Just 30 minutes by rail from central Madrid’s Atocha Station, the old town of Toledo, Spain takes visitors back in time to the 11th to 16th centuries when Christians, Moors and Jews lived together peacefully and created a beautiful city full of art, architecture and music.
You know you’ve arrived somewhere interesting the moment you exit the Toledo rail station with its Moorish turret and arched windows. A short walk will take you to the center of town, to the Gothic, 13th-century Cathedral of Toledo, a good place to begin exploring the city.
Cathedral of Toledo
Built over three hundred years beginning in the early 13th century, the Cathedral of Toledo is a massive Gothic church, reminiscent of France’s Cathedral at Chartres. Not to be missed are the elaborately carved stone doors, the gilded altarpiece and paintings by Goya and Toledo native, El Greco.
A few winding blocks away from the Cathedral is the Alcazar, the castle that towers over the old town. Begun during Roman times, the building combines a Romanesque, Renaissance and Plateresque architectural styles. The Alcazar also served as a Republican stronghold during the Spanish Civil War. Today, the castle houses the Museum of the Army, an interesting collection of uniforms, weapons and war memorials.
El Greco’s Home
One of Toledo’s most favorite sons is the painter Domenikos Theotocopoulos, better known to history as “El Greco.” Born in Crete, his lived most of his adult life in the city. Today, a recreation of his Toledo home displays a number of the artist’s paintings.
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes
Another of Toledo’s magnificent churches, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes was founded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the 15th century to mark Spain’s victory over Portugal. Formed in the shape of a Latin cross, the building has a small cloister with a garden in the center.
Other Toledo Attractions
No trip to Toledo is complete without losing yourself in the city’s winding labyrinth of cobblestone streets, lined with shops and sidewalk cafes. (Don’t worry about finding your way back to the station, there are plenty of signs directing you when you finish your wandering.) Shop for metalware, a Toledo specialty for more than 500 years, colorful pottery or sweet marzipan, another Toledo favorite.
Sacred Places; Cathedral of Toledo
Toledo Travel Guide: Alcazar
Sacred Places: Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes