Just like the rest of the cities in Spain, Toledo also presents a conundrum of Roman, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim architecture, which actually tells the stories of the confluence of these cultures resulting from the respective conquests. The entire day I spent in the city had me gawking at the magnificence of the ancient structures standing tall in the myriads of small buildings along cobblestoned alleys.
Here’s where I managed to take my art-thirsty self.
Alcazar means a fortress. Like other Alcazars in nearly every city of the country, this one, too, speaks (rather cry) of its mixed history. This is the highest point of the city; and therefore, it provides a view that simply stays in the eyes forever.
You can walk around the streets of Toledo, but if you want to get a bigger picture of the ancient city, Mirador del Valle is the place to go. I spent nearly an hour there just sitting high, letting my legs dangle, and taking in the sprawling horizons. That was very relaxing.
Built by Catholic Monarch in the period 1477-1504, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes is not like any other monastery you’d see. It’s not Romanesque-style, but rather Isabelline-style architecture and it’s exquisite.
Inspired by the Muslim architecture, the Sinagoga del Transito bears the same stucco art that has adorned the Alcazars of Seville and Alhambra. This building was originally built by Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia, and was later converted into a church after his execution.
If I’ve ever seen the best example of Gothic architecture, it was when I laid my eyes on Toledo Cathedral. It’s one of the buildings that take you by surprise and keep you stick to its grandeur. One of the peculiar things that I saw in this place was the Ochavo – a 16th century decorated room for witnesses or devotees of Christ. And don’t ever miss staring at the gold altar – it’s mind-blowing piece of art I’ve never seen before. I was staring at it for a loooooong time. It can’t be real!
The whole city is a UNESCO heritage site. Therefore, just by walking along the cobblestoned alleys, you’d stumble upon one of the many attractions of the place. I particularly liked walking than being on a tour bus as that let me experience what the city can offer me first-hand.
Puente de San Martin is a 14th-century bridge that has five arches. The main and the biggest arch has a story entailed to it. This arch was not strong enough at the time of its construction. The engineer confided in his wife as he couldn’t risk his reputation by sharing it with someone else, unbeknownst of the fact that his very wife would save him by furtively setting fire to the scaffolds around the arch. When it collapsed to the ground, the engineer started his calculations again and this time came up with an arch that is still standing.
A huge gate guarding the city, the La Puerta de Bisagra is flanked by two circular towers on the outside and by two square towers on the inside. Overall, the gate is built in Renaissance-style and is of Muslim or Moorish origin. By looking at the colossal structure, I could tell how difficult conquering this gate would have been for the invaders.
El Greco Museum is famous for its artistic 16th and 17th-century collections of El Greco and his student, Luis Tristan. Apart from this, there are loads of decorative, fine, archaeological artifacts dotted around its galleries. It is also called The Santa Cruz Museum and besides the work of El Greco, I particularly was attracted by the Christ in Chain by Morales and retablo by Alonso Berruguete.
Standing tall opposite the Alcantara Bridge, the Castillo de San Servando is an epitome of the Mudejar-style. However, in this castle, too, the reminiscent influence of Arabian or Muslim architecture is visible, especially on its entrance gate.
Toledo is like an open-air museum with every alley, every street, and every square housing one or two relics of the past. The day that I spent at the city reinforced the idea that the most resilient stands the atrocity of time.
Do you want to stay in Toledo for a night or two to experience what the city is like after the sunset? Stay at Hostal La Campana and Apartment Plaza De Las Fuentes – both are at the center of the city.