Once upon a time there was a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims all lived together in relative harmony… Known as the “City of Three Cultures” Toledo, a walled city located in central Spain, was once such a place. It was largely for this reason that it was declared a world heritage site in 1987. We spent three days exploring the narrow cobbled streets of this amazing medieval city and with over 2000 years of history there was no shortage of things to see.
Cathedral of Toledo
Having learned my lesson about unpredictable visiting hours in other Spanish cities, I decided our first order of business would be to see the Cathedral. Whew! It’s a good thing we did, because after 6 pm on our first day the Cathedral was closed to tourists, the entirety of our visit, in observance of The Ascension of Mary.
Located in Ayuntamiento Plaza, according to our guide, The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is the second largest cathedral in Spain and the most important. The tower of the Cathedral is 301 feet tall and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The inside spaces are incredibly beautiful, and this is definitely not a case of “you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.” Photos aren’t really allowed, but I did sneak a few, I just couldn’t help it!
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter in Toledo is a popular tourist destination. You can’t miss it because it is very clearly marked with signs and tiles inlaid into the walls and streets surrounding it. At night there are images in Spanish, English and Hebrew projected onto the streets letting you know you’ve arrived.
Today, there are no operational synagogues within the walls of the old Medieval City. However there are two former synagogues and a mosque which are available to visit, all three of which are now designated as museums.
Synagogue of El Transito
Santa María la Blanca
Santa María la Blanca, also a museum and former synagogue, was built in 1180 some believe it to be the oldest synagogue building in Europe which is still standing. It is now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church.
While in Toledo we stayed in the Jewish quarter at the Hotel Pintor El Greco. The hotel and location were great, only steps from the El Greco Museum and within easy walking distance of both synagogues, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, one of El Greco’s most famous works and many other sights.
Other Major Sights
Mezquita Cristo de la Luz
Built in 999 on the site of a former church the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is the only surviving Moorish mosque in the city of Toledo that remains virtually unchanged since its construction.
Puerto Del Sol
One of Toledo’s City gates the Puerto Del Sol is not far from Cristo de la Luz.
Monasterio de San Juan De Los Reyes
The Monasterio de San Juan De Los Reyes was founded by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Originally it was to be their final resting place, but they later changed their minds and chose to be buried in Granada instead.
Unfortunately we were unable to visit the inside due to a wedding taking place, but we were able to walk through the cloisters and other areas of the monastery. The exterior of the monastery, per the Queen’s order, is covered in manacles and shackles worn by christian prisoners from Granada who were released during the Reconquista.
Iglesia De Los Jesuitas
Cortes De Castilla-La Mancha
What Else is Toledo Famous For?
Toledo is not only known for its religious history, but also for its weapon and armor production, Damasquinado jewelry, marzipan and of course it’s amazing Spanish cuisine.
All of us were fascinated not only by the amazing craftsmanship and variety of different swords, weaponry, metalware and jewelry available, but also by the sheer number of stores selling it! They were everywhere and I personally spent a lot of time admiring the handmade jewelry and even picked up a few things. Of course I did!
Hiring A Guide
We were somewhat surprised to find that unlike other cities we’ve visited in Spain, there was almost no english translation available anywhere. We spent the first day wishing we knew more Spanish and soon realized we would need to join a tour or hire a guide. English tours didn’t seem to be available but after some persistence on our part we were able to find and hire a private guide. Yolanda, a native of Toledo, was a wealth of knowledge and we spent two very informative hours with her.
Take Me With You!