Toledo’s Cathedral is one of the most important places to visit when in this beautiful city. It is a grand monument built in Gothic style with an obvious French influence, and there are those who say that it is the best and most impressive building in that style in the entire country. It was finished towards the end of the 15th century, over 200 years after construction began. There are several masses each day, so the Cathedral is open for visit from 10am to 6:30pm during the week and from 2pm to 6pm on Sundays. The tickets cost 11 euros.
Address: Calle Cardenal Cisneros, 1 Toledo, Spain + 00 34 925 222 241
The Alcázar is located on the highest part of the city, so it is not only a great place to visit to learn about the history and culture of Toledo, but it is also worth seeing for its stunning panorama. Alcázar means fortress, and it was built on the city’s highest point for military and strategic benefits. It was first used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century, passing to some of Spain’s royalty before being conquered by the Arabs, who had a very strong influence in this city. Today, it is a museum with various exhibitions that center around the evolution of military strategy and weapons.
Address: Calle Unión, Toledo, Spain +0034 925 23 88 00
The Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes is a Franciscan church that was built under the reign of Elizabeth of Castile, one of Spain’s most powerful queens, with the intention of being used as the royal mausoleum. The building is a breathtaking example of the Elizabethan-Gothic style that was predominant in Spain under the monarch’s reign. It was also meant to serve as a memorial for a recent military victory, the Batalla del Toro. It is a long and narrow construction, with many chapels decorating its sides, and the ceiling is particularly remarkable, as it was designed in the mudéjar style, with a clear Arab influence.
Address: Reyes Catolicos 17, Toledo, Spain +34 925 223 802
Toledo’s cuisine is an delectable mix of different cultures; the city has been inhabited by Jewish people, Christians and Arabs, who all lived here together at some point or other of the city’s history. It is thus named the city of the three cultures, something which is clearly reflected in its cuisine, which nowadays has retained a lot of Arab influence. Apart from some excellent ethnic restaurants, Toledo also offers typical Spanish fare, such as succulent suckling pig, which is the city’s specialty.
A magnificent construction that provides access to the city, the Puerta de Bisagra was originally built by the Arabs when they inhabited the city during the last centuries before the first millennium. It was reconstructed in the 16th century but some of the original parts can still be seen today. The name comes from the Arabic ‘Bab-Shagra’, meaning something along the lines of ‘the door that leads to the field’. The exterior is composed of an arch of triumph, accompanied by two beautiful semi-circular towers, and crowned by the city’s imperial coat of arms.
Address: Puerta de Bisagra, Toledo, Spain
This medieval bridge built over the Tajo river is one of Toledo’s symbols. From this bridge there is an excellent panorama of the old town, so it is a very romantic place to go for an evening walk. There is a small statue of a woman in the middle arch of the bridge; she was the wife of the architect in charge of building the bridge. When her husband realized days before the inauguration that he had wrongly calculated the weight and length of the bridge and that it would collapse upon the removal of the scaffolding, she burnt it down at night during a horrible thunderstorm, making the villagers believe it was struck down by lighting.
Address: Paseo Recaredo, Toledo, Spain
If the views from the Puente de San Martín are not enough, tourists can also head to the splendid Mirador del Valle, a fantastic viewpoint from which the entire city of Toledo can be observed. There are magnificent views of the river, the imposing Alcázar, the tiny winding streets and the Cathedral. The walk to get to the top is also a sight in itself, as it passes numerous important buildings when walking to the Mirador from the Ronda del Valle, such as the Cathedral, the Santa Cruz Museum, the San Roman Church and the city walls.
This museum is obviously dedicated to El Greco, one of the most important and influential Spanish artists of all time. The museum aims to introduce the general public to El Greco not only as a painter but also as an individual, and it explores the deep influence that he had in the shaping of Toledo’s history in the 17th century. The museum complex was recently renovated, so it now has a fresh look that is perfect for showing off the works of art it houses. It is closed on Mondays and is open from 9:30am to 7:30pm during the summer season, from 9:30am-6pm during the winter season and from 10am-3pm on Sundays.
Address: Paseo del Tránsito, Toledo, Spain +0034925 22 36 65
One of the most special things to do in Toledo is to explore it by night after having seen it all by day. At night the city acquires a completely different air: the lights turn on and point to the main buildings, creating beautiful shadows, the hustle and bustle dies down, and the unbearable heat during the summer days cools down slightly, creating the perfect atmosphere for a walk around the city. There are several guided tours that are available after dark, so after visiting the interior of Toledo’s buildings and enjoying its museums, why not learn about the history behind it all whilst talking a breezy walk.
The Juderia district is what once used to be the city’s Jewish quarter, and nowadays it is one of the most beautiful parts of the city, with some excellently preserved buildings. Translating to ‘the city of the Jews’, a tour through the Juderia will enable visitors to learn what life was like under Muslim and Christian domination for Jews, as well as to explore their culture and architecture.
By Sonia Cuesta