Toledo Spain was a city that I first visited during a high school Spanish class trip. At that time, I was only 17 years old. Let’s just say that I now am “slightly” older. The wonderful thing about Toledo is that it hasn’t changed much in the decades since. It is timeless and looks about the same as it did 200 years ago. The city is completely walled in like a fortress.
Toledo Spain is known as the “City of the three cultures”. For centuries it has been inhabited by Christians, Jews and Arabs. It is filled with churches, mosques, synagogues, palaces and fortresses. Toledo is located south of Madrid and is about a 50 minute train ride from there.
It is the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. It was home to the famous artist El Greco where he lived until he died. Toledo has a population just above 80,000 and only takes up about 89 square miles. Established as part of the Roman Empire in 193 AC.
Known for a history of bladed weapon production, swords are an extremely popular souvenir in this city. This also happens to be a souvenir that I was actively seeking out and found. I was looking for a replica of the sword from the movie, “Braveheart”. If you are in the market for a new sword while there, be sure to have it shipped home as I wouldn’t recommend trying to board a plane with one. There are several bad reproductions being sold here, so I recommend looking for swords manufactured by the company “Marto” which has officially licenses for many movie replicas.
We arrived in Toledo by Train from Madrid. It was a very enjoyable trip with decent, but a little desolate scenery to view along the way. We had to make one transfer from our subway station in Madrid. Just don’t do what we did and take the train going the wrong way. Needless to say, we had a few train transfers. Transportation from the train station into the city was by bus of which several are waiting as you depart the train station. You can purchase a round trip ticket for your return back to the station.
The bus dropped us off in a central location of the city and from there we walked the entire rest of our stay. Toledo is truly a walking city. Streets are extremely narrow which makes vehicle transportation impossible. Most are for pedestrian traffic only as in the photo below.
As I mentioned previously, Toledo is known for metal work specifically with swords and weaponry. They also have built a reputation for movie memorabilia such as the helmet and gauntlet from the movie the “Lord of the Rings”. These are licensed reproductions and have a fantastic attention to detail as you can see below.
Iglesia de San Idelfonso
As we journeyed down the street randomly, not really looking for anyplace in particular, we found ourselves at the doors of Iglesia de San Idelfonso. This is a Baroque style Jesuit church located in the heart of Toledo. Construction took over 100 years to complete beginning in 1629. Built on the location where it’s Patron Saint Idelfonso was born. You can see a fantastic view of the entire city of Toledo from the rooftop viewing platforms at the top of the church.
As previously mentioned, the roof of the church has a viewing platform from which to see views of the entire city. The first photo below is really just a shot of the actual roof of the church. The ones below that show the views we saw while up on top.
While you do get beautiful photos from the top of the church, getting up is not simple. Definitely not handicapped or stroller accessible, your only route up is by the stairs featured below. You are essentially climbing up into the bell tower. Worth every step just for the view.
Santa Iglesia Catedral Primado de Toledo
This church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her Ascension to heaven, is centrally located in Toledo and is just immense in size. The unfortunate part for us is that we arrived too late to actually tour inside the cathedral. Be sure not to wait till the end of the day to tour this wonder. The church began construction in 1227 and was built over the foundations of a Visigoth Cathedral which was used as a mosque. The cathedral was not finished until 1493 but additions were made from that time up until the 16th century. It currently is the seat of the Bishop and is part of the Catholic church.
Tickets for tours are only valid for the day they are issued. You can get ticket and opening hour information here.
Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes
This monastery was a place I visited back during my high school trip to Toledo in the 1980’s. I had some old pictures of it, but had no idea what it was called or where it was located in Toledo. I am really glad I was able to find it and actually identify it. This monastery was built by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I to commemorate the birth of their son John and their victory at the “Battle of Toro” against Portugal. It was built from the period of 1477 – 1504. The monastery was badly damaged by Napoleon’s troops during their occupation of Toledo and was abandoned in 1835. It went through a period of restoration from 1883 all the way to 1967. For visiting information and hours click here!
Streets of Toledo
Walking must be the local pastime in Toledo as most of the streets are only navigable by foot. While there is vehicle traffic in some areas, most of Toledo can be covered completely by walking, no cars needed here. Walking the narrow streets of Toledo really allow you to find new discoveries and it will take you places you would probably have never gone if you traveled by bus or car. Just walking the city was our favorite part of exploring Toledo. We found some fantastic tapas bars & restaurants and pretty much every place you see mentioned on this page was an accidental discovery.
Some of the streets are so narrow your arms can stretch from one side to the other as in the photo below.
The Walls of Toledo
Toledo was first first walled in by the Romans. Many of those stones were reused in later built walls as the original perimeter was tripled. Later the Visigothic King Wamba re-fortified the Roman walls and adding inscriptions that were later destroyed by the Muslims and restored in 1575. The Arabs expanded the walls and the city. After the Reconquista (Reconquest by christian army), The walls were expanded again and new gates were constructed just before the discovery of the new world in 1492. The gates, towers and walls you will see below have survived from that time period.