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Toledo Travel Guide

About Toledo

With much of its city wall and many of its powerful gates still intact, Toledo has changed little in appearance since El Greco painted its higgledy-piggledy skyline four centuries ago.

Surrounded on three sides by the moat-like River Tagus (Rio Tajo), the medieval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, perches on a small hill, and is one of Spain's most photographed and visited places. To get a great overview of its spectacular setting, it's worth heading first to the Mirador del Valle, just south of town and the river, from where there are wonderful panoramic views. Then take your time exploring the narrow alleyways.

Within the old city walls you'll find several grand buildings dominating the skyline. There's the gothic-Flemish 15th-century Franciscan Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, with its ornate double-levelled cloisters, and Toledo Cathedral, the construction of which began in the 13th century. But the most striking building of all is the hulking rectangular mass of the Alcázar. Built on a site that was first fortified during the Roman era, it was converted into a palace by Emperor Carlos V.

All around these magnificent buildings, the streets are filled with trinket-stuffed shops, which are good places to look for the famous Toledan steel. Once considered the finest and deadliest weaponry in the world, wielded by Spanish heroes from El Cid to the Conquistadores, today it is more likely to be manufactured under Hollywood licence as the 'official' arms of countless swashbuckling blockbuster movies.

Despite the crowds, there are more than enough sights to accommodate all-comers and the labyrinthine streets mean that you can easily get off the beaten track in no time at all. If you can, stay overnight, when the city empties of day trippers and reverts to its quiet medieval atmosphere.

Key facts

Population:
82,291 (2009)
Latitude:
39.860257
Longitude:
-4.024925

Featured Hotels

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Carlos V Hotel

For a bit of old-time glamour, look no further than Carlos V – the likes of Rita Hayworth and John Wayne once stayed in this handsome property. Today the hotel prides itself on offering affordable accommodation in the heart of the city, with great views from its outdoor terrace, while the dining room, whose sweeping arches bear Arabic script, is a must-see.

Hotel Pintor El Greco

This charming and characterful 17th-century former bakery set around a courtyard and boasting light fresh modern colourful bedrooms enjoys a peaceful location in the Jewish Quarter of Toledo. It's named after the city's favourite painter, El Greco, whose museum is right next door.

Fontecruz Palacio Eugenia de Montijo

Toledo's newest luxury hotel is set in a medieval palace in a quiet street 200m (656ft) from the cathedral, is equipped with five-star classic French-style luxury bedrooms, a state-of-the-art spa and one of the city's top restaurants. It doesn't get much more glamorous than this for the price.

Cigarral de Caravantes

Set in a very quiet location across the river and enjoying magnificent views of Toledo from its bucolic patio and outdoor swimming pool, this well-equipped country-style Toledo hotel has a real rustic charm, yet is only a 10-minute walk from the Jewish Quarter of the city.

Hotel del Cardenal

In a wonderful garden setting just inside Toledo's city walls by the main Bisagra gate, this former 18th-century palace of the Archbishop of Toledo has been tastefully restored offering simple rooms and an excellent restaurant. Relatively out of the way, it's something of a quiet haven.

Hostal Centro

Set in the very heart of Toledo, this basic hotel offers great value, with all rooms having their own shower and air conditioning plus a good-size roof top solarium (sunbathing area) with loungers looking onto the Toledan skyline.