When people think of cities to visit in Spain they often think of the two large modern cities of Madrid and Barcelona. But these are not the only stunning cities in Spain - and to see stunning old Spanish architecture they may not even be the best. The old Spanish capital of Toledo has been a World Heritage Site since back in 1986 and is renowned for its dramatic and extensive monumental and cultural heritage. It is located in central Spain a short distance out of the modern capital of Madrid (see here for a weekend itinerary of Madrid).
History Of Toledo
Toledo has a rich and deep history. It is known as the the "City of the Three Cultures" due to its historical influences of Christianity, Islam (aka the Moors), and Judaism. In just the space of a few yards, one can see a beautiful Gothic cathedral, a 10th-century mosque as well as two synagogues.
It was once the main center of the court of Charles V, of the Holy Roman Emperor and it was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain from 542 to 725 AD after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
After one enters the city walls one will be confronted by a maze of streets of the old city center.
- The Gates: Three Old Gates Of The Old City Walls Are Still In Use - the Sol, Cambron, and Bisagra Gates
- Cultural Heritage: Mix Of Christianity, Judaism, And Islam
- Population: 83,000
Today this small city is brimming with some of Spain's best and most stunning architecture and is a must-see for anyone visiting Spain.
- How Long To Spend: One Day Is Ok, 2-3 Days Is Better
- Distance From Madrid: 70 Kilometers or 44 Miles
It is easy to reach Toledo, it is only around 44 miles from Madrid and is connected by highspeed train only taking around 30 minutes. Its historic center boasts some of the best medieval architecture anywhere.
Here are some of the city's greatest highlights:
Santa Cruz Museum
This was once a convent and today has been refurbished and is a cultural venue hosting some of Spain's major temporary exhibitions. The museum is made up of both the old Hospital de Santa Cruz and the Santa Fe Convent.
Mosque Cristo de la Luz
This old mosque stands over a thousand years old and still going. It is in fact the city's oldest monument and one of the most important landmarks in Spain showcasing its Islamic past (much more Islamic heritage is to be found in Granada). There were once 10 mosques in this city but today this is the last one standing. It is reminiscent of the Grand Mosque in Córdoba.
- Last: Last Mosque Of 10 In Toledo
Old Jewish Quarter
Just next to the Mosque Cristo de la Luz is the old Jewish Quarter with its old cobble-stoned streets. Both of the synagogues are based here, they are Santa Maria La Blanca and El Transito. The latter is now the Sephardic Museum - Sephardi Jews are the Jews from Iberia - Spain, and Portugal, as opposed to other Jewish groups like the Ashkenazi Jews.
- Day Trip: Visiting Toledo Is An Easy Day Trip From Madrid
Like so many cities throughout Europe, Toledo houses a magnificent cathedral. This Gothic-style work of art was built between 1226 and 1493 on the site of a much older Visigothic church. This gorgeous cathedral is home to some valuable paintings including; Van Dyck, Goya, El Greco, and Luca Giordano. Not only is it housing art, but the very building itself is also a work of art. One will marvel at the stunning chapels of Nuevos Reyes, Santiago, the Mozarabic chapel, and more.
The history of this city goes back past the Moors and the Visigoths. In Alcazar, one will find a site that was once a Roman fortress. It became a fortified palace and was significantly renovated under King Charles I of Spain. There is much history in this building. During the nasty, brutal, and destructive wars that ravished Spain during both the French invasion and more significantly the Spanish Civil War, Alcazar was destroyed. But fortunately, it was rebuilt later. Today it is the Army Museum and military facilities.
- Alcazar: Alcazar Is One Of The Most Prominent Landmarks In Toledo
San Martin Bridge
Another of Toledo's attractions is the stunning San Martin Bridge, the original bridge was originally built in the mid-14th Century.
- Tip: The San Martin Bridge Is A Great Place To Watch The Sun Set
Food And Dining Tips
Here the hungry tourist can find a range of classical Spanish and inland Mediterranean dishes such as carcamusas, cochifrito, migas, or mazapanes. Enjoy the meal with the best of Spain's beer or wines.