The monumental majesty of Salamanca

Silence and solemnity, passion and religious fervour, fine architecture and art: Spain's beautiful university city of Salamanca is a gorgeous setting for the traditional Easter processions. While the monumental old city is worth visiting at any time of year, Holy Week here is something extra special.

Travel is all about discovery, and to appreciate a place you need to know something of its history, its monuments and its art, as well as sampling regional cuisine and meeting local people. It also helps to experience the local festivities, whose roots stretch back through the centuries and combine history and culture into something quite unique. So, if you want to discover Salamanca, capital of the province of Salamanca in western Spain, one of the best times to visit is Holy Week, a festive period that is vitally important to this university city famed for its role in teaching the Spanish language. The renowned monuments of the city provide an atmospheric backdrop for the sumptuous processions of fine religious statuary, and for the religious fervour and passion that accompany them. Discover the great churches, palaces and mansions, as well as Spain's oldest university, in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the old city.

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Salamanca Holy Week procession
The Plaza Mayor with its traditional arcades is the setting for some of the most popular Holy Week processions of cofradias, the Catholic groups who dress anonymously in long robes and hoods to parade religious icons through the city at Easter and on other religious fiestas / © Tourism Salamanca 

Salamanca Holy Week procession
Miguel de Unamuno, novelist and philosopher born in Salamanca, said that the city seemed to be a secular setting of golden stone for the annual drama of the Easter Passion of Our Lord, and the monumental city is certainly a worthy backdrop for the pomp and magnificence of the Easter processions / © Tourism Salamanca / © Rafael Delgado 

Salamanca Holy Week procession
Some of the cofradias have their origins hundreds of years ago and the colour, style and detailing of the robes are full of symbolism / © Tourism Salamanca 

Roman Bridge, Salamanca
One of the approaches to Salamanca is by crossing the river Tormes by means of the Roman bridge built by the Emperor Trajan. It now connects the old walled city with the Ribera del Puente, a popular green space for walking and cycling / © Rafael Delgado 

Salamanca Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor, known to locals as simply “la plaza”, is a welcoming centre with modern bars alongside ancient coffee houses and plenty of space to sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere while you watch the world go by / © Rafael Delgado 

Salamanca Cathedral south entrance
The cathedral complex comprises two cathedrals, inseparable, but each with its individual identity: the old church dates from the twelfth century and is Romanesque, intimate and serene; the new, built in the sixteenth century, is a masterful blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque / © Rafael Delgado 

Salamanca Old Cathedral, altarpiece
The vast altarpiece of the Old Cathedral is one of the most important examples of European Gothic art and chronicles the lives of Jesus and the Virgin Mary / © Rafael Delgado 

Casa Lis, Salamanca
Casa Lis, which houses the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, boasts one of the finest collections of these artistic styles from Roaring Twenties / © Rafael Delgado 

San Esteban convent, Salamanca
La Plaza del Concilio de Trento offers a fine view of the detailed stone carvings of the facade of the San Esteban Convent, a magnificent reminder of the great power the Dominican Order once held / © Rafael Delgado 

University of Salamanca
Few can resist the challenge of the carvings of the University of Salamanca, though it can take a long time to search among the details and discover the frog sitting on a skull / © Rafael Delgado 

Casa de las Conchas, Salamanca
The Casa de las Conchas – the house of shells – now used as a library and exhibition gallery, is home to a delightful inner courtyard: a small cloister, with double galleries whose arcades display coats of arms 

Salamanca AUtomotive Museum
Housed in the city's old electricity plant, Salamanca's Museum of Automotive History features more than 200 vehicles dating from the late nineteenth century to the present / © Rafael Delgado 

Salamanca, Guijuelo ham
One of the specialities of the region's cuisine is Guijuelo ham, a cured ham from the town of Guijuelo in the south of Salamanca province, which has its own designation of origin / © Tourism Salamanca