Spain’s Most Beautiful Square
No nation has as many World Heritage Cities as Spain, and of its six municipalities so designated by UNESCO, Salamanca may be the most delightful. Visitors naturally gravitate to the heart of the town, the lovely 18th-century Baroque Plaza Mayor.
All the ancient city’s other attractions are within walking distance, but linger awhile here to take in the spirit of Salamanca. What was once Europe’s most important university was founded here in 1218 by Alfonso IX, and its current population of 15,000 students keeps the city young and vibrant.
They fill the cafe tables that pour out from the plaza’s shaded arcades—no one seems to be studying. Visitors and locals alike wind up here in the Plaza Mayor at some point, often serenaded by the roving groups of caped student minstrels.
A “new” 16th-century cathedral stands cheek by jowl with an older and smaller Romanesque sibling. Both are must-see sites. So is the Hotel Rector, formerly the private mansion of a wealthy family. They now live upstairs, and leave fourteen faultlessly decorated rooms below for travelers in the know.