Toledo – A Place of Beauty and Harmony
Once the capital of Spain (in its Visigothic era), Toledo is still one of the most spectacular cities in the world. It is currently the capital of the province of Toledo, whose economy is very much based on tourism, so you know this is a place that has many interesting sights to boast. The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 for two main reasons. One is the rich heritage of monuments and culture, and the other one is its religious and cultural tolerance. Ever since the 13th century, Muslims, Jews and Christians have been quite peacefully coexisting on this territory.
Hurried travelers will be happy to know that the main historical monuments in Toledo can be explored in one day. The city can be discovered on foot, so you can leave your car in the ample parking space outside the old walls. The main entrance to the city is the stately Puerta Bisagra. This is an excellent place from where to start the tour, especially because there is a tourist information center near the gate.
The interesting thing about Puerta Bisagra is that even though it appears to be one giant entrance, there are actually two. The first one was built during the Moorish occupation of the city, between the 7th and 8th centuries. It was only in the 16th century that the original entrance was extended, reaching the shape you see today.
Toledo has two major attractions, and no visitor can afford to miss either of them. First is the majestic Cathedral of Toledo (Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo), considered by many as the prime example of Gothic architecture in the whole of Spain. The site on which it stands has been a religious center ever since Visigothic occupation. The cathedral was founded sometime in the 1st century, but later the Muslims turned it into a mosque. It was returned to its original Christian purpose under King Alfonso VI, and it has kept its religious orientation ever since. The Gothic splendor that you see today is actually the rebuilt church, because the original one was badly damaged in the 13th century.
The other must-see monument in the city is the Alcázar of Toledo, a magnificent fortress that has been destroyed and built back again several times, and which still impresses tourists today. It was used as a fortress by Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Christians, and now it stands as a military museum. Visitors will be impressed not only by its size and exhibits, but also by the stern attitude of the staff, which goes perfectly well with the military theme.
If you want to see more, we suggest a visit to the 13th century Synagogue El Tránsito, now a crafts museum; the Taller de Moro built in the 14th century by Jews and later converted into a Christian church (but with the original Hebrew writing still on the upper walls); and at least one of the city’s monasteries.
- Because winters are extremely cold and summers are terribly hot, the best time to come here is either spring or autumn.
- If you have a lot of time at your disposal, dare to get lost in the intricate maze of the medieval streets of Toledo. When you want to head back, simply go uphill until you reach the city’s main plaza, called Plaza de Zocodover.
- For sheer luxury choose Hotel Hilton Buenavista Toledo, or Fontecruz Toledo Hotel.