The city of Toledo is a postcard backdrop best loved by cameras. Unlike other Spanish cities that are swallowed by too much commercialization and modernity, Toledo is all about history and culture. Its odd charm lies on having this medieval feel with old walls, cobblestones and archaic city outlook. It’s like a cut out of a fairy tale book that makes you swoon on your feet. It’s differently beautiful. I like it!
Middle Age Appeal
It is located on a steep hill surrounded by high walls and a river gorge. These make the city prominent effectively separating it from other towns. Its entrance is a wide bridge with a tower gate at the other end. So, even before setting foot on its soil, you feel you’re being transformed back into history. These are architectural characteristics of the medieval age. It’s not as majestic as one would describe but I really love the appeal.
The roads and alleys are paved with cobblestones so be prepared with good shoes. You can get lost while navigating its winding, maze-like passages but it’s a small city, you’ll always find a way to go back to touristy areas. When walking around the alleys, be careful because cars would usually pass by even if the lanes are too narrow. I got honked many times because I wasn’t aware that a car is behind me.
The old buildings are still well-preserved. I recommend visiting the St Mary Cathedral, the seat of the City, to explore its French-Spanish Gothic style and white limestone structure. You’d be amazed with the tapestries, paintings, stained glass, intricate column designs and of course, the impressive church vaults. Admission is free every Sunday afternoon!
City of Three Cultures
Toledo is called the “City of three cultures” and once called Spain’s Imperial City. Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existed such that these three distinct cultures can be observed on their influences on the city’s architecture, traditions and history.
You can find Catholic churches, Arab mosques and Jewish synagogues. Experience the three cultures on samples of pottery/ceramics, handicrafts, wood and leather products, and traditional cuisines. It’s like a melting pot of different cultures. Also, you’d be surprised that there is a Jewish quarter with a wall that separates it from the main city occupied by the Christians.
The city is a 30-minute train ride from Madrid’s Atocha central station. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much it cost because I had a train pass (can board any Spanish train) but the seat reservation is 4 euros. The downside is if you’re going south of Spain after Toledo (via train), you have to go back to Madrid because there is no direct line. This is an additional (unnecessary) cost unless you take the bus from Plaza Zocodover (Toledo).
By the way, El Greco (the famous painter) lived and died in Toledo. His great works are displayed on the museum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do an El Greco exploration. Maybe, next time. My ankle was a little bit twisted (too much walking) so I have to go back to the hostel and rest.
Drop me a message if you have questions about the city. 🙂