Spain 2016: Toledo

Whenever I hear “Toledo,” I think of the world-renown swords whose superior strength and craftmanship ensured many victories in the hands of medieval warriors. The Toledo we visited was a peaceful town with plenty of old-world charm, a citadel city perched on the hill overlooking Tagus river, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula.

Just like Granada, Toledo is a harmonious display of several cultures that are clearly reflected in the city’s architecture. Christians, Jews, and Muslims thrived in the “city of three cultures” and built a strong cultural legacy: churches, convents, palaces, fortresses, synagogues, and mosques.

The city’s art scene is as rich as its past: from traditional crafts like metalwork and antique-inspired swords, to handmade marzipan (almond-based candy), and the works of El Greco (displayed throughout the city’s churches and convents, as well as at El Greco Museum).

Some of the places not to be missed were:

  • Plaza de Toros de Toledo—although I’m not a fan of this tradition, I was curious to see a bullfighting ring; if you are an adrenalin junkie, you can still run with the bulls for Fiesta de San Fermin…
  • Las Murallas (Ramparts)—the city’s stone wall, initially built by the Romans, then renewed by the Visigoths, expanded by the Moors, and then again after the Christian reconquest; its three gates reflect a different architectural style: Puerta Vieja de Bisagra; Puerta del Cambrón; Puerta del Sol; walk through the gates and visit the old city
  • Iglesia de Santiago del Arrabal—one of the most stunning landmarks in Toledo, built of brick and masonry, with a decorative exterior of portals framed by Islamic-style horseshoe arches
  • Alcazar de Toledo—ancient Moorish fortress, built on the site of an earlier Roman fort, later renovated by the Christian Kings in the 13th century

Our AirBnB hosts in Madrid gave us the name of Bar Ludena, a small place featuring local fare and we tried the pork stew and Mahou beer.

David checked out the armor and swords.

We sampled traditional marzipan candy and a local art exhibit.

The cobblestone streets revealed more beautifully crafted ornate doors, colorful shop windows, lively music performances, and local artists at work.

For lunch, a sandwich with typical cured meat (bocadillo de jamon Iberico—ham from acorn-fed pigs) from Viandas de Salamanca hit the spot.

Before heading back to Madrid, we crossed the river to Mirador del Valle—a hilltop viewpoint perfect for admiring the city’s panorama.

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