Toledo is an ancient city in Castille La Mancha
Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and rightly so, the city is an absolute must place to visit if you are looking to discover the rich artistic and cultural history of Spain.
The city is located just 70km south of Madrid and is the capital of the Castille La Mancha region.
It is surrounded by the meandering Tajo River and is truly a beautiful sight, especially at night when its twinkling lights and beautifully lit buildings and monuments can be seen from afar.
5 Interesting facts about Toledo
- The city of Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural and monumental legacy.
- One of the most most famous sons of Toledo is the artist El Greco.
- The Toledo Alcazar dates back to the 3rd century and has been used time as a prison, military academy and palace.
- Toledo is twinned with 11 cities across the globe including Toledo in the US, Safed in Israel and Havana in Cuba.
- Toledo was one of the first Spanish cities to benefit from a train service when the Madrid – Aranjuez line opened in the mid 19th Century.
For centuries, Christians, Jews and Arabs resided behind the old walls of Toledo, leaving behind them an outstanding cultural, historical and artistic legacy in the city today. There is so much to soak up in this fantastic historical Spanish city from over 100 monuments including beautiful churches, palaces, synagogues and mosques.
Enter the old city through the Puerta Bisagra, a beautiful ancient gateway that is in fact two gates, the first built by the Moors in the 6th century and the second added in the 16th century. Once through, discover an abundance of historic and cultural treasures in this magnificent Spanish city.
Probably the most emblematic monument in Toledo is the imposing rectangular Alcazar fortress, which sits on top of the highest hill overlooking the rest of the city. The Alcazar was originally built by the Romans but was restored under the rules of both Alfonso VI and Alfonso X as well as Charles V in 1535. Each added their own elements to the fortress, transforming it into the fascinating piece of historical architecture it is today.
Yet another iconic building in the city, the Toledo Cathedral sits in the centre of the city and is considered by many to be the very best example of Gothic style architecture in Spain. Construction began in 1226 but the cathedral was not fully built until the 15th century.
True to Toledo’s multicultural heritage, the cathedral also reflects the Mudejar style (a mix of Islamic and Christian styles) which can be found throughout the city.
There are so many sites of interest within Toledo, and others well worth a mention are the 15th-century Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes; the 13th-century Jewish Synagogue El Transito, the stunning Mosque of Cristo de la Luz built in 999 and the impressive San Martin bridge with its two towers.
The religious festival of Corpus Christi
Although celebrated throughout Spain, Toledo is the prime focus for one of the most important dates on the catholic calendar – the Festival of Corpus Christi – and its procession has been declared one of international interest.
The festival takes place on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday. The streets are beautifully decorated with awnings, wreaths, medieval weaver’s guilds fabrics and lanterns and the ground is strewn with coloured flowers and fragrant herbs.
The gold monstrance by Enrique de Arce is taken out of the Cathedral and paraded through the streets of the city by various religious groups dressed in differing coloured hooded robes. Although Toledo is extremely busy at this time of year, it truly is an amazing festival and the city hosts a whole programme of events throughout the week.
Toledo – Too good to miss!
Although Toledo isn’t as well-known as Madrid and Barcelona as far as Spanish cities are concerned, it is actually one of the most historically, culturally and artistically rich cities in Spain. If you’re enjoying a city break in Madrid, jump onto the high-speed Ave train, just a 33-minute ride away from Toledo, and discover this amazing city.
The Artist – El Greco
Not just content with offering a wealth of rich cultural architecture and history, Toledo was also the home to one of the world’s most famous artists – El Greco. Born in the 16th century, this outstanding artist made the city famous with his extraordinary works of art and his names define Toledo the world over.
Craft & Cuisine
With its labyrinth of narrow streets, plazas and inner patios, there is so much to discover in Toledo. The city is famous for its many arts and crafts shops and centres.
Metalwork is legendary in the city with swords, daggers, suits of armour, iron furniture and decorative items all being highly popular. The traditional gold and black enamelled decorative items are a symbol of Toledo throughout Spain.
As for the typical cuisine, Toledo is most well-known for its game specialities. Tuck into hearty dishes such as stewed partridge, venison with wild mushrooms and Toledo style quail accompanied by the famous vegetable pisto.
Cheese fans are in for a real treat as the world-renowned Manchego cheese comes from the region and for those with a sweet tooth, the local marzipan cakes are delicious.
Eating out in Toledo
Here is our round-up of popular bars and restaurants which serve traditional local and regional dishes.
Located on Calle Ronda de Buenavista number 27 in central Toledo the Tobiko Restaurant is one of the most popular fine dining eateries in Toledo, and for good reason. Local produce is the mainstay of their cooking although the menu is a mixture of traditional Spanish with South American and Asian influences. Signature dishes include Iberian Port Secret with Almagro Onions, Roasted Sea Bass and artisan Ham Croquettes.
Located on Calle Hombre de Palo Number 7 in central Toledo this is another award-winning fine dining restaurant serving an array of delicious authentic Spanish dishes. Signature dishes at Restaurant Adolfo include Smoked Octopus, a Carpaccio of Langoustines and Red Pidgeon.
Located on Calle Descalzos 5, in the heart of the Jewish quarter in central Toledo. This award-winning restaurant is the place to relax and enjoy traditional local cooking in relaxed surroundings. Famous faces from the world of politics, sport and the arts regularly choose La Orza to dine at.
Signature dishes include lomo de orza, pork tenderloin served with Parmesan ice cream and a pine nut praline; Migas, a traditional Spanish breadcrumb dish served with lamb sweetbreads; roast suckling lamb and pig; partridge on Arroz Meloso.
Located on Calle Santa Leocadia Number 6, in the heart of Toledo, the Taberna El Embrujo is a great place for relaxed dining with a large selection of delightful fresh tapas and some great local wines to try. Although the bar can get busy with locals and tourists alike it is well worth the wait, the bar is situated within a typical plaza which adds to the ambience of your meal. Impressively you will be treated to some free tapas while you wait for your main courses to arrive.
Tours & Excursions
Toledo Tourist Guide
If you are looking for a personal multilingual tour guide then you may like to contact Maria Jose from Toledo Guide.
Maria Jose says " Toledo is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It is located in the center of the country, 70km south of Madrid.
Today the capital of Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo was the seat of power of the Spanish court until 1561. In 1986 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, due to its many historically and culturally important sites.
The Old Town is a real beauty: old buildings, hills, narrow streets. Here we find one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain, as well as synagogues and mosques. Toledo is famous for the coexistence of Christians, Jews and Muslims, the ’City of Three Cultures’.” You can find churches and mansions.
Many famous people lived in Toledo. Some examples are El Greco, Alfonso X, Joanna the Mad (Juana la Loca) of Castile, etc. The Romans, the Muslims, and the Visigoths have all ruled the city. The city also has many monuments and therefore the Old Town is crowded with tourists. Zocodover square is the heart of Toledo.
The Alcazar (fortress) and the Cathedral dominate the skyline. The city is in a beautiful setting, where the Old Town sits on several hills above the Tagus River"
For a personalised tour of Toledo you can contact Maria Jose at email@example.com or phone her on (0034) 649223593.
Recommended accommodation in Toledo
For a special place to stay try the 4 star Eurostars Palacio Buenavista located close to the Tagus river just a few minutes drive from the city centre. Enjoy the elegant modern decor and large comfy beds plus a pool, saune and free wifi. Reviewer Rating: 9.1
Conveniently located, the 4 star Parador de Toledo allows for easy access to Toledo's popular hot spots. The hotels facilities include a fitness centre with a swimming pool and free wifi. The hotel has a popular high end restaurant where you can enjoy a menu built around authentic Castilian dishes. The Alcazar of Toledo and Toledo Cathedral are a short walk away. Reviewer Rating: 8.9
For quality budget accommodation in Toledo the Hotel La Posada de Zocodover which is located in the heart of the old quarter close to all the cities top attractions. There are seven bright rooms, on-site bar and free wifi. Reviewer Rating: 10.0