Toledo Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Toledo
With its unique situation, its picturesque townscape and its magnificent old buildings, Toledo, chief town of its province and the see of an archbishop, the Primate of Spain, is one of the great tourist cities of Spain, an essential goal for every visitor interested in art and history.
Toledo has long been famed for its sword blades and its gold and silver inlay work, a craft tradition brought in by the Moors.HistoryToledo is one of the oldest towns in Spain. The capital of an Iberian tribe, the Carpetani, it was captured by the Romans in 192 B.C. and given the name of Toletum. Under the Visigoths, between 534 and 712, it again enjoyed the status of a capital and was the meeting-place of many church councils. At the Council of Toledo in 589 the Visigothic king Recarred, an Arian, was converted to the Catholic faith. During the Moorish period (712-1085) the town was known as Tolaitola, and until 1035 was the seat of an emir subject to the Caliph of Córdoba. Thereafter it became an independent kingdom and rose to prosperity through the manufacture of weapons and its silk and woolen industries. Science and learning were also eagerly cultivated in the town. The Christian inhabitants, known as Mozarabs ("servants of the Arabs" or "pseudo-Arabs"), adopted the Arabic language, which remained in use alongside Spanish for centuries and was not finally prohibited until 1580. In 1087 Toledo became the residence of the kings of Castile and the ecclesiastical center of the whole of Spain, and the Cardinal Archbishops of Toledo - Mendoza, Jiménez, Albornoz and others - were involved in all the great events of their period. In the reigns of Ferdinand III and Alfonso X, the Wise, Toledo became a center of learning, notable for the mutual tolerance of the three great religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Jewish community of Toledo was the largest in the Iberian peninsula. The mid-14th century saw the first pogroms, followed in subsequent decades by others; and with the establishment of the Inquisition in Spain in 1485 and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 the heyday of Jewry in Spain came to an end. The revolt of the Comuneros in the 16th Century began in Toledo. With the transfer of the capital to Madrid by Philip II (who resided in Toledo between 1559 and 1561) the town lost all political importance. During the Civil War Republic forces laid siege to the Alcázar, which was totally destroyed.The TownToledo lies on a granite hill surrounded on three sides by the deep gorge of the river Tagus (Tajo). With its ring of Gothic and Moorish walls, its towering Alcázar and its Cathedral it presents a picture of incomparable effect. The layout of the town, with its irregular pattern of narrow streets and numerous blind alleys, reflects its Moorish past. The blank walls, the windows with their iron gratings and the open courtyards of the houses also betray Oriental influence. The architecture of the Christian period is represented by numerous churches, convents and hospices. Thus the city as a whole is a kind of open-air museum illustrating the history of Spain, which has been listed by UNESCO as part of mankind's cultural heritage.
Toledo's Cathedral, built in a typically Gothic style, is its most prominent landmark. The Cathedral is famous for its bell tower which offers great views over the city.
On the eastern slopes of the hill on which the town is built is the Alcázar, reached from the Plaza de Zocodover. On the site of an earlier Roman fort and laid out in a square, with corner towers, this imposing structure was built by Covarrubias and Herrera in the 16th century. It was burned down by the French in 1810 but was subsequently restored. In 1882 it became a military college, and in the early days of the Civil War the Nationalist garrison held out for more than two months against Republican forces until it was rescued by the Nationalist troops of General Varela, when they took possession of Toledo. After restoration it became a museum on the Civil War, and is still regarded by Franco supporters as a monument to the heroism of its defenders.
The Hospital de Santa Cruz is a Renaissance structure built in the 15th and 16th C by Enrique de Egas, for Cardinal Mendoza.
Around the Plaza de Zocodover
Plaza de Zocodover
Paseo del Miradero
From the Plaza de Zocodover, Calle de Armas descends into the Paseo del Miradero, a promenade with a raised outlook terrace from which there are views extending in clear weather as far as the Sierra de Gredos.
Puerta del Sol
Santo Cristo de la Luz
Going through the Puerta del Sol in Toledo and turning left, we come to the Puerta del Santo Cristo de la Luz, beyond which is the Ermita del Santo Cristo de la Luz. This little chapel, originally a mosque (10th century), has nine Moorish domes and columns which came from a Visigothic church. The choir, added in Christian times, has remains of Romanesque wall paintings.
To the Hospital de Tavera
Santiago del Arrabal
Puerta Vieja de Bisagra
Puerta Nueva de Bisagra
Along the town walls to the right of the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra is the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, a double gateway dating in its present form from 1550 which is a magnificent example of military architecture. On the town side an inner gate flanked by towers leads into a court containing a statue of Charles V; on the outside of the main gate, which is flanked by massive round towers, is a large Imperial coat of arms.
Hospital de Tavera
From the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra the Paseo de Merchán, laid out in gardens, leads to the outlying district of Las Covachuelas, in which is the Hospital de Tavera, a large complex of buildings erected between 1541 and 1599. The church (1561) has a marble facade by Alonso Berruguete, and under the dome is the fine tomb, also by Berruguete (his last work) of Cardinal Tavera, founder of the Hospital. The retablo was designed by El Greco.
Some of the residential apartments in the Hospital, decorated and furnished in 17th century style, are open to the public. Their main interest lies in the valuable pictures they contain, including works by Titian, Claudio Coello ("Portrait of the Infanta Clara Eugenia"), El Greco (including his last work, the "Baptism of Christ"), Tintoretto ("Birth of the Messiah") and Zurbarán. The 16th century Pharmacy, faithfully restored to its original form, is unfortunately not open to the public. Visitors can, however, see the Library and Archives (with El Greco's "Holy Family").
The 16th C Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes was the burial place of Catholic Monarchs.
El Cigarral de Maranon
The road which leads to the house is flanked with olive groves and cypresses. Below the house sandy paths bordered by lavender and lilac that lead to little pools and fountains. Inside the garden, there is a contemporary sculpture to commemorate the centenary of Dr Maranon's birth.
El Cigarral de Cadena
More Toledo Pictures
Map of Toledo Attractions