Originally a fortified Roman camp, the historic university town of Salamanca, Spain, is an architectural delight with its narrow cobblestoned streets and buildings carved from a unique golden stone.
The town used to be a summer resort for Madrid's wealthiest families (only 130 mi/210 km to the southeast), and it retains an air of propriety.
Plaza Mayor, surrounded by four-story buildings with baroque ironwork, is one of the most beautiful in Spain (and, until 150 years ago, the site of bullfights). Outdoor cafes surround the square, and the streets that lead from it have great shopping (especially clothing and shoe boutiques).
A bit southwest of Salamanca toward the border with Portugal, the old military post and walled city of Ciudad Rodrigo is worth a night's stay. Set on the banks of the Agueda River, it's a fun town to explore: See the eight city gates, walk through its narrow and winding streets, and tour the 12th-century cathedral and 15th-century Palacio de los Castro (a beautiful home).
Stay at (or at least visit) the parador, a castle that's been converted into a hotel. If you're there during Carnival, you can watch the fighting bulls run through barricaded streets.
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