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Toledo (Spain)

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Travel Guide Europe Spain Castile-La Mancha Toledo

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Introduction

Toledo

Toledo

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

Toledo is one of Spain's most popular destinations, and with good reason: it has a rich heritage and a long, proud history. It served as the capital of Visigothic Spain between the 4th and 8th centuries AD, flourished under the empire of the Moors, and became the home of the royal court of the Kingdom of Castille during the Middle Ages.

Embraced on three sides by the Tagus River, Toledo's walled old city has a historic charm, even if the thriving tourist trade has diminished the experience somewhat. The town's most popular attractions are the Alcázar and the Cathedral, but walking the narrow cobbled streets is in itself a rewarding experience. The presence of mosques and synagogues emphasises the cultural diversity of Toledo's past.

Toledo has a population of around 77,000 and is located in the heart of Spain, just 70 kilometres south of Madrid in the region of Castile-La Mancha.

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Sights and Activities

Toledo's Wall from the outside

Toledo's Wall from the outside

© All Rights Reserved Peter

The Old City

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.

Alcazar

The Alcazar makes any panoramic picture of Toledo instantly recognisable. The large building was once used as a Roman Palace and later used by the Moors until it was retaken during the reconquista. It was severely damaged during the Spanish Civil War, as a battle took place at here that lasted for 70 days. After the war it was rebuilt and it now houses an army museum and the regional library of Castilla y la Mancha.

Cathedral

Toledo

Toledo

© All Rights Reserved amanecer

The Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo dates back to the 13th century, when construction was started on this Gothic church. It was finished in 1493. Inside, the work to decorate the Cathedral went on for many centuries mixing up various styles. In the original plan the Cathedral should get two towers, but in the end only one of the towers was built.

Synagogue del Transito

The Synagogue del Transito is one of the two remaining synagogues in the city. It can be visited and has exhibitions about the Jewish culture in Toledo.

El Greco's House and Museum

On Calle Samuel Levi 3, the famous painter El Greco lived and worked. He spend many years in Toledo and produced some of his most famous pieces here. In the house you can find a couple of his works including a splendid painting with a panoramic view of Toledo.

Bisagra Gate

The Bisagra Gate is of Moorish origin, but the main structure was rebuilt in 1559 from a design created by Alonso de Covarrubias. The gate is made up of two bodies, an interior and exterior body, with the plaza de armas (main square) in the middle. The enormous exterior structure is composed of a stone triumphal arch crowned by a huge imperial coat of arms of the city, with its unmistakeable two-headed eagle flanked by two large semicircular stone towers. The interior body is made of a rounded arch surrounded by two square towers, adorned with the coat of arms of Carlos V.

Cristo de la Luz Mosque

The Cristo de la Mosque was erected in 999 by the architect Musa ibn Alí, according to an inscription in Kufic symbols on the main facade. Inside, the naves are split between nine spaces covered by ribbed vaults, all different, thanks to four exterior columns with Visigoth capitals, around which there are twelve horseshoe arches. In the XII Century, a Roman-Mudejar sanctuary was formed by a semi-circular apse and a straight presbytery and decorated inside with Roman frescoes to adapt it to Christian worship. On the outside it is decorated with blind horseshoe arcades, access being through three doors with three different arches. polylobate, round and horseshoe.

Bridge of Alcantara

The Bridge of Alcantara is of Roman origin and was heavily damaged and rebuilt in the X Century. That was when the third arch disappeared, reduced to a small door with a horseshoe arch. During the reign of Alfonso X it suffered serious damage and was rebuilt. The West Tower belongs to this period, later altered and decorated during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, whose arms decorate the walls. It does not show the pomegranate fruit since the reconquest was still not concluded. A baroque triumphal arch replaced the West Tower in 1721 because of its ruinous state. It was declared a National Monument in 1921.

Roman Circus

The ruins of the Roman circus are located in Vega Baja, on each side of the avenue of Carlos III, with which disappeared a large part of the base of its stands. Its north-east to south-east orientation avoided dazzling from the chariots. It was built at the end of the I Century with an extended base of 408 metres, composed of two straight parallel lines with 86.2 metres separating them and two more curves. The west end was semicircular and stood on twenty-two vaults to start the chariot races. A small wall, on the inside, separated the two directions. The existing vaults supported different levels of stands that could hold up to 13,000 spectators. Of the large access gates, only the upper parts on both sides can be seen. It was in operation until the IV Century. Its later abandonment caused the disappearance of its fine panelling materials. It was used as a cemetery at different times, as well as a storage place for vessels and was also used as shelter by beggars at the end of the XVIII Century, causing cardinal Lorenzana to order several vaults that still remained to be thrown away. Currently a large part is integrated into the park known as Campo Escolar, created in 1906 for the Fiesta del Árbol, recovering the wasteland outside of the city walls, since the development of the area would take nearly half a century. In its surroundings there was a Roman theatre, on the plot now occupied by a school.

Moro Workshop

The Museum "Moro Workshop" in the city of Toledo, can be found located in a former Mudejar palace from the XIV Century and holds pieces of Mudejar art and craftsmanship from the XIV and XV Century. It owes its name to the fact that, according to folklore, this place was used during the Middle Ages as a warehouse and repair workshop of the materials used for the walls of the Cathedral. The central piece is dedicated to the collection of Mudejar ceramics and tiles from Toledo in the XIV and XV Centuries. In the hall on the right there are pieces of wooden craftwork, especially that used in ancient homes, such as beams, freizes, modillions and sculpted tableaus. Finally, the room on the left is dedicated to archaeological remains and contains headstones, ropes, Cordoban capitals and arches from the time. The museum was born in 1963 when the State acquired and restored the building. This is the only civic monument from the first half of the XIV Century that has been preserved in Toledo. In Mudejar style, it has a strong Muslim personality that is reminiscent of the rooms of the Alhambra. The remains consist of a central hall and two side rooms, interconnected by arches featuring complex plaster mouldings and covered by wooden ceilings.

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Events and Festivals

  • XVI International Jazz Festival (12 Sep 2013 - 25 Sep 2013) - Jazz concerts in the Town Hall Square, as well as bars and terraces of the Old Town Address: Town Hall Square
  • Meeting with Arab Toledo (04 Nov 2013 - 10 Nov 2013) - Week of cultural activities on the legacy of Arab culture in Toledo. Music, lectures, workshops, exhibitions and tours, make up this cultural program.

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Getting There

By Train

Coming from Madrid (Atocha) you can reach Toledo in 30 minutes. Check the Renfe Spanish Railway for current timetables, or for details on how to get from Toledo to other cities.

By Car

The A42 motorway connects Toledo to Madrid. From Toledo you can take several motorways to other cities in Spain.

By Bus

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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Getting Around

Toledo

Toledo

© All Rights Reserved amanecer

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

There are buses 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.

By Foot

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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Eat

  • Asador La Parrilla - La Parrilla is centrally located within the main plaza, between Zocodover and Alacazar. It is one of the best steakhouses in all of Toledo and specializes in wild game, such as boar, deer, partridge, sheep and roasted pig. the restaurant's Castilliuan decor attracts tourists, whilst its excellent food and service keeps the locals coming back for more. Address: Calle Horno de los Bizcochos 8, 45003, Toledo
  • Palencia De Lara - Palencia de Lara is located in the historic center of Toledo, next to the Cathedral. Enjoy a wide range of traditional recipes with a unique twist in an environment that will take your breath away. Discover the elegant décor in an ideal space to enjoy good food at good prices, excellent treatment and friendly atmosphere. Palencia de Lara specializes grilled suckling pig, grilled lamb, partridge Toledo, partridge salad and fresh fish. Address: Calle Nuncio Viejo, 6, 45002 Toledo, Phone: +34 925 25 67 46
  • Cafe del Fin - Café del Fin is conveniently located near the Jewish quarter, the Cathedral, and Santo Tome, and offers a unique dining experience that will leave you extremely satisfied. Cafe del Fin opened in 1969, and has always been a mix of cultures, languages and ideas. From noon to midnight you can enjoy their various food and drink specials, all of which are reasonably priced. Café del Fin offers a wide variety of homemade salads, pastas, pizzas, burgers, and the traditional Spanish sandwiches, as well as coffee, tea, cocktails, milkshakes, and original and savory desserts. Now newly renovated, the café-bar restaurant combines modern and traditional décor. Address: Calle Taller del Moro, 1, 45002 Toledo, Phone: +34 925 25 10 52
  • Taberna El Botero - Taberna el Botero serves up food and drinks that are the perfect combination of tradition and modernity. The chef and sommelier D Luis D Luis Alcazar Camacho form a perfectly synchronized pair and with the help of an excellent team of experts offers their patrons the most efficient and professional service in Toledo. Restaurant, tavern and cocktail bar, wines, champagne and more. Address: Calle de la Ciudad 5, 45001 Toledo, Phone: +34 925 22 90 88
  • Casa Aurelio Ayuntamiento - Casa Aurelio Ayuntamiento has a comprehensive wine list and a wide variety of delicious tapas. With customized menus, a patron of Casa Aurelio can be sure to receive exactly what they wish to wine and dine on. The main attractions are the stuffed artichokes, thin omelet, monkish salad, sardine pate, and a code fish crepe with a lobster cream. The setting and décor is stunning, attracted visitors from all over world. Just a tenth of a mile from the Consistory of the city. Address: Calle Sinagoga 6, 45001, Toledo, Phone: +34 925 221 392 925

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Apartment DoncellasCalle del Colegio de Doncellas 2Guesthouse-
Hostal SolC/ Azacanes 8Guesthouse83
Hotel SolAzacanes 15Hotel81
Hotel Toledo ImperialHorno de los Bizcochos, 5Hotel84
Kris DomenicoCerro del Emperador S/N Carretera de CobisaHotel91

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is widely available within Spain. Most airports have wifi-zones and in most towns there are internet cafés or shops where you can use internet for a fixed price. Wi-Fi points in bars and cafeterias are available after ordering, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi connection in common areas for their guests.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international access code for Spain is +34. The emergency number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade is 112.

In cities you can find plenty of public phones, and 'locutorios'. The latter are small shops where you can use the phone and use internet. Most of them also sell prepaid cards for mobile telephones. These shops are used a lot by foreigners to call to their mother country.

The main mobile network operators in Spain are Yoigo, Vodafone, Movistar and Orange, as in most of Europe voice and data coverage is generally good in urban areas however it can be patchy in rural locations. Cheap mobile phones (less than €50) with some pre-paid minutes are sold at FNAC or any phone operator's shop (Vodafone, Movistar, Orange). Topping-up is then done by buying scratch cards from the small stores, supermarkets, vending points (often found in tobacco shops) or kiosks.

Post

If you want to post a card, you can head to the post office (Correos). The Spanish post is not yet as efficient as colleagues in other countries so receiving a card can take a bit longer than the number of days that it should take. On the website of Correos, you can find the locations of nearby post offices.
Post offices are generally open from 8:30am to 2:00pm, although times will vary according to the size of the city/town and the main post offices might be open until the early evening. Most will also open again on Saturday mornings, but in the smaller towns will close as early as 12 noon. When posting a letter, look for a yellow box and, if possible, post at the post office itself where there will also be divisions for local, national and international mail. Be prepared for long queues at the post office. This is why tobacco shops sell stamps and many will also have the facility to weigh packages. Standard letters/postcards of up to 20 grams sent within Spain are €0.34. However, non-standard letters/postcards of up to 20g are €0.39. Letters/postcards of 20 to 50 grams are €0.45. In the case of international shipping, the price is €0.64 to most countries within Europe for standard envelopes (letters/postcards) up to 20g, for a few European countries and outside Europe it is €0.78. If you want to send a package you are probably better off with a private courier company like TNT, DHL or UPS, as they offer quick and reliable services against competitive prices.

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This is version 71. Last edited at 13:08 on Jul 25, 13 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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