The oldest university in the world is the University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088 and counts Dante Alighieri as an alumnus. But Bologna is also Italy’s culinary epicenter, thanks in part to iconic pasta dishes like tortellini en brodo and tagliatelle alla Bolognese (the meat sauce known the world over). The Grand Hotel Majestic “già Baglioni”, in the heart of Bologna, is steeped in history—it’s built on top of an ancient Roman road, which is partially visible within the hotel.
St. Andrews, Scotland
St. Andrews is home to Scotland’s oldest university and, famously, is where Prince William met his future wife Kate Middleton. Golf has been played in the area since the 15th century and the tradition continues at one of the oldest and, perhaps, most prestigious golf clubs in the world, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Local non-golf landmarks include the ruins of both St Andrews Castle and St. Andrews Cathedral, at one time Scotland’s largest building. For lodging, visit the Old Course Hotel located adjacent to the iconic course’s 17th hole.
Hungary’s fourth-largest city is also home to its most prestigious university, the University of Szeged. Every July and August, the city’s central Dóm square is turned into a massive performance venue for the annual Open-Air Festival. The city is well regarded for its cuisine (and the local paprika), so try specialties like the spicy, freshwater-fish stew Halászlé and Szeged’s world-famous salami brand, Pick. Hungary is known for its bath and sauna culture, and a great way to experience it is by staying at the Hotel Forrás, where guests can visit the large adjacent spa complex.
About 50 miles north of Stockholm, Uppsala is the country’s religious and educational capital. Uppsala University is the oldest university in Sweden, while the city also includes the country’s largest church—the Domkyrka (built in the 13th century) and the 16th-century Uppsala Castle. About ten miles southeast of the city is Linnaeus’ Hammarby, a botanical garden and former summer home of the famous 18th-century naturalist, Carl Linnaeus. Go shopping on the pedestrian-only Svartbäcksgatan and stay at the boutique Villa Anna.
Salamanca, in Castile and León near the Portuguese border, is home to the University of Salamanca, Spain’s oldest university. The UNESCO-listed city center combines elements of Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture: Check out the tour of the Ieronimus, the medieval towers of the city’s Old Cathedral, which, after a long winding climb, offer sweeping 360-degree views of the city. Stay at the Hotel Don Gregorio, a 15th-century palace in Salamanca’s historic quarter that has been converted into a 17-room boutique hotel.
Montpellier’s namesake university, founded in 1289, is known for having one of the oldest and most distinguished medical schools in the world.
Despite a plum South of France location, it doesn’t get the crush of tourists that the Riviera does, so expect lower prices and fewer lines. Visit the city’s main square, the Place de la Comédie, to enjoy a cafe au lait, and then enjoy the weather on nearby beaches like Palavas les Flots or Petit Travers.
Leuven is home to the oldest Catholic university in the world, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (aka the University of Leuven). But there’s more here than just religion and education. Leuven is the birthplace of Stella Artois beer and home to the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer company. Grab a drink at Leuven’s Oude Markt: This old market is now a row of 40-odd bars and cafes and is jokingly nicknamed «the longest bar in the world.»
Myth has it that Kraków was founded above the cave of a dragon that the city’s legendary founder, Krakus, had killed. Now, the city is home to the country’s most distinguished academic institute, Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364. The city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, including the Kazimierz district and its historic synagogues, Gothic St. Wenceslas Cathedral, and the university itself.
Heidelberg is the home of Germany’s oldest university. Lovely Teutonic touches dot the area, like the red sandstone Heidelberger Schloss—the dramatic Renaissance-era castle that overlooks the town and Neckar river, and the Old Town (Altstadt) with its famous Hauptstrasse, one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Germany. Book your stay atDie Hirschgasse Heidelberg, the oldest hotel in town and mentioned by Mark Twain in his book A Tramp Abroad. After World War II, the U.S. Army built a large barracks in the city, so locals are familiar with American tourists hanging about.
The ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, a seat of education for nearly 1,000 years. The city itself is steeped in history—buildings in Oxford represent every period of architecture in England since the arrival of the Saxons. You can picnic at the 74-acre University Parks just northeast of the city center, peruse more than 8,000 plant varieties in the oldest botanical garden in Great Britain, and shop for books at the historic Blackwell’s, founded in 1879 and home to one of the largest rooms devoted to book sales in the world, The Norrington Room.-
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