Toledo is an ancient city located on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. It is the capital of the province of Toledo and the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. It is denoted a UNESCO heritage site in 1986. It is one of those places where history seems written on every stone.
The magnificent city is also known as ‘the city of the three cultures’ where you can see medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments.
It is a very worthwhile day-trip from Madrid, only half an hour by train. You can stay overnight to really appreciate the city in all its haunting glory.
Places to visit in Toledo:
Renaissance Hospital of Tavera (Duque of Lerma Museum)
It was founded by Cardinal Juan Tavera in 1541. Its façade of classic Italian style with padding stone gives access to a paired Renaissance courtyard with Dorian columns separated by a small central gallery, built by Alonso de Covarrubias. Its period of hospital pharmacy is noteworthy. Many different works from famous painters are exhibited in the museum, such as El Greco, Jusepe Ribera, Zurbaran, Sanchez Coella, Caravaggio. The National Section of Nobility archive is currently kept on the premises of the building.
Mosque of Cristode la luz
This 10th-century building is preserved from times before the Christian Reconquest in 1085 by Alfonso VI. It has a square base with nine small, ribbed domes. It was turned into a Christian chapel in the 12th century.
Considered as one of the most symbolic buildings of palace architecture and the Spanish Renaissance. It was conceived historically as a fortress, castle and Palace of Carlos V. Nowadays, it houses the new Army Museum and the Regional Library of Castile – La Mancha. A remarkable collection of steel weapons, uniforms and documents of the Spanish Army from 19th and 20th.
Santa Cruz Museum
The hospital was founded by Cardinal Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza with a Covarrubias design. Beautiful Plateresque doorway, staircase. It houses major archaeology, fine arts, decorative arts, industrial arts collections and the Carranza’s Ceramic Collection. Notable are the 16th and 17th century Toledo School works, including paintings by El Greco and Luis Tristan, among others.
It was initially built in 1226 by King Fernando III “The Saint” and Archbishop Ximenez de Rada and finished in 1493. The main visit includes the Mayor Sacristy with El Greco’s masterpiece: El Expolio (the Disrobing of Christ) and the Serie of Apostles, the Treasure Room with the 16th c. Monstrance, the Chapter House and the choir, Main Chapel, Cloister and the Bell Tower are recommended.
Church of Santo Tome
Built in the 14th century. Noteworthy is the magnificent square brick and edged stonework Mudejar tower. Its interior houses El Greco’s masterpiece, “The Burial of the Lord of Orgaz”.
El Greco Museum
Its building is a recreation of a 16th century Toledo house from the period of El Greco. It is set in the old Jewish quarter of Toledo. An exquisite selection of paintings by El Greco: The View and plan of the city of Toledo, The Apostles, The Tears of Saint Peter, the portraits of Diego and Antonio de Covarrubias, nobles of the time, and also notable paintings by artists such as Luis Tristan, Carreno, Zubaran and Murillo.
The Sephardic Museum (Synagogue of El Transito)
The museum is set up in the synagogue of El Transito. The museum shows the historical and geographical framework of the Jewish people in antiquity, traditions, beliefs and customs and the history of Jewish people in Spain. The imposing synagogue was built in the mid-14th century under the patronage of Semuel ha-Levi, treasure of King Pedro I. The main room is the Great Prayer Room, with a splendid tie-beam roof and profuse plasterwork decoration of the walls. Mudejar motifs in red, green, black and ochre are predominant in the interior decoration. The upper part contains the Women’s Gallery. The north courtyard displays a collection of tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions. The “Garden of the Memory”, A special Sephardic musical sound garden, is recommended.
Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca
From the early 13th century, it shows blends of Mudejar and Nazari styles. Noteworthy are its five naves divided by horseshoe arches over lime-painted octagonal columns with unusual Eastern-style honeycombed capitals of outstanding beauty.
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes
It was founded by the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella), in the 15th century, who intended it to be their own pantheon. The 15th Franciscan monastery of Gothic style was designed by Juan Guas. Large display of decorative royal coats-of-arms. Mixtilinear and lancet arches in the two levels cloister. In 1808, the city was occupied by Napoleon’s troops, and the monastery was greatly damaged. The outer walls hold chains hanging as an offering for the Christian captives taken by the last Muslim king of Granada around 1492
Convent of Santo Domingo de silos”El Antiguo”
An 11th-century Cistercian convent reformed in the 16th century popularly called “El Antiguo” (the Old). IT was founded by King Alfonso VI after the conquest of Toledo. Original plans by Juan de Herrera, was totally rebuilt by the master-builder of the cathedral, Nicolas de Vergara. Several rooms are open to the public: church, choir, old choir and antechoir. Interesting paintings, altarpieces, sculptures of wood, stone and wax, altar fronts, embroidery, furniture and documents are shown. It conserves three altarpieces by El Greco (1577-1579), and three original canvases by the Cretan painter.
Museum of the Visigoth Councils and Culture. Church of San Roman
One of the oldest churches in all of the Toledo, it was built in the 12th century in the typical style of the first Toledan Mudejars. It contains the Museum of the Visigothic Councils and Culture with interesting reproductions of votive crowns from the Guarrazar Treasure. It includes Visigothic remains and beautiful Romanesque wall paintings in the Mudejar church.
Church of the Jesuits or San Ildefonso Church
The church is located at a top part of the city, and its towers offer a spectacular view of Toledo’s roofs. This is a typical example of the Baroque style with a superb main façade. It was built around 1742.
The San Marcos Castilla-La Mancha Cultural Centre
It offers temporary major exhibitions. It was an old Mozarabic church and a great temple of Toledo Baroque. Restored in 20th century by Ignacio Mendaro Corsini.
Royal College of Noble Maidens
Was a school for girls founded in the 16th century by Cardenal Juan Martinez Silíceo. The building was rebuilt in the 18th century by José Hernández Sierra and Ventura Rodriguez with a Baroque style
Convent of San Antonio de Padua
This convent is situated in the former Palace of the Count of Avalos. Renaissance style and notable for its Baroque altarpiece and the Cardinal Cisneros cutlery set.
Royal Toledo Foundation Victoria Macho Museum
The Museum is located in Roca Tarpeya with views of an impressive ravine over the Tagus River. It is dedicated to the work of the sculptor Victorio Macho (Palencia, 1887-Toledo 1996), one of the best representatives of the realist trend before the Civil War. The museum houses some of the sculptured, drawings, sketches and notes of the artist. Beautiful views from the garden.
Mosque of the Tornerias
The 11th-century mosque was built on Roman foundations. It comprises two levels and in the upper level, you can find the Mosque with a square base and three naves divides by arches.
Bisagra Gate (“Hinge”)
Extended and rebuilt in 1550 by Alonso de Covarrubias. It was envisioned as a grand triumphal arch dedicated to Emperor Carlos de Habsburgo (Charles of Hapsburg), grandson of Catholic Monarchs. Impressive imperial shield of arms with the two-headed eagle, and the insignia of the order of Toison de Oro knighthood or Golden Fleece. It has a large entry arch flanked by stout semicircular towers.
Gate of Alfonso VI
Also referred to as the Old Bisagra Gate it is of Muslim origin dating from the early 10th century. The construction is composed of three horseshoe arches and is one of the most interesting examples of military and defensive architecture of its time. Its modern designation is in memory of the king who reconquered the city in 1085.
Originally known as the Jew’s Gate it was rebuilt in the second half of the 16th century. It has double gates and four towers. Its name derives from the buckthorn bushes which grew nearby.
San Martin Bridge
Raised above five arches, dating from the 14th century, the construction of the San Martin Bridge was promoted by Archbishop Tenorio.
Cristo de la Vega Hermitage
This chapel is built over the ancient Basilica of Santa Leocadia to house her remains. It was where the first Visigoth Councils of Toledo were held. The inside hosts the popular Cristo de la Vega which gives the legend A buen juez, major testigo, “a good judge will have an even better witness”, composed by the Romantic Spanish writer Jose Zorrilla.
Puerta del Sol Gate
Built mainly in the 14th century. It owes its present name to the paintings on the tympanum representing the sun and the moon. A beautiful example of Toledo’s Mudejar architecture.
Of Roman Origin and rebuilt in Muslim and Christian times. It rests on two round arches and supports the fortified gate tower which gives access to the alficen (Al-Hizan).
Convent of Santa Isabel de los Reyes
Convent founded in 1477 by doña María Suárez de Toledo, also known as “Sor Maria the Poor”. The origin of this convent dates from a 14th-century palace owned by the grandmother of King Fernando El Catolico. It houses a Museum of religious and Convent Art.
Church of EL Salvador (The Saviour)
Built on a top of an old mosque. It still preserves several Visigothic bas-reliefs in its tower. The inside contains Muslim horseshoes, arches supported by Visigothic oilars and capitals, among which the most interesting is one including scenes that narrate the life of Christ. It houses a Visigothic pilaster with a representation of the New Testament and a minaret converted into a bell tower.
Amador de los Rios Roman Baths
It currently houses the Consortium of Toledo Cultural Resources Management Centre. The Bath complex dates between 1st and 2nd century AD.
School of Infantes. Tapestries, Garments and Goldsmithing Museum
Located in the school of Infantes founded by Cardinal Siliceo in the 16th century, it holds a collection of historical tapestries from Primatial Cathedral, Often made with Rubens’ designs. An outstanding exhibition of goldsmithing and liturgical garments is also offered.
Taller del Moro Museum
It is situated in an old Mudejar palace of the 14th and 15th centuries. The name is due to the fact that, according to tradition, this place served as a workshop and warehouse of repairs for the Cathedral during the Middle Ages.