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Do not miss the chance to witness a fado performance. In Coimbra, local tradition dictates that men sing these romantic laments to women. And if you are lucky enough to visit in May, you will be rewarded by the memorable Queima das Fitas, or the Burning of the Ribbons - a festival to commemorate the end of the academic year. Join students in the traditional serenade in front of the cathedral, which kicks off a week of wine-fuelled parties, dances, and celebratory rituals. Make sure to toast the graduates with a drink of aguardente, or fire water.

Salamanca, Spain
Pillaged by Hannibal, captured by the Visigoths and conquered by the Moors, this Unesco World Heritage site has seen plenty of historical action.  One notable year was 1134, when King Alfonso IX of Leon founded the University of Salamanca. Gorgeous Renaissance architecture, made predominantly of sandstone, has lent Salamanca its nickname: La Ciudad Dorada (The Golden City). Look around - this place literally glows.

After checking out the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, admire the marvellous Romenesque Cathedral. To find the epicentre of student nightlife, stroll the narrow streets around the university and the Plaza Mayor, one of Spain's best people-watching squares and once host to gory bullfights. Finally, do not be afraid to dust off your high school Spanish: Salamanca has thousands of international students who come here to practice the language

 

 

 

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© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Old school: Europe’s historic college towns’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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