Salamanca! Even the name has a resonance of history. And it truly has history in abundance.

Salamanca is home to the third oldest university in Europe, and is still today one of the most important centres of education in Spain, with more than 40,000 students studying there. Like other ancient seats of learning, the university of Salamanca is an architectural treasure trove as well as a place to study. The university building was founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX and the main building from the 15th century is still there today, still used as a major part of the university.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, SpainThe university and all the other old buildings in the centre of Salamanca are constructed in a golden sandstone called Villamayor, giving a unifying warmth to the disparate styles that have been used over the centuries. One of those buildings is the Hotel Rector, in an ideal central location for visitors close to the university, Casa Lis art museum, Plaza Mayor, and every other important sight.

The cathedral in Salamanca consists of the "Old" and the "New". The old cathedral was begun in 1140 and took more than a century to complete (so Gaudí's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is not going that slowly after all!). By the beginning of the 15th century Salamanca felt it needed a newer, bigger and more splendorous cathedral and this was constructed on the same site to the design of Egas and Rodriges. Salamanca Cathedral, SpainIt is obviously a fine cathedral as Salamancans have gone for the last six centuries without feeling the need to build yet another one.

Like many places in Spain, it was the Romans who first made their mark on this spot, and the Roman bridge still survives, having been built in the year 89. This was the crossing point of the River Tormes by the Roman "silver route" which ran from Mérida to Astorga.

A further place of interest is the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells), unsurprisingly named because the outside of the building is decorated with shells. Dating from the late 15th century, it represents several different architectural styles such as late Gothic, Renaissance and Mudejar, all integrated by the distinctive shells.

Salamanca is a lively mixture of history and modernity as befits an ancient and modern university town, a UNESCO World Heritage City, with so much for visitors to see and do. In winter, the weather can be cold and rainy, so we recommend a visit somewhere between April and November when the climate is dry, with comfortable temperatures.

5 Feb 2016, 17:54