There is an old joke about a diner sitting down at a restaurant where among its offers and deals there is a sign that says "Breakfast Anytime", leading the punter to make the following request: "I'll have an English breakfast in the Renaissance". How this request went down is open to interpretation but it can be said that one would be hard-pressed to get closer to fulfilling it than visiting Salamanca in western Spain.
Nicknamed the Golden City (La Ciudad Dorada), Salamanca is one of Europe's finest examples of Renaissance architecture but it is the sandstone in use across much of the area that lends the unique sun-baked yellowish hue.
For a complete primer on the town, see our travel guide to Salamanca before you arrive but if you're considering a visit, a quick word of warning for anyone with even a moderately sweet tooth: although to some degree this is the case across much of Spain, the out-of-this-world selection of sweets on offer in Salamanca is, well, out of this world. Some of the standouts are Mazapanes (marzipan), Amarguillos (almond biscuits), Roscas (doughnuts), Almendras Garrapinadas (candy almonds) and Bollo Maimon (local sponge cake).
Given its inland location near the Portuguese border and proximity to Madrid, Salamanca's climate is harsher that that found in many of the coastal resorts in Spain, particularly in winter when temperatures can drop to freezing so come prepared. Cheap flights to Madrid are easy to find, however, and the journey on to Salamanca is short.
Much of Salamanca life is focused on La Plaza Mayor, a central square that has the reputation as one Spain's finest. There can be no arguing the fact that it is certainly impressive - and imposing. Built from the traditional sandstone, it was designed by Alberto Churriguera and completed in 1755. Today it serves as a meeting point for tourists and locals alike and houses the Salamanca city hall. Shops and cafes within its confines ensure that all visitors' needs are catered for.
The local cathedral is in fact made up of two inter-connected cathedrals: La Nueva and La Vieja (the new and old). The original structure dates back to the 12th century and features the work of Nicolás Florentino and his depictions of the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The new cathedral, completed in the 18th century, stands as a fine example of Gothic architecture.
In addition to touring the town's Gothic architecture, two local museums are also worth a visit. Salamanca's Bullfighting Museum outlines the history of the uniquely Spanish pastime and also features a section dedicated to art depicting the subject. Those who book flights to Spain to enjoy a less gory aspect of the culture may prefer the History Museum of Salamanca offers a perspective on the town from bygone eras with the help of ancient artifacts and plans of the area.
It is also a university town with more than 40,000 students calling it home but like much of Salamanca, this is no ordinary institution of higher learning as it opened close to 800 years ago in 1218, making it one of the oldest in Europe. The students make up close to a quarter of the town's population and give Salamanca a lively feel that sets off its old-world appearance.
For more information on local destinations, be sure to check the travel guide to Spain before setting off.