Known as the “city of the three cultures”, Toledo, the capital of the province, has a population of 75,500. This small city on a hilltop has been labelled a UNESCO World Heritage site, rich in culture to be soaked up by its visitors. The old town centre is surrounded on 3 sides by the Tagus River and the winding roads will let the town unravel before you. Several famous people are associated with Toledo, including El Greco and Garcilaso de la Vega. Toledo is brimming with art and culture and famous for its alcazar (fort) and its cathedral with its stunning stained glass windows.
Toledo dates from the Roman period and due to its strategic position upon a hill surrounded by a river on 3 sides became a city of great importance. Later it was the centre of Visigoth Spain, (which explains its remarkable medieval architecture) until the 8th century when the Moors controlled Iberia. Toledo’s unique history is defined by La Conviviencia, where religious tolerance was upheld by the Jews, Arabs and Christians all coexisting.
The city was conquered in 1805 by King Alfonso VI thus becoming part of the kingdom of Castile. With it came many advantages for the people, as the King promised to respect each religion. The outcome of this was a huge intercultural exchange including the School of Translators during the 12th and 13th centuries contributing to the preservation of Greco-Latin and Arab cultures. The 14th century however, saw economic and social problems and this tight knit mixed community started to disappear. The following century, Ferdinand and Isabel, the Catholic Monarchs further distanced these coexisting religions.
Another significant factor in the history of Toledo was when it became the capital of the Spanish Empire in 1519. Short-lived, the status was handed to Madrid in 1561, affecting the reputation of Toledo however it managed to uphold its religious significance over the preceding centuries. Today, Toledo strives on as a place of historic importance and cultural interest.
The monuments of Toledo
One of the main reasons to visit Toledo is the architecture and monuments, fused from several religions. Amble around the Alcazar, an imposing structure where fortresses have been built since the Roman Times, is a must for all heading to Toledo. Having been burnt down and restored, used for an imperial residence, a military college and a library, there is no lack of history.
It is said that the Gothic cathedral in Toledo is one of the most magnificent in Spain. With its 750 stained glass windows and architectural influences from all over, don’t forget to complete the walk around the exterior as each side has something new to discover.
Other points of interest include the Roman circus, (its vastness boasting the importance of this town during the Roman period) and the Town hall, where Renaissance architecture meets Baroque.