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Toledo History

Known to the Romans as Toletum, Toledo’s history is thought to have begun in around the 5th century BC when it was settled by a group of Jewish travellers.

While its precise origins remain the subject of much conjecture, what is certain is that by 193BC, the city had fallen to Roman general Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, becoming capital of the province of Carpentia and earning itself a mention in Livy’s Histories in 17 BC.

But Rome wasn’t the only invading power to set great store by Toledo. After the Romans withdrew, it became an important civic centre under Visigoth leader Leovigild, before being conquered by the Moors in 711. The Toledans, however, did not take the Moorish conquest lying down and the city was the scene of several rebellions against Moorish rule.

It wasn’t long, however, until Toledo was recaptured by the Christian leaders of Spain, becoming the first city in the Moorish province of Al-Andalus to fall. New ruler Alfonso VI of Castile took control of the city in 1085 and swiftly set about transforming the city into a centre for Christian learning, although its magnificent Arab library was left intact.

The same, however, could not be said for the city’s Jewish residents, with the Archdiocese of Toledo carrying out mass burnings in 1368, 1391, 1449 and 1486. Nevertheless, the city flourished under Castilian rule, becoming Castile’s capital until 1560, when the Spanish court moved to Madrid.

The removal of the royal court kick-started a period of decline and the city became a political and economic backwater. By the time the 20th century dawned, Toledo was little changed from its mediaeval incarnation and when the Spanish Civil War arrived in 1936, citizens opted for a very mediaeval form of defence – behind the thick stone walls of the Alcazar castle.

Post-war Toledo became a backwater again, though in recent years, the city has enjoyed something of a revival. After UNESCO declared its historic centre a World Heritage Site, tourists began flooding in, and the city was declared capital of Castile-La Mancha shortly afterwards.

Did you know?
• Toledo was the capital of Spain until 1560, when the honour went to Valladolid and then Madrid.
• The Alcázar was captured by Nationalist forces during the Civil War, though the city remained Republican.
• Doménikos Theotokópoulos, the painter better known as El Greco, died in Toledo in 1614.

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Featured Hotels


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.

Posada de Peregrinos

It's not exactly luxurious, but you'll be hard pushed to find a better value-for-money bed for the night in Toledo. What's more, it's set in a handsome historic building right next to the hulking medieval gateway Puerta de Bisagra, while the lady who runs the place is an expert on what to see and do in Toledo – and she likes to talk.

Parador Conde de Orgaz

If you have your own transport and fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the admittedly tiny Toledo, Parador Conde de Orgaz just outside the city is a clear winner. Set in a stone building typical of the region, the property enjoys incredible views of Toledo below. The grounds are wonderful for a stroll.

El Refugio de Cristal

With extensive grounds, handsome rooms, fantastic views and a design that mixes the modern with the rustic, El Refugio de Cristal is one of the best casa rurals (rural houses) in the area. It's a bit of a way out of the city, which partly explains the modest price tag, but definitely worth seeking out if you want to combine a city break with a rustic retreat.

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.