Toledo was once the capital of Spain and it has an important place in Iberian history. It’s known as the “city of the three cultures” since Christians, Arabs and Jews lived there together for centuries, leaving their mark and influence on its cultural legacy.
Toledo became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 and these days it’s a classic day-trip destination for anyone staying in Madrid. The AVE high-speed train from Madrid’s Atocha station takes slightly over 30 minutes to reach Toledo, passing through the plains of Don Quixote’s Castilla-La Mancha.
Around the Old Town
Crossing the San Martín Bridge above the Tagus River and entering the Old Town feels like stepping into another world. The great wealth of monuments behind the walls of Toledo in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and Sephardic synagogues is truly incredible. Tapping into different cultures and rediscovering the vestiges of this unique synthesis remains Toledo’s most compelling appeal.
Cathedral is the centrepiece of Toledo. It was built in Gothic style on a top of the hill to make the monument deceptively large. During my visit the streets surrounding it were filled with vendors, musicians and people celebrating one of the city’s fiestas.
The Mix of Cultures
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz was my favourite building since it mixes two styles of its heritage – primarily Mudéjar architecture, and early Christian paintings that are visible on the walls. It was built over 1000 years ago as a small mosque, but 200 years later it was converted into a church. A very typical turn of events that I was able to learn about when I traveled to Andalusia.
On the other hand, at the Museo Sefardi in the 14th-century El Transito synagogue, it’s possible to admire an old prayer hall with a dazzling mix of Mudéjar tiling and Hebrew carving.
The most impressive building in Toledo is the Alcázar Palace. It’s located on the highest part of the city for military benefits. Just like any grand fortress it offers fantastic panoramic views. It’s also a home to a museum with various exhibitions related to military strategy and weapons.
Last but not least, in relation to the city it’s important to mention El Greco. He’s the influential Spanish painter with whom the city is synonymous. Any art lovers might want to check out the museum. It’s set in a beautiful traditional house to learn more about him as a painter and also as an individual. The museum explores the deep influence he had in the shaping of Toledo’s history in the 17th century. Truly impressive!