Living in Madrid is very beneficial for many reasons, one being its close proximity to neighboring towns and cities, including historic Toledo. Just 30 minutes south of Madrid by train, Toledo is a small but important Spanish medieval city. UNESCO declared the entire city a World Heritage Site, so there are no modern buildings to be found. I was particularly excited to visit Toledo because I almost studied abroad there before choosing an entire year in Sevilla.
The city is surrounded by el Río Tajo and used to be one of Spain’s “three culture cities” where Christians, Muslims and Jews all coexisted peacefully together. It has a long history of being conquered and ruled by many including the Romans, Visigoths, and the Moors. Now, the city’s cobbled streets support thousands of visitors each year to marvel at its history, art, and overall beauty.
If you’ve never wanted to own a sword, Toledo will quickly change your mind. The city was famous for its production of strong steel and beautifully crafted swords. While Toledo no longer supplies armies with its weaponry, it did supply Peter Jackson with some badass weapons for the Lord of the Rings movies. Now you want a Toledan sword, right?!
There are a number of museums, churches, synagogues, and mosques in Toledo so we had to pick and choose where to visit. The Catedral de Toledo is a 13th century construction of mainly Gothic architecture with a mix of styles including Renaissance and Mudéjar. It is probably my favorite European cathedral to date. Around each corner is another impressive surprise whether it be a grand organ, an impossibly detailed altarpiece or a glittery crown. Javi and I easily spent two hours exploring the interior.
The cathedral is also special because it houses El Greco’s painting, “El Expolio” or “The Disrobing of Christ.” El Greco or Doménikos Theotokópoulos was of Greek origin but lived, painted, and sculpted during the Spanish Renaissance. You can find prints or postcards of El Greco’s paintings all around Toledo.
Some other famous figures of Toledo include Miguel Cervantes and his protagonist, Don Quixote. Cervantes’ incredibly famous story of Don Quixote de la Mancha takes place in different areas of Spain~which continues to cause controversy regarding the routes Quixote and Sancho Panza take throughout their adventure. Nevertheless, Toledo made the list and you can stand next to Cervantes or Don Quixote depending on what statue you run into. Here is one of Cervantes proudly standing with his book:
For five euros, you can take a small trolley around the entire city with an included audio tour and lookout stop (Word to the wise: if you take the trolley, sit on the RIGHT side of the car as this side hugs the hill and the most important views…I did not know this before). We stopped outside the city walls to take some panoramas and enjoy the scenery.
Besides swords, Cervantes, and historic religious tolerance, Toledo is also famous for its Demasquinado art. This unique form is the process of inlaying gold or silver into oxidized steel. The patterns vary from birds to symmetrical flowers on plates, jewelry, swords, watches, and more. They are absolutely stunning, and some stores included demonstrations. I’d love to learn this ancient craft.
Toledo is a beautiful destination if you are visiting in and around Madrid! I know I will visit again to discover more!