Toledo – Don Quijote, El Greco, Mosques and Synagogues

Toledo is one of the jewels of Central Spain. It belongs to the province of Toledo and is the capital of the autonomous region of Castilla la Mancha. The city, located 70 km south of Madrid, is perched on a hill with the river Tajo (Tagus) at it feet. Toledo was decreed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 much of it due to the fact that it is known as the “city of the three cultures”, because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together there for centuries. Even today you can find its rich cultural heritage in its churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues.

Here is a brief histroy from “The city of Toledo has its origins in Toletum, the name the Romans gave to this settlement on the banks of the River Tagus after its conquest in 190 BC. The city maintained its importance for centuries and, in the Visigothic era, became the capital of Hispania (6th C.). The arrival of the Arabs in the 8th century, together with the presence of Christians and Jews, made Toledo the “city of the three cultures”. This was one of the Toledo’s most splendid periods when, among other important events, the Toledo School of Translators was founded. Later, when Carlos V came to the throne in 1519, the city became an imperial capital.”

Toledo is a wonderful city to walk around, with labyrinthine streets, fabulous buildings and always something new to marvel at. It is also so small that you can cover it in a short time. One tip, though – I would recommend getting a decent map from the tourist information office as you can easily lose yourself. Toledo over the centuries has also become famous for its swords with the armies from Hanibal’s, the Roman’s and Muslim forces using them. Even El Cid’s sword was made in Toledo and today you can see examples of swords all over the city. The city is also closely linked to Cervantes’ Don Quijote of La Mancha.

The most important buildings in Toledo are the:
Cathedral, which is considered to be one of the most representative of Spanish cathedrals. Construction began in 1226 and ended in the 15th of art from painters such as Goya, El Greco and Van Dyck can be found in its museum.
Alcázar – the fortress which dominates the skyline and which has been used, burned, bombed and attacked by many competing side over the centuries. However, something tells me that it may be closed for extensive restoration work – let me know if you know differently.
El Greco’s House/Museum – Toledo over the years has become synonymous with the painter El Greco, who made Toledo his home around 1576. No trip to Toledo would be complete without visiting the El Greco house which houses a museum with some of the painter’s most important works.

The list of synagogues, churches and mosques is so extensive that I have made a list of websites which carry detailed information on some or all of them:

World Heritage Cities of Spain
Spain Tour

This site, Area Guides, has some interesting walking tours of Toledo.

Train to Toledo
From Atocha one and a quarter hours.
Buses to Toledo: Estación Sur (Metro- Méndez Álvaro )
Of interest: Free tours of the Arab patios and baths of Toledo until November 15th (ask at Tourism Office).

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