Thursday, August 28, 2014

Plaza Mayor

One of the most breathtaking sights Salamanca has to offer is undoubtedly the Plaza Mayor, it's a must see for anyone visiting Salamanca, and is incredible both by day and by night. I thought I would write a little bit about the history of the square and about its uses in the modern day.

The construction of the Plaza Mayor was ordered by king Filipe V and began in 1729. The square was designed by the Churriguera family, famous for their baroque style architecture which can be seen in many cities throughout spain,  and was first overseen by Alberto Churriguera between 1729-35. Then with the second phase of building came Alberto's nephew Manuel de Larra between 1750-1755. The City Hall was also added in 1755 by Andrés Garcia de Quiñones. Similar to many buildings in Salamanca, the square was built in sandstone. Due to this Salamanca has been nicknamed 'the golden city' due to the golden hue many of the buildings give off when hit by the sunlight, and when lit up by the nigh time lights.

The Plaza is an irregular square, designed this way on purpose out of respect for the church of San Martín. None of its facades have the same height, though each side has three floors aside from the main facade. The Plaza has six entrances leading off to different streets in the city, and has a clock tower on the main facade which in the original design was supposed to have two towers either side of it. However due to fears that the building would not support the weight of these towers the plans were shelved. The city hall is also located within this main facade, and on its face you can see medallions of famous Spanish people, such as Charles I, Cervantes and St. Teresa.  Surrounding the plaza are some 88 arches and more than 200 balconies, which are now home to hotels and private residences.

The Plaza was originally used for bullfighting, and continued to host bullfights for a 100 years after the plaza was built before the more popular circular bullrings came to Spain. It has been a meeting place for people of the city for many years, and when the city's commerce was based around the trade of farm animals and produce people used to meet in the Plaza to sell their goods. Nowadays the Plaza is still a very popular meeting place for people of Salamanca. It is lined with cafés, bars, restaurants and shops and often hosts live concerts. One café that is worth a visit is the 'Café Novelty' as it has been in the same place in the Plaza Mayor for over 100 years and has some of the best ice creams in the city on offer! From the 8th to the 15th of September Salamanca holds one of its biggest festivals of the year, and during this time you can find live music, theatre acts and craft stalls filling the Plaza with people for the whole week.

So if you do come to Salamanca, make sure you come to take a look at the Plaza Mayor, why not sit and enjoy an ice cream during the day watching the world go by, or come and have a drink and sit outside at one of the many bars there, you might even catch some live music if you're lucky!

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