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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
|Apartment Doncellas||Calle del Colegio de Doncellas 2||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostal Sol||C/ Azacanes 8||Guesthouse||91|
|Hotel Sol||Azacanes 15||Hotel||85|
|Hotel Toledo Imperial||Horno de los Bizcochos, 5||Hotel||-|
|Kris Domenico||Cerro del Emperador S/N Carretera de Cobisa||Hotel||-|
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.
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.
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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