Toledo is the old capital of Spain, which has great importance in the history of the country. It is located on the Tagus River, 70 km southwest of Madrid. In 1986, the center of Toledo was included in the Unesco World Heritage list. The center of Toledo is a perfectly preserved medieval city that has absorbed the influence of all these cultures. Many tourists are convinced that Toledo is one of the most interesting cities in southern Europe.
Toledo has a semi-arid cold climate, typical of central Spain. Rainfall is more frequent in spring and late fall. Summers are hot and dry. Winter is cool with frequent frosts.
The location at the top of Mount Toledo means that it is more exposed to the sun than Madrid in summer, which causes temperatures to rise to 37 ° C even during the later part of the afternoon. This means that the best time to visit is spring, when the trees and flowers are in full bloom, it is comfortably warm and there are fewer crowds. Winters tend to be mild with temperatures reaching 10 ° C in December.
This city is steeped in history and contains a mix of cultures. In more detail, various periods in the formation of Toledo can be clearly identified. Until the middle of the first millennium AD, Toledo was a normal provincial day city.
The settlement of Carpetania on the banks of the Tagus River dates back to the Celtic-Iberian era (tribes of central and northern Spain prior to the Roman period). In 192 B.C. It was conquered by the Romans under the leadership of Marcus Fulvius Nobilior and an outpost was established here, called Toletum.
In 411 the settlement passed into the hands of the nomadic tribes of the Alans, but not for long. In 418 Toledo was conquered by the Visigoths and remained its capital until 711. From 718 the city was ruled by the Muslims - during this period Toledo, which was called Talaytol at the time, flourished. It was then that the art of making blades and steel products was developed here. At the same time the Muslims, it is necessary to give them credit, managed to build a way of life called The Coexistence - a relatively peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews.
The reign of the Arabs ended in 1085, when the city was conquered by King Alfonso VI of Castilla y Leona and made Toledo the capital of Castilla. At the same time, the city became the center of Spanish Christianity, where the Archbishopric of Toledo was established.
The Castilians proved to be prudent because they decided not to destroy but to create and contribute in every possible way to the greater prosperity of the city. Because they maintained multiculturalism for a time and did not carry out repression against representatives of other religions. Instead, a school of translators was created, where scientists made available books in Spanish and Latin translated from Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek. Second, the Toledo masters became famous throughout Europe for the art of sword making. Finally, Toledo became one of the main cities in the region, the king's residence.
Toledo remained the capital until 1561, when King Felipe II moved his residence 70 km from Madrid. Until then, the city had experienced a "golden age": representatives of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures lived here, a cathedral was built and other buildings were also erected.
Now the city occupies an area of 232.1 km2, the number of inhabitants - more than 84 thousand people, this due to its connection with the Madrid High Speed train and due to the high housing costs of the capital. It is the administrative center of the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha and an important tourist center.
What to see:
The ideal is to stay in Toledo at night to get to know the ancient city in detail, without rushing to visit all its places of interest. The emblematic monuments of Toledo include the Alcázar, the Church of Santo Tomás, the El Greco House Museum, the Cathedral and the Piazza Sokodover, all of which must be included in its cultural program.
The medieval fortress of the Alcázar is considered a symbol of the city and of the revolutionary movement. It is hard to believe now that it was in ruins after the Civil War in 1936, but now it has been meticulously restored and houses a Military Museum dedicated to national resistance.
The Ancient City of Toledo is an open-air museum that has been protected by Unesco since 1986.
The labyrinth of ancient narrow streets resembles the setting of a movie, but everything is real there: stone pavement, old walls, elegant latticework on windows and balconies. Tourists can find a large number of souvenir shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.
This is the main plaza in Toledo, where there is always a lot of noise and lots of people. It is the starting point of tourist routes and is close to most of the city's attractions. It is easy to reach any of them through the winding streets, the rays that diverge from the square.
The Alcazar fortress rises in the center of Toledo and can be seen from anywhere.
The favorable strategic position of the hill was appreciated by the Romans, who built a fort in this place in the 3rd century. With the arrival of the Visigoths it was replaced by the Royal Palace, and later by a fortress built by the Muslims. During the conquest of the city by the troops of Alfonso VI, the fortress was almost completely destroyed, from those times only the eastern facade survived.
The Cathedral is an amazing masterpiece of Gothic art and one of the most important religious buildings in Spain. The church is located on ancient Roman foundations. During the Visigoth reign, the first basilica was built here, which under the Muslims was replaced by a mosque. Interestingly, after the conquest of Toledo, Alfonso VI promised to preserve the building as a mosque for the city's Muslim population. This promise was broken in 1226, when the construction of the grandiose Gothic cathedral began. The building was built until the end of the 15th century, so it mixed various architectural styles from the Gothic to the Spanish Renaissance and the Mudejar. Among the invaluable art collection of the cathedral, the twelve apostles of El Greco stand out.
The church is located in the old town, near the Jewish quarter. To enter the cathedral, visitors must pass through the Puerta de Molle, where they used to serve food to the poor. Inside, the church is striking in size and for its interior design. The collection of 88 richly decorated columns, the sophisticated stained glass windows from the 14th and 16th centuries and the grand choir make an astonishing impression. The Chapel of Santiago has magnificent marble tombs. The sacristy contains paintings by Morales, van Dyck, Rafael, Rubens and Titian.
The Trancito Synagogue is the most famous Jewish monument in Toledo, located in the heart of the Jewish quarter. The synagogue was built in the late fourteenth century and is decorated with Moorish elements, as well as intricate geometric and floral motifs, and inscriptions in Arabic and Hebrew. Magnificent windows with curved arches allow light to enter the building and the interior has a refined ceiling. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 the building was handed over to the Order of Knights. It now houses a museum. Admission is free on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
In the heart of the old Jewish quarter (Calle Samuel Leví, 3) is El Greco's house. It is a museum with interesting exhibitions by the famous artist and sculptor. Although El Greco himself has never lived here.
Santo Tomé Church:
The Iglesia de Santo Tomé is a small 12th century church located west of the cathedral on the border with the Jewish quarter. In the 14th century, the church was restored by Count Orgasse in the Gothic style with a Mudejar-style tower. The church houses one of El Greco's main masterpieces, "The Burial of the Count's Organs", created in 1586.
The Mosque or Church of Santiago del Arrabal is one of the oldest buildings in Toledo. The mosque was built a thousand years ago, but it still looks beautiful today. This makes it one of the most important parts of the Moorish heritage in Spain. Two centuries after its construction, it became the Christian Church of Santiago del Arabal. The building is built of bricks and is closed to the public.
The Hinge Door:
The Puerta de Bisagra is the main entrance to Toledo from the plain. It was built by the Moors in the 10th century. The triumphal arch of the gate is protected by two circular defense towers. Above the arch is a huge relief with the city's coat of arms, and at the entrance there is a courtyard with jagged walls and another pair of towers.
The Bridge of San Martín:
The Puente de San Martín is a medieval bridge in the western part of the old town, built in the 13th century. During its existence it was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries. The greatest changes were made during the reign of Charles II in the 17th century. Since then the bridge, protected by towers at the beginning and at the end, has remained unchanged.
Security: Toledo is a relatively small city, and is therefore quite safe. The medieval streets of Toledo are labyrinthine, so the greatest danger is getting lost, especially at night.