Cossio called Toledo (pop. 66,000) the most brilliant and evocative summary of Spain’s history. Today, the city may be,marred by armies of tourists and caravans of kitsch, but this former capital of the Holy Roman, Visigoth, and Muslim empires remains a treasure trove of Spanish culture. The city’s numerous churches, synagogues, and mosques share twisting alleyways, emblematic of a time when Spain’s three religions coexisted peacefully.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Trains: Po. Rosa 2 (RENFE info 902 24 02 02), in an exquisite neo-Mudejar station just over the Puente de Azarquiel. 1 line to Madrid to either Atocha or Chamartin (1-VAhr. 9-10 per day, ‚5-5.50), usually via Aranjuez (35min. 8-9 per day, ‚2.50).
Buses: Av. Castilla-La Mancha (m925 21 58 50), 5min. from Puerta de Bisagra, the city gate. From PI. de Zocodover, take C. Armas and its extension to Puerta de Bisagra; as you exit the old city turn right following Ronda de Granadal to the next traffic circle. Just before the bridge, take a left, and the station is straight ahead (15-20min. walk). Information booth open daily 7am-llpm. Despite multiple companies, destinations are few. Continental-Auto (in Toledo 925 22 36 41; in Madrid 915 27 29 61) runs to Madrid-Estacion Sur (IVihr. every 30min. ‚4). Alslna (in Toledo 925 21 58 50; in Valencia 963 49 72 30) goes to Valencia (5V2hr. M-F 3pm, ‚17).
Public Transportation: Buses #5 and 6 get you to and from several city points, mainly the bus and train stations and the central Plaza de Zocodover. Buses stop to the right of the train station, underneath and across the street from the bus station (‚0.80).
Taxis: Radio Taxi and Gruas de Toledo (925 25 50 50 or 925 22 70 70.)
Tourist Office: The regional office ( 925 22 08 43; fax 925 25 26 48) is just outside Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, on the north side of town. From PI. de Zocodover, take C. Armas downhill and through the Puerta de Bisagra gates. The office is across the intersection (lOmin.). From the train station, turn right and take the busy right-hand fork across the bridge (Puente de Azarquiel), following the city walls until you reach the second traffic circle; the office is across the road, outside the walls. English-speaking staff offers handy maps. Open July-Sept. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 9am-3pm; Oct.-June M-F 9am-6pm, Sa 9am-7pm, Su 9am-3pm.
Emergency: s 112. Police: 092, where Av. Reconquista and Av. Carlos III meet.
Internet Access: Options are extremely limited, but access is available at Zococentro, C. Silleria 14 (925 22 03 00), located just off PI. de Zocodover. Open summer 10:30am-7pm; off-season until 6pm.
Toledo is chock-full of accommodations, but finding a bed during the summer can be a hassle, especially on weekends. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially during the summer. Last-minute planners should try the tourist office for help. There are several camping grounds around Toledo. Out of town sites bring quiet and shade, while those in town trade convenience for noise.
Residencia Juvenil San Servando (HI), on Castillo San Servando (925 22 45 54), uphill from the train station. Sits inside a 14th-century castle. Dorms ‚11, under-26 ‚8.50. Members only. O
Hostal Centro, C. Nueva 13 (925 25 70 91), toward C. Comercio on PI. de Zocodover. Offers clean, spacious rooms in a central location. Singles ‚30; doubles ‚42; triples ‚60. MCV. e
CASTILLA LA MANCHA
Pension Castilla, C. Recoletos 6 (925 25 63 18). From PI. de Zocodover, take C. Armas downhill, then the first left. Clean, basic rooms in a great location. Singles ‚15; doubles with bath ‚25.
Hostal Descalzos, C. Descalzos 30 (925 22 28 88). Down the steps off Po. del Tran-sito, near the Sinagoga del Transito. Recently refurbished, with stunning views. Apr.-Oct. singles ‚30-42; doubles ‚47-53. Oct.-Mar. ‚25-3640-45. MCV.
Pension Nuncio Viejo, C. Nuncio Viejo 19, 3rd fl. (zr925 22 81 78). 7 rooms close to the cathedral are cramped, but bright and clean. The motherly owner is a great cook. Breakfast ‚1.50. Other meals ‚7.50. Singles ‚19; doubles ‚30, with bath ‚34.
Camping El Greco (s925 22 00 90), 1.5km from town on Ctra. CM-4000, km0.7. Bus #7 (from PI. de Zocodover) stops at the entrance. Shady, wooded site. Open year-round. ‚4.40 per person, ‚4.24 per tent, ‚4.24 per car. IVA not included.
Toledo grinds almonds into marzipan of every shape and size, from colorful fruity nuggets to half-moon cookies; pasteleria windows beckon on every comer. Alternatively, grab fresh fruit and the basics at Alimentacion Pantoja, C. Arrabal 30, inside the Puerta de Bisagra and across from the tourist office. (Open June-Aug. M-Sa 9am-llpm, Su 9am-3pm; Sept.-May M-Sa 9am-10pm, Su 9am-3pm.) The market is in Plaza Mayor, behind the cathedral. (Open M-Sa 9am-8pm.)
18 La Abadi’a, PI. San Nicolas 3 (925 25 11 40). Dine in a maze of cave-like, underground rooms. The delicious lunch menu is a steal (‚8.50). Open M-Th 8am-12:30am, F 8am-l:30am, Sa-Su noon-l:30am. AmExMCV.
Pastucci, C. Sinagoga 10 (925 25 77 42). From PI. de Zocodover take C. Comercio through the underpass. Pastas ‚5.50-8. Small pizza ‚6.10-8.50. Open in summer M-Th 12:15pm-midnight, F-Su noon-4pm and 8pm-midnight; off-season noon-4pm and 7pm-midnight. 10% discount with a Let’s Go guide. MCV.
Restaurante-Meson Palacios, C. Alfonso X El Sabio 3 (925 21 59 72), off C. Nuncio Viejo. Two daily menus (‚6-11). Try Toledo’s famous partridge dish. Entrees ‚4-12. Open M-Sa l-4pm and 7-llpm, Su noon-4pm. Closed Su in Aug. AmExMCV.
Toledo’s vast collection of museums, churches, synagogues, and mosques make the city impossible to see in one day. Within the fortified walls, Toledo’s attractions form a belt around its middle. There is an east-west tour beginning in PI. Zocodover. Most sights are closed Mondays.
CATHEDRAL. Built between 1226 and 1498, Toledo’s cathedral boasts five naves, delicate stained glass, and unapologetic ostentation. Noteworthy pieces include the 14th-century Gothic Virgen Blanca by the entrance, El Greco’s El Espolio, and Narciso Tomes’s Transparente, a Spanish-Baroque whirlpool of architecture, sculpture, and painting. In the Capilla Mayor, the massive Gothic altarpiece stretches to the ceiling. The tomb of Cardinal Mendoza, founder of the Spanish Inquisition, lies to the left. Beneath the dome is the Capilla Mozarabe, the only place where the ancient Visigoth Mass (in Mozarabic) is still held. The treasury flaunts interesting ornamentation, including a replica of one of Columbus’s ships and a 400-pound, 16th-century gold monstrosity lugged through the streets during the annual Corpus Christi procession. The sacristy is home to 18 El Grecos and two Van Dycks, along with a portrait of every archbishop of Toledo. The red hats hanging from the ceiling mark cardinals’s
tombs. (AtArco de Palacio, up C. Comercio from PI. de Zocodover. s 925 22 22 41. Cathedral open daily 1 Oam-noon and 4-6pm. The cathedral is free, but it’s worth the extra money to see the sacristy and the capillas, open June-Aug. M-Sa 10:30am-6:30pm, Su 2-6pm; Sept.-May M-Sa 10:30am-6pm, Su 2-6pm. ‚5. ‚2.70 for the audio guide available in English, French, and Italian. Tickets sold at the store opposite the entrance. Modest dress required.)
ALCAZAR. Toledo’s most formidable landmark, the Alcazar served as a military stronghold for the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Spaniards. Much of the building was reduced to rubble during the Civil War, when Fascist troops used it as their refuge. Don’t miss the room detailing Colonel Moscardo’s refusal to surrender the Alcazar, even at the cost of his son’s life. Visit the dark, windowless basement refuge where over 500 civilians hid during the siege. The rooms above ground have been turned into a national military museum complete with armor, swords, guns, knives, and comparatively benign dried plants. (Cuesta Carlos V 2, a block down from PI. de Zocodover. 925 22 16 73. Open Tu-Su 9:30am-2:30pm. ‚2. Free W.)
EL GRECO. Greek painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, commonly known as El Greco, spent most of his life in Toledo. Some of his works are displayed throughout town, but the majority of his masterpieces have been carted off to the Prado and other big-name museums. On the west side of town, the Iglesia de Santo Tome houses his famous El entierro del Conde de Orgaz (The Burial of Count Orgaz). The stark figure staring out from the back is El Greco himself, and the boy is his son, Jorge Manuel, who built Toledo’s city hall. (PI. Conde 1. s925 25 60 98. Open daily Mar.-Oct. 15 10am-6:45pm; 0ct.l6-Feb. 10am-5:45pm. ‚1.50.) Downhill and to the left lies the Casa Museo de El Greco, which contains 19 works, including a copy of the detailed Vista y piano de Toledo. (C. Samuel Levi
Students, under-18, and over-65 free. Sa-Su afternoons free.) Outside handsome Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, the 16th-century Hospital de Tavera displays five El Grecos as well as several works by his mentor, Titian. (C. Duque de Lerma 2. 925 22 04 51. Nearthe tourist office. Open daily 10:30am-l:30pm and 3:30-6pm. ‚3.10.)
THE OLD JEWISH QUARTER. Only two of Toledo’s many synagogues have been preserved. Samuel Ha Levi, diplomat and treasurer to Pedro el Cruel, built the Sinagoga del Transito (1366). Its simple exterior hides an ornate sanctuary with Mudejar plasterwork and an artesonado (intricately designed wood) ceiling. The Hebrew-inscripted walls are mostly taken from the Psalter. Inside, the Museo Sefardi’ is packed with artifacts, including a Torah (parts of which are over 400 years old) and a beautiful set of Sephardic wedding costumes. (C. Samuel Levi. 925 22 36 65. Closed for renovations in summer 2003; call ahead. Open Tu-Sa 10am-2pm and 4-6pm, Su 10am-2pm. ‚2.40, students and under-18 ‚1.20. Free Sa after 4pm and Su.) Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, down the street to the right, was originally built to be a mosque, but was then purchased by Jews and used as the city’s principal synagogue; in the early 16th century, it was converted into a church. Now secular, its Moorish arches and tranquil garden make for a pleasant retreat. (C. Reyes Catolicos 2. s925 22 72 57. Open June-Aug. daily 10am-2pm and 3:30-7pm; Sept.-May 10am-2pm and 3:3&6pm. ‚1.50.)
MONASTERIO DE SAN JUAN DE LOS REYES. At the far western edge of the city stands the Franciscan Monasterio, commissioned by Isabella and Ferdinand to commemorate their victory over the Portuguese in the Battle of Toro (1476). The cloister, covered with the initials of the Reyes Catolicos, melds Gothic and Mudejar architecture. The Catholic monarchs planned to use the church as their burial place but changed their minds after the victory over Granada. (& 925 22 38 02. Open Apr.-Sept. daily 10am-l:45pm and 3:30-6:45pm; Oct.-Mar. 10am-2pm and 3:30-6pm. ‚1.50.)
OTHER SIGHTS. Toledo was the seat of Visigoth rule and culture for three centuries prior to the 711 Muslim invasion. The Museo del Taller del Moro, on C. Bulas near Iglesia de Santo Tome, features outstanding woodwork, plaster-work, and tiles. (C. Taller de Moro 3. s925 22 71 15. Open Tu-Sa 10am-2pm and 4-6:30pm, Su 10am-2pm. ‚0.60.) The exhibits at the Museo de los Concilios y de la Cul-tura Visigotica pale in comparison to their beautiful setting in a 13th-century Mudejar church. (C. San Clemente 4. 925 22 78 72. Open Tu-Sa 10am-2pm and 4-6:30pm, Su 10am-2pm. ‚0.60, students ‚0.30.) The impressive and untouristed Museo de Santa Cruz (1504) exhibits a handful of works by El Greco in its eclectic art collection, which also includes the remains from archeological digs throughout the province. (C. Cervantes 3, off PI. de Zocodover. s925 22 10 36. Open Tu-Sa 10am-6:30pm, Su 10am-2pm. ‚1.20.)
For nightlife, head through the arch and to the left from PI. Zocodover to Calle Santa Fe, which brims with beer and local youth. Enebro, on PI. Santiago Balleros off C. Cervantes, serves free tapas in the evenings. (Open daily llam-4pm and 7pm-l:30am.) For more upscale bars and clubs, try Calle Sillerfa and Calle Alfileri-tos, west of PI. de Zocodover. O’Brien’s Irish Pub, C. Armas 12 has live music on Thursdays. (Open Su-Th noon-2:30am, F-Sa noon-4am.)
TOLEDO Photo Gallery
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