Spain // Castilla y León and La Rioja //

Ciudad Rodrigo

The unspoiled frontier town of CIUDAD RODRIGO – 90km southwest of Salamanca, astride the road to Portugal – is worth a detour even if you don’t plan to cross the border. It’s an endearingly sleepy place which, despite an orgy of destruction during the Peninsular War, preserves a rather austere castle (now a parador), a handsome Plaza Mayor and quiet old-town streets full of Renaissance mansions. It’s also still completely encircled by impressive walls and ramparts, and the thirty-minute walk around (and on top of) them is the best way to get an overview of the whole town. Given its history, it’s perhaps surprising that there’s much left to see at all. Ciudad Rodrigo was a crucial border point in the Peninsular War, guarding the route between Spain and Portugal. The town fell to the French after a fierce fight in 1810, but was later re-taken by the British in 1812 following a devastatingly rapid siege (cannonball dents are still visible above the doorway on one side of the cathedral). A triumphant rampage of looting followed, and when order was restored, the troops paraded out dressed in a ragbag of stolen French finery – a bemused Wellington muttering to his staff, “Who the devil are those fellows?”

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