by Julie Espinosa
Known as the “city of three cultures,” medieval Toledo was a relatively harmonious home to Christians, Muslims and Jews for several centuries—and luckily, while the latter two groups have disappeared, traces of their architecture remain. Toledo also conjures associations with El Greco’s artwork and its artisans’ distinctive metalwork.
Toledo makes a great day-trip from Madrid. Go by train: the comfy Avant takes only 30 minutes and at 8.60€ one-way or 15€ round-trip (discount when buying return ticket in advance or in Toledo), it costs little more than the bus.
From the tiled train station, hike up the hill or take bus #22 or #6 to get to the city’s nerve center. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes; you’ll be walking many a cobblestone street. At the tourist stand in the bustling Zocodóver Plaza you can pick up a free map, but at some point, enjoy losing your way in the labyrinth.
I suggest you see these religious buildings, in order of most awe-inspiring to least:
- Museo Sefardí/Sinagoga de Tránsito (museum of Spanish Jews attached to synagogue)
- Museo de los Concilios y la Cultura Visigoda (Visigoth church with breathtaking Romanesque frescos)
- Sinagoga de Santa María la Blanca
- Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz
- Mezquita de Tornerías
The last three are free, provided you don’t go inside the Cristo de la Luz mosque (you can see everything from outside) and the rest are 2€ or less.
The main El Greco attraction is the Iglesia de Santo Tomé, where his Burial of Count Orgaz is hung (1,90€). El Greco works can also be seen at the Museo del Greco (closed until early 2008); the Museo de Santa Cruz (1,20€); the Monasterio de Santo Domingo El Antiguo (1,90€); the Hospital de Tavera/Museo Duque de Lerma, outside the city center (4€) and in the cathedral sacristy (6€).
Unfortunately, Toledo’s grand Alcázar is closed while being converted to a military museum but it should re-open sometime in 2008. Don’t miss the city walls, especially the mudéjar Puerta de Sol. Finally, typical Toledan souvenirs include marzipan, gold-inlay damascene jewelery, and swords, if you’re into any of those things.
Toledo is about 80 km South West of Madrid – see map below: