Toledo, stays in Spain
In the centre of Spain, 70 km south-west of Madrid, Toledo, from a rocky promontory, overlooks a vast plain and the Tagus which flows towards Portugal.
Formerly the capital of Hispania under the Visigoth Empire, the old city, sometimes called the ‘city of the three cultures’, inherited a multicultural past combining Muslim, Jewish and Christian architecture.
Surrounded in the meanders of the Tagus, the old city, whose rich artistic variety has earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, preserves palaces, churches, mosques and synagogues. Its narrow streets, surrounded by ramparts with several monumental gateways, recall the cities of the Maghreb.
Some gates such as the Puerta Bisagra, formerly the main intramural gateway, the Alphonse VI Gate of the Ith century or the Mudéjar-style Puerta del Sol, remind us of the importance of the Muslim influence in the architecture of the city.
As for the churches of San Sebastian or Santa Eulalia, they are an example of the Mozarabic heritage.
Overlooking the city and the Tagus, the Alcázar recalls the Muslim domination of the city during the Al-Andalus era. From there, you can see the old town at its foot as well as some historical monuments and sites such as the Cathedral and Plaza Zocodover, the old cattle market which became the central market, the former Bab al-Mardum mosque which became the church of the Cristo de la Luz and the synagogue of the Tránsito, also converted into a Catholic place of worship.
Toledo which housed the last years of the painter Le Greco, is also famous for its gastronomy based on game, its pistol and migas… without forgetting the wines of La Mancha.
Visits to Toledo
San Agustín Market
Access: Cuesta Álguila.
Located in the historic district of Toledo near the square of the same name, this gastronomic market was built on archaeological remains. Opened in 2014, it has since welcomed many visitors eager to learn more about Tolerédane gastronomy.
With 1400 m² on five floors, the market houses gourmet areas, restaurants and wine shops, a terrace and a spectacular vertical garden.
This gastronomic space with its avant-garde interior has become one of the most important places in the old town.
Puerta del Sol
Access: Calle Carreteras
The Puerta del Sol, the gate of the sun, was built in the 13th century by the Knights Hospitallers, soldier-monks belonging to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Its entrance in horseshoe arch is framed by two towers.
Paleochristian sarcophagi dating from the 4th century can be seen in the centre of the blind arches. The door is decorated with a bas-relief depicting Ildefonso, bishop of Toledo in the 7th century, wearing his chasuble under the sun and moon, which gave his name to the door.
Alfonso VI Door
Access: Calle Alfonso VI.
This Alfonso VI door represents all that remains of the ancient Arab wall that surrounded Toledo. Built in the 9th century, it was then the main access to the city. Hidden for a long time following the construction of the new Bisagra door under Charles V, its frontal structure remained almost intact. It is also known as the gate of Bisagra.
Caliphal in style, the ancient gate of Bisagra is the oldest Arabic building in the city.
The new door of Bisagra
Access: Calle Puerta de Bisagra.
It was rebuilt in a Renaissance style in the 16th century, it is made up of two bodies. The one overlooking the city has an arch flanked by square dungeons bearing the coat of arms of Charles I in the upper part. The second, also equipped with circular dungeons, is crowned by that of the city.
Access: Paseo de Recaredo.
Also known as the “Gate of the Jews”, it owes its name to the nerves that surround it. Built on the remains of an old Visigothic door in Renaissance style, its interior facade features a statue of Saint Léocadie. The gate of Cambrón is the only one that can be reached by car.
Access: Calle Gerado Lobo.
Of Roman origin, the bridge was rebuilt during the reign of Al Mansur, Almanzor in Spanish, in the 10th century. The main access point to Toledo in the Middle Ages, through which all goods and people entering the city passed. Its west side has a fortified and crenellated gate. It also features a statue of Saint Ildephonse and the coat of arms of the Catholic Kings.
San Martin Bridge
Access: to the west of the old town at Paseo Recaredo.
The San Martín bridge dates from the Middle Ages, probably from the 13th century. Originally built in ashlars, it was then almost entirely rebuilt. At its extremities, one of the towers dates from the 13th century and the second, integrated in the walls, from the 16th century. The bridge, which has five arches, was declared a national monument in 1921. Moreover, the sunsets there are magnificent.
Monuments and museums of Toledo
The Alcázar of Toledo
Access: Calle Unión.
The building, converted into the Library of the province of Castilla-León and the Army Museum, was successively Roman, Visigothic palace and then Muslim fortress.
Rebuilt by the architect Alonso de Covaburrias and converted into a royal residence in the 16th century under Charles V, the Alcázar consists of a vast esplanade surrounded by granite walls topped by corner towers. It will be the first alcázar with a square plan, its Renaissance-style facades are distinguished by its towers and crenellated structures.
Opening hours: every day except Wednesday, from 11am to 5pm. Admission: 5 €, reduced price: 2,50 €.
Hosted in the Alcázar, the army museum exhibits collections collected since the beginning of the 19th century. You will discover white and fire arms, guns and flags, miniatures, uniforms and decorations, models… It also houses buildings from Roman, medieval and modern times.
Opening hours: Thursday to Tuesday from 10am to 5pm. Admission: 5 €, reduced price: 2,50 €.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral of Toledo
Access: Plaza del Ayutamiento
The cathedral was erected on an ancient mosque itself built on what was a church under the reign of the Visigothic king Récarède 1st” the Catholic” in the 6th century.
The foundation stone of the cathedral was laid in 1227 under Fernando III. Built in French Gothic style, it was completed in the 15th century. An immense monument 120 m long and 59 m wide, its roof is supported by 88 columns.
The dome replacing the second tower was designed by Jorge Manuel THeotocopouli, the son of Greco. Its large altarpiece, in a flamboyant polychrome style, shows scenes from the life of Christ. There is also a Virgin in marble, a magnificent example of French Gothic art and in her sacristy, works of the Greco, Titian, Velazquez, Morales and Caravaggio.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6:30pm. Sundays and public holidays from 14h to 18h30. Admission: 3 €, reduced price: 1,50 €.
Housed in the cathedral, the museum is divided into several spaces: the reliquary, the chapter house, the choir and the main chapel. The ensemble exhibits, among others, the monstrance created by Enrique de Arfe in the 16th century, works by Goya, Titian, Raphael, Van Dyck and a Saint Francis of Assisi sculpted by Pedro de Mena. Sculptors are also in the spotlight: Vigarny, Rodrigo Alemá, Berruguete…
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6.30pm, Sundays and holidays from 2pm to 6.30pm.
Synagogue of Tránsito. Museo Sefardi
Access: Calle Samuel Leví.
Popularly called the “synagogue of Tránsito”, the synagogue was built in the heart of the “Judería” of Toledo to be the private synagogue of Samuel Halevi, treasurer of King Peter the Cruel.
This treasure of Hispano-Hebrew art was converted into a Catholic church under the name of Ermita del Tránsito after it was ceded to the Order of Calatrava at the end of the 15th century. It has now become a museum dedicated to medieval Jewish culture. The synagogue has been classified as a property of cultural interest since 1877.
The Sephardic Museum proposes a journey through the history of the Jewish people in Spain. From Roman times to the end of the 15th century, when the Jews were expelled from Al-Andalus and Spain, Mesopotamian objects, coins, liturgical utensils, old marriage contracts, archaeological and funerary remains… and a good specialized library are found there.
Visits: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30am to 7:30pm, 6pm from November to February. Sunday and public holiday from 10am to 3pm all year round. Admission: 3 €, reduced price: 1,50 €.
Synagogue Santa Maria la Blanca
An ancient synagogue built in the XIIth century in a typical Mudéjar style, it was converted into a Catholic church in the XVth century, then the church turned it into a museum open to the public. The synagogue has been classified as of cultural interest since 1930. It houses plateresque altars and an altarpiece from the Berruguete school, which has no religious function and can be visited.
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 6.45pm, until 5.45pm from 15 October to the end of February.
Cristo de la Luz Mosque
Access : Calle Carmelitas Descalzas, 10.
The mosque of Christ of the Light, which has remained intact since its construction in 999, was consecrated to Catholic worship in the 13th century.
Its square plan and brick facade decorated with arches resemble the mosque of Cordoba. An apse in the Mudéjar style and the transept were added during its consecration to Christian worship.
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 6.45pm, until 5.45pm from 15 October to the end of February. Admission: 2,80 €.
Castillo de San Fernando
Access: In front of Alcántara Bridge at Castilla la Mancha Avenue.
Originally designed to be a monastery in honour of Saints Servando and Germano, its strategic position in front of the Alcántara bridge made it a fortress. Built on the ruins of an Arab castle, with its crenellated cylindrical towers, it is a beautiful illustration of 14th century Mudejar military architecture. Only the outside can be visited.
EXCURSIONS FROM MADRID
Holy Week of Toledo
This week is a unique opportunity to visit by night the interior of churches, convents and monasteries that close the rest of the year, open their doors on Holy Thursday and Good Friday nights. The processions through the city, sober, are an opportunity for the brotherhoods to transport holy images through the narrow streets of the city.
Chaired by the Cardinal Primate of Spain, the Corpus Cristi Festival is one of the oldest and most important religious festivals in Toledo.
The streets of the district are specially prepared to welcome this solemn procession in which the’ Custodia’, a precious gold and silver censer dating from 1515 and weighing in at 160 kg, is accompanied by a procession made up of the hemandade and cofradías brotherhoods.
To contemplate this parade, seats are installed in the streets, but it is necessary to reserve beforehand its place at the stand located on Plaza Zocodover.
Talavera de la Reina
95 km west of Toledo.
Situated in the north-western part of the province on the Tagus-Alberche plain, Talavera, with almost 90,000 inhabitants, is the main town in the province of Toledo.
Known for centuries for its ceramics, its historical heritage is also very interesting. Among the city’s buildings are the Santa Catalina bridge and the Plaza del Pan, the city’s nerve centre: the 17th century Baroque Archbishop’s Palace, the Cervantes College and the Santa María la Mayor Collegiate Church dating from the 12th century.
The Virgen del Prado Basilica, a true museum of the famous azulejos of Talavera, was built between the 16th and 17th centuries.
Carranque 50 km north of Toledo. The archaeological park is about 5 km west of the town.
In the Sacra region, on the edge of the Community of Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha, the village of Carranca is endowed with a Roman site of the most important and best preserved.
This archaeological park with its impressive collection of mosaics also features a Roman villa with a basilical plan dating from the 4th century. Square in shape, the villa and its outbuildings are articulated around a courtyard bordered by a peristyle. Its basilica was later remodelled by the Visigoths and the Cluny monks.
Built century on an ancient Muslim fortress, the impressive castle of Guadamur, restored and furnished has housed among others, Philippe le Beau and Jeanne la Folle, Cardinal Cisneros, Emperor Charles V,…
The square plan of the main building has round towers on three of its corners, with the dungeon occupying the last corner. Moats protect the exteriors of this magnificent 15th century fortress.
The Museum of Popular Arts and Customs of the Toledo Mountains, housed in the hermitage of San Anton or that of Nuestra Señora de la Natividad, completes the visit of this village located a dozen kilometres south-west of Toledo.
70 km northwest of Toledo.
Set on a steep plateau on the right bank of the Alberche River, Albona, whose history dates back more than two millennia, preserves an old quarter with a medieval layout.
The castle built by Don Álvaro de Luna in the 15th century is the main monument of this historic complex. Its 420-metre perimeter is divided into two parts: the square of arms and the fortress itself. Its towers, ramparts, round paths and moats are in an excellent state of preservation.
The Plaza Mayor almost entirely lined with arcades and the streets with traditional houses, a majestic bridge spanning the Alberche, add to the charm of this village in the centre of Spain.
55 km east of Toledo.
In this medieval urban complex, the main streets that make up the old town of Ocaña converge on the Plaza Mayor, the city’s nerve centre.
Many religious buildings dot the city: the church of Santa María de la Asunción from the 12th to the 18th century, and the church of San Juan Bautista from the 13th and 17th centuries. Convents also such as that of Santa Catalina de Sena of the Dominican mothers or of Santo Domingo Guzmán; in Renaissance style it is endowed with a cloister at two heights.
The civil buildings include the 15th-century Palazzo dei Cárdenas, the 15th-century courthouse, the Lope Vega theatre and the 16th-century Renaissance-style San Martín Tower.
Just outside, on the edge of the old town, the Fuente Grande is a monumental work of the 16th century dedicated to water. Its outer part is divided into two parts: on a large square surrounded by a vast stone gallery, the fountain. The other part is occupied by laundries, two huge basins around which 300 women could gather.
30 km south of Ocaña and 85 km southeast of Toledo.
This village of a little over 2000 inhabitants belonged to the military order of the Knights of Malta whose red cross can be seen in several places of the village.
But the curiosity lies in its splendid Plaza Mayor surrounded by wooden arches dating back to the 17th century.
70 km south of Toledo.
A city of Roman origin, Consegrua is located at the foot of Cerro Calderico. While the town is home to an imposing castle with a towering keep that is just as impressive, its windmills are also part of its landscape.
Five out of twelve still possess their original mechanism in its entirety, including the one called’ Sancho’, referring to the character of Cervantes in’ L’ ingénieux hidalgo Don Quixote de la Manche’.
In addition to its fortress dating from the Reconquista dominating the surrounding area, Consuegra has an interesting heritage like’ los Corredores’, the Town Hall which also houses the Municipal Museum, the Church of San Juan or the Hermitage Santísimo Cristo de Veracruz and its museum of the ex-voto.
120 km southeast of Toledo and the Province.
El Toboso is first and foremost known as the literary cradle of Dulcinée, Don Quixote’s lover. Charming village, its houses and traditional constructions are made of dry masonry with whitewashed walls.
Casa Dulcinea is located in its centre, in fact that of Ana Martínez Zarco, associated with the character. Restored in the typical rural style of La Mancha from the 16th century, it houses a small ethnological museum with tools and utensils in use at that time. Its patio also houses one of the largest oil presses in Toledo province.
The town hall has a collection of Don Quixote editions translated into more than thirty languages. The story tells that during the Spanish War of Independence, French troops would have spared El Toboso because of his literary prestige.