World Heritage City Toledo
was once the capital city of Spain, and it still retains the atmosphere and aura
which are characteristic of so many European capital cities. Toledo is a magic
place, probably one of the most spectacular cities in the world. The buildings
and winding streets contained within the old city walls hold hundreds of years
of history, and the River Tajo which runs alongside the city walls adds to its
charm and beauty. A day trip to Toledo is included in the itinerary of
most holidaymakers in Madrid, so inevitably the streets and monuments are often
packed with national and international tourists. If you want to avoid the crowds,
try visiting Toledo mid-week during the low-season months. The city has a long
tradition of catering for tourists and has an ample selection of hotels and restaurants,
as well as the inevitable gift and souvineer shops spilling out onto the streets.
The province of Toledo offers the visitor
a wide choice of possibilities. Very cold in the Winter months and very hot in
the Summer, the local economy mainly relies on tourism, wine-making and farming.
Some areas of Toledo province are famous for producing high-quality pottery and
others still make high-quality furniture. Other characteristic Toledan products
include swords and other weapons and lace and embroidered materials.
City of Toledo
During the 13th century Toledo became one of the few
places in Spain where Moors, Christians and Jews managed to live together and
tolerate eachother more or less peacefully (although not as idyllicly as some
history accounts would have us believe), and the singular combination of styles
and cultures which resulted from this period in Toeldo's history is one of the
city's unique characteristics. Visitors can still admire the remains of churches,
mosques and sinagogues built during this time.
Toledo became a fortified
city under Roman occupation - its location and the River Tajo made it an ideal
fortress, and from that moment on the city became one of Spain's most important
political, economic and cultural centres. The Visigods named Toledo their capital,
and it retained its importance under Arab occupation. When the Spanish armies
regained control of the city, it became the official residence to the Spanish
Kings and Queens until the 16th Century.
What to do and see in the City
best way to start a visit to Toledo is to park outside the city walls (there are
plenty of carparks), get a map in the tourist information center just opposite
the Puerta de Bisagra, and enter the old city through this majestic stone
gate. It is possible to visit all the main attractions within the walled city
on foot and even though you can't do them justice in such a short time, it is
perfectly feasible to get round them all in one day. If you have more than a day,
use the first few hours to walk around, get a feeling of the place, enjoy the
winding streets seeped in history and culture, and get familiar with the names
of places and monuments before actually entering inside.
Monuments in Toledo
- Alcázar: This outstanding castle
is one of Toledo's most emblematic monuments and was used as a fortress by Romans,
Visigods, Arabs and Christians. King Alfonso VI built his residence here and some
of Spain's most prestigious artists and architects intervened in the construction
of the royal palace. It was destroyed in the 18th century during the War of Succession,
reconstructed only to be badly damaged a few years later in a fire and rebuilt
yet again. The last time the palace was destroyed was during the outbreak of the
Spanish Civil War and it was repaired when the War ended.
of Toledo: Founded in the 1st Century by San Eugenio, the first Bishop of
Toledo. It was changed into a mosque by the Arabs during Moorish occupation of
Spain, and then converted back into a cathedral by Alfonso VI. In the 13th Century
it was destroyed and the impressive Gothic building which can be seen today was
built on the old cathedral's foundations.
- Monastery of San Juan de
los Reyes: 15th century monastery, Gothic style which was built on Royal demand
during the reign of the Catholic King and Queen.
- Monastery Cisterciense
de Santo Domingo de Silos: 16th century monastery with paintings of El Greco
who is buried here. The Spanish artist painted the church. The monks who still
live in the monastery sell home-made sweets and pastries to visitors
Bisagra: The main entrance to the old City of Toledo. What appears to be one
amazing stone gateway is infact two: the old gate which was built during the Moorish
occupation of Toledo in the 6th and 7th centuries, and the new gate which extended
the original and was built in the 16th century. This is the best way to start
a visit to Toledo since there is ample car parking space on both sides of the
Puerta and a very good Tourist Info just opposite on the other side of the main
- Sinagogue El Tránsito: 13th century sinagogue with
a museum inside which describes the history of the Jewish population in Toledo
and the influence the Jews had on local culture and events.
of Saint María la Blanca: Today this former sinagogue is a crafts museum
with interesting pottery and wooden exhibits.
- Taller del Moro:
Built in the 14th century by the Jews and, when they were expelled from Toledo,
converted by a religous order into a church. The original Hebrew writings on the
upper walls can still be seen today.
Museums in Toledo
of El Greco: The famous Spanish painter El Greco lived in this house which
today has an impressive exhibition of his paintings, awell as exhibits of other
- Museum of Contemporary Art: Set in la Casa de las Cadenas,
an interesting 16th century building this art gallery has exhibitions of 20th
- Museum of Santa Cruz: 16th century building that
used to be a hospital. Lovely patio and stairway. Exhibits works of art, tapestries
and artefacts found in archeogical excavations.
- Museum of the Fundación
Duque de Lerma: Also known as Hospital de Tavera because Cardinal Tavera
ordered it to be built in the fifteen hundreds. There is a statue of Tavera under
the dome of the church.
- Museum de los Concilios y Cultura Visigoda:
with exhibits from the Visigod period, set in the church San Román.
of Victorio Macho: What used to be the home of Macho, a famous sculptor, is
now a museum containing some of his best known sculptures.
Parroquía de Santo Tomé: This museum is where El Greco's most
famous painting, The Buriel of the Count of Orgaz (El Entierro del Conde de
Orgaz) is exhibited
Fiestas in Toledo: The Corpus Christi
celebrations held in Toledo are famous all over Spain. As in most of Castilla
la Mancha, Toledo also takes its Easter Week processions very seriously indeed.
And the local fiestas are held form 15th to 20th August.
to buy in Toledo: There are lots of souvenir shops in Toledo, and they all
seem to have the same stock on offer: swords (for centuries Toledo has been renowned
for the steel blades made for knives and swords), walking sticks, models of Don
Quijote, painted tiles, copies of El Greco paintings, local wines and liquors
and pieces of lace and embroidered cloths and other local crafts. If you want
to buy local produce, try Toledan marzipan, excellent local cheeses (different
versions of the popular Manchego cheese are made throughout the Province of Toledo)
What to eat in Toledo: Toledo is famous for its roast meats
and stews. Typical local dishes include estofada de perdiz (partridge casserole), el cuchifrito (an original dish made with lamb, tomato, egg, saffron and
white wine), judias con perdiz (a bean and partridge stew), roast lamb
and roast suckling pig and, during hunting season, wild game.
to eat in Toledo: Click on Restaurants
in Toledo for a description of the best restaurants in Toledo.
bars in Toledo: There isn't an abundance of tapas bars in Toledo but there
are a few very good ones. If you fancy a quick tapas meal so that you can concentrate
on visiting as many sights as you can in a limited spaceof time, try Ludeña (in Plaza de la Magdalena), La Abadía (in Nuñez de Arce)
or La Tabernita (in Santa Fe). Outside the old quarter, try Di Vino (Chile, 2).
Where to stay in Toledo: Click on hotels
in Toledo for a description of the best hotels in Toledo.
to see and do in the Province of Toledo
Toledo is a very diverse province
with flat plains, tall mountains and sierras, rivers, hunting reserves and some
lovely small towns and villages.
Oropesa: Beautiful Medieval village
which retains all its rural and historical charm. The Parador of Oropesa was one
of the first parador hotels to open in Spain, and is a lovely renovated 16th century
house. With just over 2000 inhabitants, and several 16th and 17th century buildings
of interest, it is possible to walk around the village in a couple of hours.
This curious village just 2 km from Oropesa is famous for its women who produce
vast amounts of embroidered cloths, aprons, sheets, curtains, tablecloths.....
On fine days you can see groups of women sitting together and embroidering as
they chat in patios or even on the street.
de la Reina: 76km from Toledo set on the banks of the River Tajo, Talavera
is the largest city in the province in terms of population. Famous for its pottery
and tiles. Some interesting monuments and churches, and an amazing 15th century
bridge, Puente de Santa Catalina, with 35 arches.
55 km. from Toledo, this beautiful village has two amazing squares, Plaza Mayor
and Plaza de la Orden which are joined by an arch and have beautiful galleries.
Villacañas: Small town 80km from Toledo with curious underground
houses called silos. Impressive 16th century gothic church - Iglesa Parroquial
de la Asunción.
Los Yébenes: 42 km. from Toledo and
set in the Sierra de Los Yébenes. Interesting castle - Castillo de Guadalerzas
- built in the 12th century during the reign of Alfonso VII and last restored
in the 18th century. 86km from Los Yebenes on the road towards Ciudad Real lies
the Cabañeros National Park (Pueblo Nuevo de Bullaque). Guided visits must
be booked in advance.
Illescas: 35km from Toledo, this small town
owes its historical importance to its strategic location between Castilla de la
Mancha and Castilla de Leon. The Castilian royals sometimes stayed here, and Francisco
I of France was imprisoned here. Some remains of the old wall can still be seen.
The main attraction today for most visitors is El Bohío, considered by
experts to be the best restaurant in the province of Toledo and one of the best