Spain Guide


Toledo Spain

The city of Toledo is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and of the autonomous community of Castilla La Mancha. It's one of Europe's most important and beautifully preserved medieval cities. To walk its ancient streets is to step back in time to an era when Arabs, Jews and Christians managed to co exist peaceably and jointly make their mark on this historic city which was once the capital of the entire Iberian Peninsula. Toledo has been declared a national monument by the Spanish government and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

You'll find it 68 kilometres southwest of Madrid, nestling on a hilltop and surrounded on three sides by a loop of the River Tagus. Its location in the centre of Spain and altitude of 529 metres above sea level made it the obvious choice as the capital of the mighty Spanish empire in the 16th century.

It's surrounded by farmland with the mountains of Toledo to the south and the seemingly endless plains of La Mancha to the east. The fertile plains are peppered with the windmills made famous in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote.

This is one of the loveliest cities in Spain with a rich history spanning more than 2,000 years. You reach it by crossing the impressive 14th century San Martin Bridge over the River Tagus and enter via one of the huge stone gateways in the old defence walls. Here you'll find an outdoor museum awash with ancient churches, convents, synagogues and historic buildings housing priceless works of art and antiquities.

There's the fabulous alcazar fortress with its four towers, dramatically dominating the skyline for miles around. The magnificent Cathedral of Toledo, built between the 13th and 15th centuries, is the most impressive example of Gothic architecture in the city. It has been compared to Notre Dame in Paris in terms of its beauty and the treasures within it include paintings by masters such as El Greco, Goya, Velazquez, Rubens and Raphael.

El Greco was the greatest Spanish painter of the 16th century (although he originated from Crete, hence his title meaning "The Greek). He lived and died in Toledo which is home to some of his greatest works including "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" depicting a 14th century Toledan nobleman lying in his grave. The painting hangs in the 14th century chapel of Santo Tome, above the count's tomb.

The painter's stormy and dramatic "View of Toledo", now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, arouses international curiosity about the historic city which El Greco made his home in 1577.

Toledo also has an international reputation for its beautiful hand crafted swords which are supplied to Hollywood filmmakers, television producers, the military and collectors worldwide. The city has specialised in sword making since medieval times and continues to produce the finest swords, armour, replicas and collectibles. You can buy everything from a medieval or Japanese Samurai sword to a replica of the sword carried by Spain's greatest national hero, El Cid.