Spain Guide


Toledo Tourist Attractions Things to Do

For history buffs Toledo is one of Spain's finest outdoor museums offering a wealth of fascinating historic sites and buildings the legacy of the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Jews and Christians who have all made their mark here over the last 2,000 years. Pack a pair of strong walking shoes and step back in time for a tour through these ancient streets which are awash with centuries old but beautifully preserved monuments and buildings. Travel further afield and you'll discover one of Spain's biggest concentrations of medieval castles and the dramatic plains of La Mancha, made famous by Miguel de Cervantes in his tales of Don Quixote.

One of the best places to start your exploration of the city is in Plaza de Zocodover, near the alcazar, which is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike. It was once a marketplace and a central stage for festivals and bull running. These days it's the perfect place to people watch from a street café.

Move on to the city's major landmark, the alcazar palace and fortress perched on the highest point of the town a strategic location where various forts have been built since Roman times. It's an impressive building, framed by four towers, which has been altered, expanded, damaged by fired and reconstructed since medieval times. Today it's home to a military museum and library.

The huge cathedral of Toledo, built between 1226 and 1493, is one of the greatest Gothic buildings in Spain boasting a range of architectural styles due to its construction having taken place over two and a half centuries. Religious services are still conducted here in the Mozarabic liturgy (the Christian service used during the Moorish occupation of Spain). The cathedral has a wonderful main altarpiece, Renaissance style choir stalls and no less than 22 chapels with some elaborate frescoes. Priceless paintings by some of the world's great masters El Greco, Goya and Raphael form part of the cathedral museum's collection along with a 16th century gold and silver monstrance (the vessel used by Roman Catholics to display the host). The monstrance, weighing 500 pounds, was allegedly created from precious metals brought back from the New World in the wake of Christopher Columbus' voyages and is still paraded through the streets of Toledo during the Corpus Christi festivities.

The city's Santa Cruz Museum is well worth a visit as it houses many archaeological exhibits and artistic treasures including the skull of a mammoth and El Greco's last known work, the Assumption of the Virgin. More El Greco works and the painter's tomb can be seen at the Cistercian convent of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The convent was founded in 1085 by Alfonso VI when he wrested control of the city from the Moors but it was closed to the public until 1982. Now it has a public museum and you can also buy marzipan and other sweets made by the nuns.

A tour of the Toledo sword factory is one of the city's highlights for many visitors (especially youngsters and men who prefer Samurai swords to ancient convents!). Toledo has been famous for its hand crafted swords since medieval times and still supplies film makers, television producers and collectors worldwide with weaponry, suits of armour, metal gloves and scabbards. Here you can buy an exact replica of the sword used by Spain's greatest national hero, El Cid, or a copy of the sword wielded by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the 16th century.