Salamanca and Toledo: Spain on a smaller scale

Often overlooked in favour of the major cities, Spain’s smaller cities are well worth a visit.

It’s not too difficult to see the appeal of Spain. The lifestyle, food and culture alone can be enough to make you envy those who call the country home. While Barcelona and Madrid are both great places to visit, if you’re planning on being in that part of the world anytime soon, you’d be well-served not to overlook the smaller cities.

Recently, on our Christmas holiday around Europe, we were lucky to visit both Salamanca and Toledo. You can catch the train via Madrid from one to the other, and I can highly recommend both. Here’s why.

In the northwest of Spain, Salamanca is somewhat of a university town, home to the Universidad de Salamanca. After disembarking the train bleary eyed and freezing, the main reason not to miss this city became clear. Our taxi pulled up to what I initially assumed was a castle, but it soon became apparent that this was in fact our hotel.

castle in spain

The entire city is built using sandstone featuring ornate architecture. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. If you’re even the slightest bit OCD, you will appreciate how beautiful the matching buildings are, and how much this contributes to that ‘special’ feeling one has when visiting Salamanca.

sj and kaye in spain

With an abundance of stunning buildings and squares, this is a true glimpse at Spanish life, with most people speaking limited English. The coffee and tapas are worth writing home about. However, it’s worth mentioning that if you order churros before lunchtime, don’t expect to receive any chocolate in which to dunk them. The locals eat them as a breakfast dish and the closest you’ll get is a hot chocolate to dip them in, which, in my humble opinion, is simply not the same. So, to avoid that early morning disappointment, my advice is to seek them out for afternoon tea or dessert instead!

Castilla La Mancha Toledo Spain

Equally as breathtaking is Toledo. Set high above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, the historic city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues dotted all around the city, Toledo has been likened to that of an ‘open-air museum’. It’s also known as the ‘city of the three cultures’, because Christians, Arabs and Jews have lived together there for centuries.

History lesson aside, the walled city is quite a sight to behold and looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. Exploring the narrow cobblestone streets is an experience in itself. And, similar to Salamanca, it’s not just a pretty face, offering a rare realistic insight into how the Spanish live.

One or two nights is all you’ll need to explore smaller city Spain, so if you’re headed to Barcelona, Madrid, or one of Spain’s other major cities, why not add a quick stop in Salamanca or Toledo to your itinerary? It will be well worth your while!

Here's a look at some of my favourite travel photos taken in Spain.

somewhere in spain

somewhere in spain

somewhere in spain

somewhere in spain

somewhere in spain

somewhere in spain

When have you gotten off the beaten track while travelling? In your experience, was it worth it to visit a smaller city?

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    COMMENTS

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    Rod63
    27th Feb 2016
    9:37am
    I visited Toledo in 1993. I thought it was magic.
    SJ
    10th Mar 2016
    10:55am
    And 13 years later I think it still is!
    grandpa
    27th Feb 2016
    9:56am
    I was born in Spain and came to Australia as a child, I have gone back to visit three time and every time I find it more fascinating. Madrid and Barcelona are big cities and not that interesting as far as I'm concern. My favourite place would be between Santiago the Compostela and Cordoba where I was born. Both are steeped in history and there's is an atmosphere you can't find in big cities. I have visited both Salamanca and Toledo and are everything you said. There's so many other cities to explore that I can't wait to return and find more places to visit. Cordoba was founded by the Romans and was the capital of Roman Western provinces during that time, then it became the capital of Europe during the Ottoman occupation and a centre of learning and architecture. The Cathedral built in the centre of the great Mosque is World Heritage Listed and a sight to see. I encourage everyone to explore the real Spain.
    SJ
    10th Mar 2016
    10:54am
    Thank you so much for sharing - it's so nice to here insider knowledge from a local.

    I'm glad you agree with my portrayal of Toledo and Salamanca - it's hard to put into words how different they are from the bigger cities and their unique beauty.

    Definitely adding Cordoba to my bucket list :)
    Alexia_x
    27th Feb 2016
    3:32pm
    All of Spain is magic!
    SJ
    10th Mar 2016
    10:52am
    Here here.
    Arisaid
    27th Feb 2016
    6:29pm
    We will be visiting Salamanca and Toledo in April/May. Also quite a number of other places. (including Cordoba Grandpa) We have been to Spain before but went down the Med Coast, along the bottom and into Portugal. Looking forward to seeing a different Spain this time and have more time eating tapas and drinking Mojitos and Rioja!!
    SJ
    10th Mar 2016
    10:51am
    Lucky you! Yes, a very different side but equally, if not more so, beautiful.

    I loved Portugal. Where else will you be going on your trip?
    Y2c
    28th Feb 2016
    1:37pm
    You've got to try and find the FROG in Salamanca
    SJ
    10th Mar 2016
    10:50am
    Yes! Sadly I didn't...any clues?


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