Second post - a continuation of the trip which started on on April 21st (here)
As was mentioned, I visited Toledo on few other occasions, but the visits were short, so
this occasion allowed a more leisurely & thorougher exploration of this enchanting town.
The historic Spanish city of Toledo set on hills rising from the arid plains, is located on the banks of the river Tagus in central Iberia,
It is known as the "Imperial City" (it was the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in Spain), and as the "City of the Three Cultures" for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews living side by side, as reflected in its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.
Toledo was the capital and episcopal seat from 542 to 725 AD of the Visigothic kingdom, following the fall of the Roman Empire,
A series of church councils were held in Toledo under the Visigoths.
Toledo was reconquered by Alfonso VI, King of León and Castile, in 1085.
Muslim capitulation without bloodshed when the transfer of the city materialized, was due to the king's promise to conserve and respect Muslims institutions of higher learning, as well as their customs and religion, when coexisting with the larger Mozarabic population, was possible.
Toledo remained a city where scholars flocked to study rare Arab and Hebrew texts,
In the 13th century, Toledo was a major cultural center under the guidance of Alfonso X, called "El Sabio" ("the Wise") for his love of learning. The large communities of Muslims and Jews coexist, until they were expelled from Spain in 1492 (Jews) and 1502 (Mudéjars).
.The Toledo School of Translators, that had commenced under Archbishop Raymond of Toledo, continued to bring vast volum of knowledge to Europe by rendering great academic and philosophical works in Arabic into Latin.
Toledo was the seat of the Spanish court until its 16th-c , which then move to Madrid.
(for more history of the city)
Within the Walls of the Old City
On its cobbled steep lanes, the footprints of Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Arab and Christians have left many memorable marks, for more than two millennia, filling the city with palaces, cathedrals, churches, convents, monasteries, mosques, and synagogues.
Old walls, towers, 11 gates, bridges, narrow allies, squares, museums. fantastic views and trinkets stores, are most interesting and charming to encounter and walk through.
Metal-working industry has historically been Toledo's economic base, from Roman times, but it was under Moorish rule and during the Reconquista that Toledo and its guild of sword-makers played a key role between the 15th and 17th c.
The Toledo bladed weapons industry including sword/daggers/knives has been kept as a common souvenirs of the city.
The old city on the mountain-top, facilitates a 150-degree view, of the bend in the Tagus River, surrounding the city on three sides , along with the green hilly landscape beyond.
Among its many fascinating historical sites, the Alcázar, (arms museum) the cathedral (the primate church of Spain), and the Zocodover, (a central market place) are the core outstanding focal orientation points in town.
The places visited are clustered by the 3 sides of the old town - West, Center, and East
The Jewish Quarter -West part of town
The Jewish community of Toledo which became, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the most populous and rich of the middle ages Kingdom of Castile. coexisted for centuries more or less peacefully, with Muslims and Christians until the 15c expulsion.
One of the many entrances to the quarter is the gate Puerta de Assulca, by which the flea market where oil, butter, chickpeas, lentils and other necessities for daily life were sold.
In the Jewish quarter which its steep steps and narrow allies, we walked up and down
visiting the El Greco museum and the 2 Synagogues (out of the 10 that
once existed) is a must.
El Greco Museum
Marquis of Vega-Inclán, the museum's founder, and important artistic patron of the first half of the 20th c, introduced and assisted in the recovery of El Greco's fame. when he purchased a run down 14c house, under the mistaken assumption he was buying the remains of what was once El Greco's original house, built over the foundations of a Renaissance palace.
However the structure actually was once, the house of the Jewish
The most original painter of the Spanish Renaissance - El Greco( 1541–1614), having been born in Fodele, Crete, spent much of his life in Toledo, He was quite a controversial figure in his fays, gradually forgotten after his death because his work fell out of fashion ,and was later resurrected by the Marquis
Opened in 1911, in the Jewish quarter, the museum consists of two buildings :
a house with courtyard from the 16c and an enlargement from the beginning of the 20 C
with a courtyard, and a fabulous shared garden, which we enjoyed exploring, as much,if not more as the museum's paintings.
The museum has an extensive collection of paintings by the artist of the Spanish Golden Age. especially from his late period. and there are also paintings by other 17th-century Spanish artists, as well as furniture from the period and pottery.
A labyrinth of tunnels under the building, used for storage and hiding, can be accessed from the garden.
Very close to the museum another el Greco master piece is on view at:
The 14 c church constructed on the site of an old mosque of the 11th c and still carries a square brick and edge stonework Mudejar tower, attracts visitors for the el Greco master piece : "The burial of Lord Orgaz” hanging in its interior. Lord Orgaz was the one who rebuilt the church,
Patio of "Palace de Fuensalida"
And Just next to the Santo Tom'e church, the beautiful 15c Toledan Mudéjar
“palace de Fuensalida” is seen,
,when walking up the steps, from the street, the building’s beautiful patio, open for view to the public is worth viewing.
Also close by the el Greco museum are the 2 Synagogues
Synagogue El Transito
Synagogue of El Transito, in the Jewish Quarter. is an home to the Sephardic Museum.
The 14th-c building's , old prayer hall contains a mix of beautiful Mudéjar tiling and Hebrew carving
Santa Blanca Synagogue
Santa María la Blanca, the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing, now owned by the Catholic Church.
The 12th-c building is a gorgeous pale-stoned assemblage constructed at Christian Toledo, command by Islamic architects for Jewish use.
Among Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews, in their various diasporas, the family name Toledano is still prevalent – indicating an ancestry traced back to this city (the name is also attested among non-Jews in various Spanish-speaking countries).
Within the narrow allies at the Jewish quarter
More on Todeo's Jewish Community
Combrion Gate -"Gate of the Jews"
is built over the remains of a Visigoth gate, double gate with 2 towers and arches, of stone and brick. in the Renaissance style, ,
It underwent two renovations in the early-1570s and in 1576
The church of San Sebastián originally a mosque, called Al-Dabbagin. It was converted for use as church after the Reconquista., and it dates from before the expulsion, to the 10th c , being enlarged in the 11th c, as a mosque, As now its good condition remains show the characteristics of the Mudéjar architectural style, with rich Arabic decorations, and the church's tower shows characteristics of the former minaret
Both sides of the pedestrian only medieval bridge bridge, which are fun to walk through, were heavily fortified with towers, the more recent dating from the 16th c.
Not only the top of the bridge is fun to cross over the river, but the trail below the bridge, along the river is a fun nature walk, with the opportunity to climb the steep steps back into the old town.
Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes
Another huge monastery monument domineering the western point of the city
It is an IsabellinestyleFranciscanmonastery which, was founded by the Catholic Monarchs (1477–1504). King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile to commemorate both the birth of their son, Prince John, and their victory at the Battle of Toro (1476) over the army of Afonso V of Portugal.
The heart of the Old City
Main Cathedral - Primatial Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo
We are not great fans of churches/cathedral hopping, but the one that crowns
the hill top of the town, is so majestic and iconic, that visiting it couldn't be missed.
It is being encountered from any angle, when walking through town.
The opulent overwhelming grandiose cathedral, was initially constructed in 1226 and completed in 1493. The Visigoth church was torn down and the main mosque of the city of Toledo was erected in its place
Thus it also combines some characteristics of the Mudéjar style, mainly in the cloister, The last Gothic contributions were made in the 15th c when the vaults of the central nave were finished during the time of the Catholic Monarchs.
El Greco's "Mayor Sanctity" the "Apostles" series masterpiece, along with other precious religious and artifacts treasures decorate the interior and exterior of the magnanimous structure
Plaza del Ayuntamiento, is the small quint square beside the main Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace (Renaissance) and the Palace Arc ;representing the religious power, and where the nice Town Hall (Herrera building) which houses the city council of Toledo, representing the political power, meet and are also joined by the judiciary power with the Palace of Justice.
On that particular day, also the "Wind Power" joined at the square, and made sure to remind and imprint in peoples mind and body, of its ultimate force of nature, way beyond all human societal ruling configurations.
Another element of nature -water- to connect humans with the depth of humility,
Now a days it serves as a cultural center, an exhibition hall and an auditorium for event.
We drifted into the building on our walk, lured by an intriguing sign advertising an
art exhibit , which caught our attention
A contemporary exhibit of Toledo's local plastic artist - a painter and sculptor named:Alberto Romero , with whom I tried to have a conversation. in my broken Spanish, and him with me by an absent English, revealed the conceptual framework to his artistic work :
" 3 Cultures, A King" is a tribute to King Alfonso X - (1221-1284) the King of Casilla, Leon & Galicia who was known as "The Wise" and for his tolerance and interchanges with the three religions which peacefully coexisted in the city during his reign . Jews, Muslims, and Christians were encouraged to have prominent roles in his court, and
he fostered the development of a cosmopolitan court that encouraged learning. ,
The wisdom of the Jew
The Christian, Muslim and the Jew
Climb up for the spectacular views on top
Another Church, a Jesuit one, in a Baroque style worth a visit for its impressive 2 observation towers to where narrow steps allows a climb up to the top of one tower, from which the views of the city are spectacular, and
a climb down o the steps of the other tower
Views from the Tower's Top
Museum of Visigothic Council and Culture
Nearby the ildefinso church, located is the impressive building of the Visigoth Museum, which only It’s beautiful exterior we viewed,
The 13th-c Mudéjar church of San Román is the site where once was an old Visigothic structure and probably an ancient Roman building. and now is the site of this museum, dedicated to preserving and displaying the historic and artistic remains of the Visigoth civilization, which made Toledo the capital of its kingdom.
This stunning small square structure, converted into a church around 1085, and made mostly from brick and stone, is a perfect example of Mudejar architecture.
The name "Cristo de la Luz" of the mosque possibly refers to the former Visigothic church, meaning "of the christ of light", which most likely was built on a previous Roman site, as the exposed remains of an excavated Roman road indicates.
The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is a former mosque, much in the same state as it was when it was originally built in 999, during the Ummayed dynasty - Ahmad Ibn Hadidi, one of the ten, that existed in the city during the Moorish period.
It was then known as Mezquita Bab-al-Mardum, deriving its name from the city gate Bab al-Mardum. located near the Puerta del Sol, in an area of the city once called Medina where wealthy Muslims used to live
Built in the late 14th c by the Knights Hospitaller.
The medallion above the arch of the gate depicts the ordination of the Visigothic Ildephonsus, Toledo's patron saint. The name of the gate with its orientation to the east, comes from the sun and the moon, that were once painted on either side of this medallion.
or because where the sun always rises. The gate is no longer there, but the entrance is.
Alcantara Bridge -Roman Romantic
Alcántara bridge, or Trajan's Bridge at Alcantara - the Arches Bride
Roman stone bridge, another only pedestrian one, across the Tagus, linking to Toledo old town, which we walked on.
The romantic bridge is popular destination for photo shooting of
Puerta de Bisagra Antigua (10th c),
originally called Bab al-Saqra and the only surviving part of the Arab wall.
From the 9th c it is the main old Entrance Gate to the city in Moorish Andalusian times, the only gate from the Muslim age to have survived in reasonably good condition Also known as "Puerta de Alfonso VI".
More architectural styles
On the Eastern side of the city
This square near the highest point of the old city, in the north-east corner, close by the Alcazar. is from where the commercial streets begins
Though relatively small is in its size, this main plaza of Toledo and one of it's major landmarks and a social nerve center market place of the city, was as such, during most of the city's history, The ancient Arabian market.
The origin of the name Zocodover comes from the Arabic language sūq ad-dawābb, which means "market of burden beasts" .The location of the old cattle market ("Tulaytula") was built on top of the ruins of the Roman wall
Horses, donkeys, foals, mares, mules and other beasts were sold, when the city of Toledo was Spanish-Muslim city, as well as where bullfighting and the cucañas were organized in the celebrations of the locality. Sadly also the plaza was also a center for more disgraceful acts like the autos-da-fé of the Inquisition or the public execution of the prisoners.
Traditional markets, such as the famous "Martes" (Tuesday market) still takes place
The buildings around the plaza consist of some residential, offices, shops and fast food.
Visitors regularly take a break at the plaza's cafes after visiting the Alcazar or the Cathedral or frequent it to catch the bus or riding a tourist train.
Alcazar - Army Museum
Alcazar an enormous 16 c quadrangular fortress situated in the highest part of town, overlooking the city, and can be seen from every point in the city
The stone fortification with framed by four large towers 60 meters high, each crowned by the typical Madrid spire , was once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd c, it was restored under Charles I (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and his son Philip II of Spain in the 1540s. We only enjoyed viewing its exterior on this visit.
Located in the former Santa Cruz Hospital. a 16th-c cloister monastery convent structure
of outstanding features with Plateresque façade, courtyards, staircase and Mudéjar and Renaissance coffered ceilings.
The museum's collection included: Archaeology, ( Roman, Visigothic, Moorish and Mudéjar cultures) Fine Arts, (16th- and 17th-c paintings from Toledo) and Industrial Arts, (ceramics, glass, fabrics, wrought iron and precious metalwork).
Tied up to many romantic love stories: like between the French Emperor Charlemagne and the beautiful Galiana, daughter of the Moorish King Galafré
Outside the City's walls
The views, of the cathedral, alcázar and other structures, on this bright but windy cool day, which sharply, unfolded from the Parador- hotel's outdoors terrace, and for which we specialty arrived to "sip in", along with hot chocolate, was like in El Greco's painting .
Parador de Turimo - Cerro del - Emperador, s/n 925 22 18 50
The hotel on the hilly slopes across the city opened in 1965 and from a distance, offers breathtaking views of the city. The building has 2 extended floors, in Toledo style with porches and floors typical of the region in tune with the popular houses in the area called cigarrales.
The traditional garden and fruit orchard of the cigarrales have been replaced here by a modern set of terraces and swimming pool.
The Parador is a 4 star out of the city with breathtaking views for an afternoon cocktail. Not luxury - more rustic . As much as the views are worth a visit to the hotel, staying at the old town's center and not needing a car to get around, is much more preferable when visiting Toledo.
Another monumental 16c Florentine Renaissance palace structure of two columned courtyards, a church and a palace-museum (part of the old hospital). which was built by order of the Cardinal Tavera and was dedicated to John the Baptist and also served as pantheon for its patron, Cardinal Tavera.
Currently the building serves as a Museo Fundación Lerma, which houses part of the artistic collections of this lineage, as well as the Section of the Nobility of the National Historic Archive.
Toledo's 150 years old Bull -Ring arena is located just next to the Tavera Hospital
What more to see (more here)
Food- Eating Places
Toledo's cuisine is grouped with that of Castile–La Mancha, well-set in its traditions and closely linked to hunting and grazing. A good number of recipes are the result of a combination of Moorish and Christian influences. Some of its specialties include lamb roast or stew,
Martonela - Ice cream Manchego Cheese Boutique Casa Curatero
Calle Hombre de
La Naviera Sea Food Restaurant
Alfileritos 24 - a very good modern Spanish cuisine/fusion.
C. Alfileritos, 24, Tel: 34 629 36 33 46
Travel Guide we met
During lunch, at this popular place, we met vivacious Mariluz Gutierrez- a tour guide from Madrid who brought a not very interested group from the Philippines to dine there.
She does her work in Madrid -Toledo, Castilla & Leon, in Spanish, English, Italian and French.
She happily shared her business info when chatting with us, and here it is:
"Madrid Travel Private Tours" firstname.lastname@example.org
Mariluz.email@example.com Tel: 34 627 42 58 55
Jacqueline's her partner # 34 609 14 05 45
Palencia de Lara Assdor - Meat place
C. Nuncio Viejo, 6, 45001
925 25 67 46 firstname.lastname@example.org
El Cobertizo Restaurant - meat place
Calle Hombre de Palo 9, +34925223809
Very good place
A women we stopped in the street to ask for directions and to consult about this restaurant, miraculously, revealed that her husband works there, and immediately called him to make reservation for us. we had a great meal.
She also divulge hat she has an apartment to rent: RB &B -
One bedroom apartment that can sleeps 4 propel, on the eastern side of Toledo's old town
The 3 best non touristic restaurants in Toledo are :
l’orza, La Clandestino And el embrujo ( simpler )
Reservation is a must especially in weekends
Other Good restaurants:
For lamb chops and roast lamb
Adolfo , Sal de Mare expensive touristic
If you must eat fish go to Le Naviera - so so
El Rano Verde .
Hotel we stayed at: (read more)
Eugenia d Montijo Hotel, Toledo
Autograph Collection Pl. del Juego de Pelota, 7
Another Toledo Guide
Fernando Vazquez 627432191
To be Continued... a day trip to Aranjues