Adjacent to the Plaza de Cervantes is the university
where the playwright Lope de Vega, the Jesuit theologian Ignacio de Loyola, and other Spanish greats studied. Its
heavily embellished
façade, completed in 1553, is one of Spain’s finest examples of Plateresque architecture. Stroll
through its portal, across the porticoed Patio of Saint Thomas, to reach the Patio of the Three Languages (the university
produced the first polyglot bible, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in 1517). The atmosphere of ancient learning, mingled


with modern student life, is uplifting. The great hall, the
Paraninfo, has a glorious Mudéjar ceiling of interlaced wood
and the names of the university’s famous alumni on its walls; every year the King announces the winner of the Cervantes
literary prize here (medallions of previous winners, including Mario Vargas Llosa and Octavio Paz, fill the wall outside).
The
Capilla de San Ildefonso, the 16th-century chapel of the original university, has another beautiful coffered ceiling
and intricately stuccoed walls. It houses the white Carrara marble tomb of the university’s patron, Cardinal Cisneros.

Next to the Paraninfo is Alcalá’s best restaurant, the historic
Hostería del Estudiante, run by the parador across the
street.