if you are a visiting professor or have been invited by the university to visit. If you are lucky enough to be able to sleep here you will pay about 80 euros (around $110) and that price includes all your meals. This building was constructed in the 16th century and was founded by the Archbishop of Toledo, Alonso de Fonseca. Like many other buildings, this one was constructed with the purpose of giving a home to students that didn’t have the means to support themselves while they were pursuing their studies. If you don’t have the chance to sleep here at least you can have something to drink in the cafeteria next to entrance and you can contemplate one of the most beautiful spaces in Salamanca.
One thing to keep in mind when you are in Salamanca is to check out the events calendar in the local paper. Many times there are concerts, plays or movies that are held in these patios especially in the summer months. It’s a great way to soak up Spanish history and culture at the same time.
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