Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor – Castile and Leon, Spain

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.

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