Located right in the center of Spain, Toledo boasts a rich history and culture and is one of the country’s most rewarding places to visit. Known as the ‘City of the Three Cultures’ due to the profound impact and influence of its Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities, it is home to an impressive amount of historical, cultural, and religious tourist attractions.
Perched atop a prominent hill overlooking the Tagus River, the city’s sprawling historic center is a treat to explore, with exquisite architecture and artistic treasures wherever you look. Among the best things to do in Toledo are countless age-old churches, mosques, and synagogues, and as it is just half an hour away from Madrid by train, it is a popular day trip destination.
15. Museo de Santa Cruz
Located in a beautiful 16th-century building that was once a hospital, the Museo de Santa Cruz is a lovely place that is home to impressive artworks, sculptures, and artefacts. Set over two floors, the museum exhibits wonderful architecture, with airy courtyards and galleries on show alongside an astounding plateresque portico. Inside, you can find centuries-old ceramics and Toledan folk handicrafts accompanied by informative panels explaining their past. The undoubted highlight, however, is El Greco’s Sagrada Familia con Santa An, which lights up one end of the gallery with its vivid colors and larger than life biblical figures.
14. Iglesia de San Ildefonso
Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Iglesia de San Ildefonso lies in the historic centre of Toledo and boasts a breathtaking Baroque facade. Also known as the Jesuit Church due to the religious order that founded it, the church was built over more than a hundred years, finally being consecrated in 1718. Its sparkling white interior is home to a number of fine artworks and statues, as well as a large and lavishly decorated altarpiece. While it is very pretty and pleasant to visit, most people stop by for the commanding views of Toledo on offer from its lofty tower.
13. Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
Once one of ten mosques in the city, Cristo de la Luz is the only one still standing from when the Moors ruled over Toledo. Erected in the year 999, it was later converted into a church and then a hermitage. This explains the intriguing mix of styles on show, with faded frescoes spotted alongside elegant arches and intricate facades -all lying amidst a lush garden. Located near the Porta del Sol entrance to the old town, the mosque displays some beautiful brickwork and is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in the whole of Toledo.
12. Synagogue of Saint Mary the White
Built way back in 1180, Saint Mary the White lies on the outskirts of Toledo and is the oldest synagogue still standing in Europe. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that it was constructed under Christian kings by Islamic architects for the city’s Jewish population. Now a popular tourist destination and museum, it boasts some absolutely exquisite architecture, with geometric mosaics and intricately detailed capitals set beneath lovely horseshoe arches. While Spain’s Jewish community unfortunately later faced centuries of persecution, the synagogue stands as a reminder and symbol of cooperation and tolerance between faiths.
11. Alcantara Bridge
Having stood in the same spot since Roman times, the age-old Alcantara Bridge is set at the foot of the Castle of San Servando, spanning the breadth of the Tagus River. Damaged, rebuilt, and repaired numerous times over the millennia, it now sports two brick arches, bordered to each end by a Baroque triumphal arch and castle tower. During the Middle Ages, it was the principal entrance for pilgrims to the city. To this day, it is still used by tourists and locals. From the bridge, you can enjoy divine views over the river, gorge, and city, as well as the Alcazar perched atop the hill.
10. Puerta de Bisagra
Once the main entrance to the city, Puerta de Bisagra’s imposing towers still welcome visitors to Toledo some thousand years or more since they were first built. Erected under the Moors before being reconstructed in the 16th century, the monumental city gate now showcases a beautiful triumphal arch and a massive relief of the city’s coat of arms. Beyond the arch is a fine courtyard ringed by crenelations and sturdy battlements, in which lies a sublime statue of Miguel de Cervantes – one of Spain’s greatest writers. After having passed through Puerta de Bisagra, the historic center of Toledo and all its incredible architectural and artistic treasures beckons you on.
9. El Transito Synagogue
Now home to the excellent Sephardic Museum, El Transito Synagogue is the most important and impressive of the city’s scattering of Jewish sites. Still in remarkably good condition, it was founded in the 1350s and exhibits some marvellous Mudejar architecture, with geometric tiles, rich stuccos, and elegant arches all on show. Later used as a church and military headquarters, it now hosts various artefacts and archaeological findings and has its own tranquil memorial garden. Wandering around the museum and synagogue is a great way to learn more about Toledo and the Iberian Peninsula’s Jewish past.
8. Iglesia de Santo Tome
Although it displays a magnificent mix of different artistic and architectural styles, Iglesia de Santo Tome is primarily known for being home to El Greco’s most famous masterpiece. Located in the Chapel of the Conception, ‘Burial of the Count of Orgaz’ is widely considered to be the epitome of the great artist’s works; it is certainly worth visiting for its dramatic heavenly and terrestrial scenes. Built atop an old mosque, the 12th-century church is just as lovely to behold: its mighty Mudejar tower rises above beautiful Baroque, Gothic and Moorish features.
7. San Martin Bridge
One of the city’s main symbols, San Martin Bridge lies to the west of the historic center and spans the Tagus River. Constructed in the late 14th century, the medieval bridge boasts some brilliant brickwork. In total, its five arches reach over 140 meters in length. This was quite an engineering feat for the time, and the bridge’s beauty is perfectly complemented by the two crenelated towers that lie at either end. While strolling along and looking out over the Tagus and Toledo is delightful at any time of day, the bridge is particularly romantic in the evening when it is illuminated by little lights and the sun setting over the city.
6. Museo del Greco
Located in the Jewish Quarter of Toledo, the Museo del Greco offers a fascinating look at the life and works of the famous artist. A former resident of the city, El Greco painted Toledo numerous times throughout his life. Some of these stunning cityscapes and landscapes can be found in the museum. Set in two buildings decorated in period furniture, the museum’s galleries and rooms are home to the mannerist master’s artworks and a handful of paintings by other Spanish artists.
Set in the highest spot in Toledo, the hulking fortress of Alcazar dominates and defines the city’s spectacular skyline from its prominent vantage point. While fortifications of some kind or other have occupied the 550-metre-high hilltop for at least two millennia, the current building dates to the 1540s, when it was rebuilt as a royal residence for Carlos I. Now a military museum, the Alcazar hosts different exhibitions on Toledo and the nation’s history and culture. While wandering around its extensive collection, you’ll come across centuries-old uniforms, medals, and weapons as well as ancient archaeological finds.
4. Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes
Boasting astounding art and architecture, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes is one of the most beautiful buildings in Toledo. Erected in 1504, it was founded by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille to commemorate the birth of their son and their important military victory over the Portuguese. As they intended to use the monastery as a royal mausoleum, no expense was spared when it came to its design; so you’ll find a plethora of exquisite Mudejar architecture on show. Besides its fabulous granite façade, you can find charming chapels and cloisters, elegant and airy arches and vaults, and a lush, lovingly landscaped garden.
3. Mirador del Valle
While the views of Toledo from San Martin Bridge and Alcantara Bridge are divine, Mirador del Valle boasts the most breathtaking of them all. Lying across the Tagus River from the city, the famous viewpoint is set upon a prominent bluff that overlooks everything. From the lookout, you can see the Alcazar rising dramatically above the city, as well as Toledo’s mess of medieval streets that meander down the hillside to the reflective waters of the river. For the ultimate photo of Toledo in all its glory, the marvellous Mirador del Valle is not to be missed out on and is easily reached on foot or by bus from the historic town.
2. Toledo Cathedral
Widely considered to be one of the best examples of High Gothic architecture in Spain, Toledo Cathedral is the crown jewel of what the city has to offer. Such is its size, scale, and splendor that it took more than 250 years to build, finally being completed in 1493. Set atop the site of a former mosque, the sprawling complex exhibits exceptional architecture, with flying buttresses, elongated arches, and stupendous statues and stained-glass windows. While there are fabulous facades, portals, and chapels aplenty for you to explore, its many highlights include its beautiful Baroque altarpiece El Transparente and its stunning sacristy, full of phenomenal paintings by renowned masters.
1. Old Town
Home to a mesmerizing mess of atmospheric medieval streets, Toledo’s Old Town is packed full of incredible tourist attractions, with impressive historical and cultural sights wherever you look. Enshrined within its imposing city walls and gates, you’ll find centuries-old churches, mosques, and synagogues, with magnificent museums and monasteries also on show. Besides its astonishing array of artistic, architectural, and archaeological treasures, the Old Town also boasts countless cozy cafes, traditional restaurants, and artisanal shops. Spread across a prominent hilltop overlooking the Tagus River, its winding cobbled streets are a delight to explore and are the highlight of any visit to Toledo.