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Top Things To Do and See in Toledo, Spain: An Easy Day Trip from Madrid
Toledo: In Brief
The history of Spain is no more on display than in the beautiful mountain city of Toledo. Contained inside the ancient city walls are hundreds of years of Spanish history and evidence of the once coexisting and thriving Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures. Declared a world heritage site in 1986 by UNESCO, Toledo has been inhabited since the Bronze age and was an important city even in Roman times. It was the Spanish capital until 1561, and it's stunning architecture and magical feel make it a must see. Sitting 70km southwest of Madrid, it makes for an easy day trip via high speed train from the Atocha station in central Madrid.
Based on my travels in May, 2011, here is a list of top things to see in Toledo complete with (mostly) original photography.
Cathedral of Toledo
Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo (Spanish: Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo). This impressive cathedral is widely considered the premier example of Gothic architecture in all of Spain. It began construction in 1226 and was completed in 1493.
Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
This monastery was built by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1477 to commemorate their victory over the Portuguese at Toro. It is a splendid example of Gothic architecture with Spanish and Flemish influences, and it's magnificent cloisters is pictured above.
Museo de Santa Cruz
Located just off the Plaza de Zocodover, the Museo de Santa Cruz houses a superb collection of Spanish art and crafts. The building itself is a beautiful 16th century Gothic structure with a wonderful cloisters at its heart. The ground level contains a number of works by El Greco including his masterpiece, Asunción de la Virgen (pictured below). Other notable things to see in Museo de Santa Cruz include the second floor gallery of Spanish pottery and the archaeological history of the surrounding area.
El Transito Synagogue and Sephardic Museum
The synagogue, founded in 1356, is the oldest synagogue in Toledo. After the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 it was, sadly, converted into a church. Today, it is part of the Sephardi Museum that shows the Jewish culture of medieval Toledo.
Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz
The Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz is a former mosque that dates back to the 10th century. It is the only surviving mosque out of the ten that once stood throughout Toledo. Adjacent to the mosque (and pictured above) is the old Roman road that has been uncovered.
Victorio Macho Museum
The Museum, located on Tarpeya Rock, was chosen by the sculptor as the location for his home and workshop. Today, it is the museum of his works. Aside from being a wonderful exhibition of Spanish contemporary sculpture, the location provides a stunning view of the Tagus River and Toledo city walls. The picture in "Toledo: In Brief" above was taken from the courtyard.
Buy a Sword
Metal working has long been the economic base of Toledo. The sword making here dates back to Roman times, but it was under Moorish rule that is thrived. Sword making boomed between the 15th and 17th centuries and were widely considered the best in Europe. Even if weaponry is not your thing, beautiful replicas are on display in many shops, and a letter opener makes a fine and unique souvenir.
Getting to Toledo
Toledo is 70km southwest of Madrid. There is a high speed train run by RENFE that runs every hour from Atocha Station in central Madrid. The trip takes only 30 minutes, and it's either a long walk or an easy cab ride up to the The Puerta de Bisagra Nueva, the city's main gate built by the Moors in 1559. You can purchase tickets for the train here on RailEurope.