This is a corner that can’t be missed every time you visit Toledo. The cathedral was built in the 13th Century, in a pure gothic style that can only be compared in Spain with the Burgos’ Cathedral or the one in León. Its façade, tower, statues and relieves will amaze you.
It is of a breathtaking beauty, both by day and illuminated by night. Even though you have to pay to go in, it is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.
It is the biggest gothic cathedral in all of Spain and it was finished during the time of the Catholic Kings. It was the symbol of the Spanish future ahead, a true manifest of the intention of the catholic power in a multicultural Toledo of the time. A must!
Without a doubt, from here you get the best views of the city of Toledo. This road takes us to the chapel of the Virgen del Valle that joins the bridges of Alcántara and San Martín (two entrances to the city).
Along this short road we find various viewpoints. My recommendation is to leave the car next to one of them to take a small walk in the area.
A visit to Toledo is really worth it. Its streets, its walls, its views from the Cigarrales, its escalators to the center, the Cathedral, the souvenir shops and the marzipan, everything is worth it! You have to visit, discover its most known attractions and explore all its corners. We took our 6 year old son, who loved the city. The ride on the tourist train is also highly recommended, you can see with your own eyes the "Burial of Count Orgaz" by El Greco. There are many things to do, like stroll the pedestrian streets with swords everywhere. A city to see.
Toledo is a city with an exceptional patrimony, which is why it was Spain’s capital until Philip II.
It is located in an island, surrounded by the Tajo, and it possesses an out of the ordinary aesthetic. I personally like to photograph it from the back. The Alcázar stands out from the tangle of gothic-mudejar buildings as a symbol of the Franco regime. It is in the center of the city, in the Zocodover plaza.
You used to be able to go up there from the Puerta de Bisagra, but now it’s closed and you have to take the Túnel de Sindicatos that will take you to the back of the Alcázar. There are two underground parking lots there, many restaurants and magnificent views of the region, since you are at the edge of the hill.
I prefer to view the Alcázar from behind, since it seems more human, full of gardens and sculptures. The front part is rigid and severe, in the neoclassic style imposed by Charles V and Philip II that we’ve come to call Herrerian.
It is a rectangular building, symmetrical in three of its sides, with squared towers crowned with spires in its corners. The proportionality of its illumination holes and the austerity of the decoration stand out. From the highest side you can reach the Castilla-La Mancha Library, which is the current function of this building.
In its origins it was built as a palace and has been reused by successive cultures. Charles V converted it into the official headquarters of his dynasty. At the end of the 19th Century it was used as an Infantry Academy, which is currently found in the opposite hill.
The historical moment that gave this place its fame was when in 1936 it was occupied by the insurgent Colonel Moscardó who led the Civil Guard, resisting 70 days until its liberation. This is the way that the publicity of the regime has told us the story, but what they didn’t tell us was that on the 28 of September 1936, when the African troops lead by General Varela conquered Toledo, there were no remains of the Civil Guard.
The Alcázar was a heap of rubble, but the publicity turned it into a symbol of its victory, but we already know that history is written by those who win the wars.
Toledo is one of the most visited cities by tourists, not only because of its important patrimony but also because of how well preserved it is.
In other places of many other cities there are semi demolished remains of the main entrance of the wall, but in Toledo, the entrance and the walls are perfectly preserved. Impressive. It is also impressive when you arrive in Toledo and encounter the Gate of Bisagra.
In front of it lies a complicated roundabout with a lot of traffic and it is not allowed to pass underneath it. It is recommended to park at the left where there is a free and secure parking lot. On the right side there is a park with the Tourist Office. If you pass in front of the gate towards the left you can go up to the highest point of Toledo, behind the Alcázar. If you go to the right you can walk along the wall and the escalators will also take you to the highest part but to the Jewish neighborhood.
One used to be able to go up to the center and the Zocodover square. I remember having gone up by car this way, but now they have chained the entrance and cars cannot pass anymore.
Its current name comes from the Muslim name “Bab-Shagra” that means “gate of the Sagra”. The gate is not medieval in the strict sense of the word. Its current appearance comes from the 16th Century when Toledo came to be the residence of Charles V and the Muslim entrance was remodeled. It has the shape of a small castle with an arched entrance protected by two towers, a parade ground and a second section that closes the entrance from inside. This second part, the least visible one, preserves original Muslim elements; the rest is renaissance style.
It was designed by Toledo’s own Alonso Covarrubias. It is decorated with the emperor’s symbol, the two-headed eagle and with two images of kings in the towers as symbols of earth’s judges. The exterior towers are semicircular and the interior ones are squared with tiled spires that form the coat of arms of Charles V.
I was surprised that the portholes, from where you supposedly attack the enemy, are quite low, almost at ground level. This means that the Gate of Bisagra was not built to defend Toledo but as a symbol of the power of the emperor. We normally just take pictures of the exterior, but you can also visit the interior.
In Paseo de Recaredo you find the roundabout Glorieta de la Reconquista, which used to be the main entrance to Toledo in ancient times. Until Charles V decided to build a New Gate of Bisagra, a bigger and more impressive one, this Gate of Alfonso VI was the main entrance.
It gives way to the Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods that are currently next to the new city that the Christians remodeled. As a gate it is quite intact, and it has a façade with three horseshoe arches. It is a pedestrian area because it gives way to a series of intricate and steep streets.
Since it is next to an escalator, it is a good option to visit the medieval Toledo. Moreover, the gardens are in a good condition and there is plaque on the floor with a touristic map of the city.
While we strolled through the streets that took us to the monastery, we surrounded the stone walls that let us glimpse a wonderful collection of plants and flowers.
It was built in 1476 by the Catholic King and Queen to commemorate the Battle of Toro and it is one of the temples that constitute one of the best examples of Gothic-Spanish-Flemish style; it was made by Juan Guas.
The cloister has two floors and it is a wonder full of sculptures, windows, and a plateresque style cupola that is divided in big sashes and flowers carved in stone; the mudejar crafts carved in larch wood have beautiful lions that surround it. You can access the upper cloister through an iron staircase made in Spanish style.
It has one nave and chapels between the buttresses. The transept does not stand out in the floor. It presents a dome tower of polygonal floor. It depicts heraldic and epigraphic motifs. In the interior of the monastery you can visit the patio of San Juan de los Reyes and find there a refuge far from the city’s noise.
The visit hours in winter from the 1st of October to the 31st of March are from 10:00 to 18:00.
The Zocodover is the heart of Toledo. It is a meeting point for travelers and locals; it used to be an ancient Arab market.
Today, it houses in its arcades the tourist information offices and some of the most exclusive places in the city.
The original design of the square was designed by Juan de Herrera during the reign of Philip II, with the intention of expressing the dominance and hegemony of Spain.
The square is a perfect place to have the first beer of the day, as a meeting point or just to observe the daily life of the people of Toledo. The lighting at night is really beautiful.
Even though it doesn’t have a particular artistic interest, this plaza is full of life and it is an obliged stop if you are in Toledo.
The Santa María la Blanca Synagogue is the main synagogue of Toledo’s Jewish Quarter. It was built, according to a carved inscription in a beam fragment, in the year “four thousand nine hundred and forty” (1180 AD, since it’s talking of the Jewish calendar).
It was reconstructed in the 13th Century and converted into a Christian temple in 1405. In the 16th Century it became a penitential shelter for repentant women, and from this same time period are the three chapels, as well as the altarpiece attributed to Berruguete or Juan de Borgoña. In the 18th Century it was converted into headquarters and in the 19th Century it suffered the effects of the freeing of encumbrance and it was used as a warehouse.
It is considered to be the best example of Almohade art in Spain. The beauty, in my opinion, lies in its simplicity and in the contrast of the white limestone and brick. It is a place full of spirituality and very worthwhile (even in the entrance ticket is a bit expensive).
Moreover, it allows you to imagine the way multicultural Toledo looked like in the 16th Century, with three religions and cultures living peacefully side by side in this little fairytale-like city.
Santo Tomé Church is the place where we find El Greco’s impressive painting “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”. But we have already heard all about the painting.
Santo Tomé Church was built at the beginning of the 12th Century and reconstructed in the middle of the 14th Century by the Count of Orgaz, notary from Castile. The tower is one of the best examples of Toledo’s mudejar art. The interior of the church has three naves where we can see an altarpiece and a font, both from the 16th Century, and an image of the Virgen de la Alegría. It is an image that portrays the Virgin with the child and he is touching her chin while she smiles. It is really beautiful.
In the plateresque chapel we find “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”, 4,80 by 3,60 meteres. On Wednesdays afternoons, from 16:00, the entrance is free.
The Mosque of Cristo de La Luz is one of the most interesting and famous Moorish monuments in Toledo, and the only Moorish mosque which still retains much of its original aspect. The mosque is located besides what was once one of the most important gates to the city (you can still see the original Roman road) and, despite its fame, was actually a small neighborhood mosque when it was built in the year 999 AD.
The mosque’s white-washed interior is filled with Moorish-style arches which support nine decorative domes, each one unique, and larger central cupola. The columns which support the arches were taken from earlier Visigoth structures. After Toledo was re-taken by the Christians, the mosque was converted into a Christian church, and an apse was added and decorated with beautiful though now-faded frescoes. These frescoes were perhaps my favorite part. They’re reminiscent of Byzantine-style paintings (a type of artwork I really love) and their location side by side with Arabic calligraphy is a pretty amazing mix.
The mosque is open throughout the week and usually costs 3 euros to visit. However, if you’re visiting on a Saturday morning, you can go to the Toledo Tourism Council (located in the old Roman baths) and sign up for a free guided tour (free admission) of the mosque at 11:00am.
As a result of the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, the beautiful synagogue of Samuel Levy passed to Christian hands. Luckily, they respected the inscriptions that today form one of the most beautiful buildings of the Middle Ages, containing important facts that place, within its context, this historical monument.
According to the inscriptions found, it was inaugurated in 1357 (5117 Jewish year). To go inside was a surprise, not only because of the beauty but also because of the children’s show taking place in the main nave, where someone was telling stories to the children and making them participate in the games that had to do with the three monotheist religions: Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
While I circled the place, my friend stayed to participate in the show. The museum is mainly destined to give testimonies of the Hebraic-Spanish culture.
After the enormous restoration, it was again opened to the public in 2003. Inside you can find all kinds of collections, Mesopotamian and liturgical objects, coins, marriage contracts and Berber-Jewish jewels.
Opening hours: in winter Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10:00 to 18:00. On Sundays (except holidays) it is open from 10:00 to 14:00. In Summer, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10:00 to 21:00; Sundays (except holidays) it opens from 10:00 to 14:00). It is closed on Sunday afternoons, Mondays and holidays.
Crossing the Alcántara Bridge from the old part of Toledo, we find ourselves in the San Servando Castle. The castle is a fortress of the 14th Century built over a previous Muslim castle, whose foundations still remain in place.
This Muslim castle was built over a Visigoth church, and this one over a Roman fortress…of all these “states” there are remains in the mortar and structure that let us imagine the strategic importance of the castle’s enclave.
As years went by, the castle became the property of the king in order to defend Toledo, but in the 19th Century one of its walls sank and it was destined to be a gunpowder warehouse. It was almost sold for 3000 pesetas (about 18 Euros), but fortunately it was declared National Monument.
It can now be visited when previously scheduled and the most fascinating part is that a part of the castle has become a REAJ guesthouse! I haven’t slept there yet, but I think it must be a unique (and cheap) experience. Who has never dreamed of sleeping in a castle?
Located in the city’s downtown, next to the Zocodover square and the Cervantes’ statue, the Santa Cruz Museum is a compulsory visit while in Toledo.
It is an old convent that was converted into a museum that houses various interesting exhibits throughout the year: painting, sculpture, historical representations.
It is also a museum that organizes didactic exhibits so that schools and children can learn more about history and culture while having a good time.