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The Old City is nicknamed the city of the three religions, as once Catholics, Jewish and Islamic people coexisted here without many troubles. It is also the former capital of Spain, until Felipe II, moved the seat of power to the new capital Madrid, where he could get away from the powerful Catholic church, which in his eyes had become too powerful. The Old city is a maze of small streets, and a couple of squares, including the central Plaza de Zocodover. In the old city there are numerous sights one can visit, including the Cathedral, The Synagogue del Transito and many old churches.
On the highest hill of the city, at 548 metres, the solitary rectangular mass of the Alcázar dominates the horizon. It is one of the few buildings outside of the city. The remains of earlier structures indicate that it has always been a fortified location, since the days of the Roman Praetorian and the defence of the Muslim fortress. The present building was ordered to be built by emperor Carlos V as a royal residence. Each facade of the building shows the artistic time in which it was constructed within the different stages of the Spanish Renaissance. Its first and main architect was Alonso de Covarrubias from 1545, but Villalpando contributed to a patio and it was finally Juan de Herrera who was responsible for the monumental staircase under a barrel vault and the alteration to the southern wing that it houses. The main entrance, with an ornamented Roman arch with the characteristic stone “mirrors”, crowned with an imperial coat of arms flanked by figures of the Visigoth monarchs Recaredo and Recesvinto and finished with a triangular fascia, is the work of Covarrubias. The large central patio is surrounded by two galleries and presided over by the figure of the emperor, a copy of the work by Pompeyo Leoni. Outside there are large, square fortified towers at the corners, those on the North side being advanced and those on the South side level with the facade altered by Juan de Herrera, finished with black slate spires and roofs. And yet the new palace was never lived in by kings, since, a long time before it was finished, the capital of Spain was established in Madrid, although it was home to queens, widowed queens to be precise, retired from the court by their husbands’ successors: Mariana of Austria, widow of Felipe IV and Mariana of Neuburg, widow of Carlos II. It had several uses, such as the Crown prison, military barracks for Spanish and foreign armies, and silk workshops, before housing the Spanish Infantry Academy. The building suffered several fires; some caused deliberately, like in 1710 during the War of Succession, being restored under the direction of Ventura Rodriguez, twice during the War of Independence and in 1887, this time by chance, before its almost total destruction in 1936. The Alcázar can be seen from far, unfortunately only a small part can be visited.
The A42 motorway connects Toledo to Madrid. From Toledo you can take several motorways to other cities in Spain.
Long distance buses are very common in Spain, so it is likely that you can get a busline to take you to Toledo from a lot of place. If you want to visit Toledo while you are visiting Madrid, you can go to the bus station near the metrostation of Méndez Alvaro. The journey to Toledo takes one hour.
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Only people with a permit can enter the old city, so if you go by car, you have to park your car somewhere outside the city walls.
There are busses going from the train and busstation to the old city. It's best to get out at the plaza de Zocodover, one of the bigger squares in the town, and to venture into old Toledo from here.
From the bus station or the train station it's only a short walk to the old city. If you don't want to make the climb, there are escalators that can take you to the old city. The old part is a maze of small streets, making it difficult to find your way.
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