When visiting Madrid, make sure to put a day aside to discover one of Spain’s most historical and culturally important cities. Located fewer than 60 miles from the capital, this World Heritage Site is popular with visitors from all over the world. The city in question, of course, is Toledo, where you’re able to discover the legacy left by its Muslim, Jewish, and Christian inhabitants and the wealth of architecture and art that they created.
As you approach the city, the grandeur of its gates and imposing walls seem to invite you to travel back in time, while the surrounding landscape creates a sense of peace and tranquility, enhanced by the gentle sounds of the Tagus as it flows past the city. This is also a wonderful place to watch the sunrise or sunset, where the sky is drenched in a vivid orange that gives way to either the light blue of a new day or the darkness of night.
Starting with, arguably, the most striking and important building in the city, the Toledo Cathedral is the perfect place to relive the religious customs of the past. The adjoining tower offers you the chance to see the city from its dizzy heights and presents the perfect photo opportunity. Next, climb up to the highest natural point in the city and visit the Alcázar of Toledo. Originally built to defend the city from invaders, the Alcázar of Toledo offers unparalleled views.
This is also one of the best places in Spain to see Islamic and Jewish art side by side. You can see examples of Islamic pottery, tiling, and traditional handicrafts at the Taller del Moro (The Moor’s Workshop), and the glorious achievements of Moorish architecture at the Cristo de la Luz Mosque. Jewish heritage can be found in the Santa María la Blanca and El Tránsito synagogues. The latter is now home to the Sephardi museum.
Any visit must also include a trip to the city’s museum dedicated to the life and work of the great, visionary Greek painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos: El Greco, as he came to be known as in his adopted homeland. His most famous works will inspire a sense of awe and give you an insight into the religious fervor that coursed through his veins. In the Church of Saint Tomé, you will find perhaps El Greco’s most famous painting, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. Take the time to pour over every inch of this outstanding painting, which, along with much of his oeuvre, has been an inspiration to countless painters since, including Manet, Cézanne, and Picasso.
If you are looking for festivals, Toledo is a city that has more than its fair share. You can join the crowds at the famous Virgen del Valle procession, experience the emotion and passion of Holy Week, admire the street decorations during Corpus Christi, or participate in the Virgen del Sagrario celebrations.
Toledo is much more than just a provincial capital. Just mentioning its name fills you with a sense of history and culture that invigorates the soul and stimulates the mind. Few cities in the world can boast of so much art and architecture in such a small place. A visit to this city should be a must on anyone’s list.