TOLEDO, SPAIN First of all, thanks to my little sister Nawshi for recommending this trip. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have known what to do with that 1 extra day we had in Madrid.
Toledo, an imperial city-museum, was the capital of Spain until around 1500’s when the royal court moved to Madrid. But the history dates way back to 192 BC. This magnificent old city sits on top of few hills, which makes this place a marvelous scenic area to visit. With the River Tagus running through the city, Toledo is a breathtaking city to remember. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich culture and historical monuments. Different architectures of this city prove its name, “city of the three cultures”, since Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived here together for generations.
It is a must see place while in Madrid. There are few guided bus tours in Madrid that will take you to Toledo for either half a day or a full day tour, depending on which one you prefer. Ask your hotel reception desk for more information. The one we took was through Julia Travel. It was 43 euros for half a day tour per adult (37 euros for children 6-15 ages) and 58-77 euros for the whole day trip (50-65 euros for children 6-15 ages), depending on if you want to include lunch or not. It took us about little more than an hour to get there. It is very easy to get lost in the narrow and small roads of Toledo. A good advice is to arm yourself with a city map before you get completely lost. It was a brilliant idea to take my sister’s advice; otherwise we would have missed out a big portion of charm during our Spain trip.
TIME of TRAVEL: We traveled to Toledo end of December, 2011. The weather was great, meaning no rain or snow. But it was cold…very cold, especially on the elevated areas.
SHOPPING in TOLEDO Toledo has a rich history in sword making. If you are interested in these, you will find decorative swords, daggers, even kitchen knives and forks in many souvenir shops. You can also find hand painted ceramic items like flamenco dancers, Spanish bulls almost everywhere.
PLACE WE’VE VISITED: This was the first time we were actually traveling with a guide with other tourists. This can be very helpful, since you get to know a lot about a place other than just roaming around by yourself. But I do prefer traveling on my own, but of course, you have to do some homework to get you well prepared, but at least you can see or do or go whatever/wherever you want to see or do or go. Anyhow, our tour guide was a very friendly lady who explained all the things that we were seeing while our bus was driving to a specific destination. But unfortunately we couldn’t get down to take a closer look at some places or to take pictures. But nonetheless, no complaints… I was glad to be in Toledo.
1) CATHEDRAL of TOLEDO: This is a Gothic style church from around 13th century. Toledo once was the seat of the Holy See in Spain, which explains why this Cathedral is so gigantic and majestic. You will find lots of paintings around this Cathedral, especially in Sacristy room (a white, rectangular room), which displays work of many Italian artists as well as the world renowned artist from 16th century El Greco. El Greco was originally from Crete, but he lived in Toledo until his death. You can easily spend about half an hour just to wander around and appreciate intriguing work of many creative minds in the Cathedral of Toledo. It is worth a visit.
2) IGLESIA de SANTO TOME (MONUMENT of GRECO): This church houses one of El Greco’s greatest works, the Entierro Del Senor de Orgaz, which is the center piece before entering the church. It is a huge piece of art. There is so much to see in that painting that you can easily stand there for a while looking at the picture. We didn’t pay anything to get inside the museum since we were with a group. Unfortunately you can’t take any pictures inside.
3) OLD CITY WALL of TOLEDO: You can see the old city wall of Toledo from the Roman time making its way alongside River Tagus. It adds an extra charm and beauty to the city. You can see portions of the wall from different sections of old city.
4) SINAGOGUE of SAINT MARIA la BLANCA: This has been a church, a mosque, a synagogue in the different times of the history. It looks more like a mosque than a church or a synagogue. Presently, it is a museum which exhibits interesting crafts, pottery, and wooden décor as well as some drawings and paintings.
5) PUENTE de SAN MARTIN (SAN MARTIN BRIDGE): This is a pedestrian bridge that was constructed in the late 14th century across river Tagus. There are defensive towers at the both end of this bridge. You can see the surrounding mountains, old buildings, and the city from this bridge.
6) ALCAZAR: This has to be one of the emblematic monuments of Toledo. This was once a castle and a fortress which was used by the Romans, Arabs, and Christians. It is situated on the highest part of Toledo; therefore you can see it almost from every part of the city. Currently, it is an army museum which has large collections of weapons, artilleries, flags, uniforms medals and other objects from the 19th century until today. There is a security check point that you have to pass to enter the museum and it is strictly prohibited to take pictures inside. You get a great view of the picturesque Toledo and surroundings from top of this hill. It is absolutely amazing.