Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Central Spain
Toledo is the capital of the province of Toledo, and was originally the capital of Spain until the 16th century, after which the Spanish court moved to Madrid. The historical part of the city, which was the official residence for the royal family, stands majestically on a hilltop above the Tagus River, which surrounds three sides of it. Now a World Heritage Site, it remains a hugely popular weekend destination for thousands of tourists each year.
Under Roman rule, this fortified city became Spain’s most important centres politically, culturally and economically. By entering the old city through the main gate, Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, it is possible to explore most of the main attractions on foot. With charming, narrow streets that wind their way through the city like a labyrinth, there is a wealth of historical monuments to see. During the 13th century, Toledo was one of the few places in Spain where Christians, Jews and Moors lived in relative peace together, which means visitors have the rare opportunity to see churches, synagogues and mosques dating back to this period all within the same walls.
The gothic Cathedral has beautiful stain glass windows, and a wonderful collection of paintings by famous artists such as Goya, Van Dyck and El Greco. It also has two very precious illustrated bibles which date back to the 13th century. El Greco lived in Toledo, and was buried in the Monastery Cisterciense de Santo Domingo de Silos. His house has since been turned into a museum, and his most famous painting, ‘The Burial of the Count of Orgaz’, is exhibited in the Museum Parroquía de Santo Tomé.
Another site to visit is the Alcazar, a castle with an extraordinary history of survival. Destroyed in the 18th century during the War of Succession it was then reconstructed, only to be damaged by fire a few years later. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, it was destroyed once again, but later repaired when the war ended.
With Madrid only a train ride away, renting a car is not necessarily a must. However, the province of Toledo is so diverse you may enjoy an opportunity to tour about, exploring its hunting reserves and lovely towns and villages. Being so close to the mountains there are all sorts of adventure activities available, such as hang gliding, climbing, hiking and even bicycle and jeep tours. Throughout the year there are many religious festivals that take place in the Toledo, the most famous being the Corpus Christi celebrations. Mid-August is when the local fiestas begin. .
To compliment your stay, the Parador Toledo (Hotel Conde de Orgaz) offers a tranquil setting. The Parador was once a manor house located on Emperor’s Hill (Cerro del Emperador), and has been converted into a four star hotel. With fabulous views of the city and the valley below from your bedroom balcony, I can think of no better way to sit back and reflect on all the wonderful sites you have taken in while visiting this romantic city.