Choose from 6 Fun Things to Do in Toledo
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Historically, Toledo is noted in Spain for having once flourished as a cultural crossroads, with three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – coexisting together peacefully. And there is perhaps no better physical representation of this time than the Santa María la Blanca Synagogue. Claimed to be the oldest synagogue in Europe, it was built during Christian times by Moorish architects for Jewish use.
You can see this complex intersection of history and styles all represented in the small space. For example, there are the Mudejar horseshoe arches, the 16th-century Christian altarpiece, and the layout, which, while it has elements reminiscent of a mosque, was constructed as a synagogue. Though its original purpose was, of course, to be a synagogue, come the early 14th century, it was converted into a church, serving various purposes since. The space may be small and simple compared to some of Toledo’s grander sights, but there’s certainly more than meets the eye here in terms of history, making it a worthwhile place to see and contemplate.
The synagogue is located in the Jewish quarter, which sits in the western part of the old town. If you plan on visiting the synagogue and other popular attractions, consider buying a pulsera turística (tourist wristband), which gains you discounted access to 6 of the city’s top sights. Wristbands can be purchased at attraction entrances.
Address: Calle Reyes Católicos 2, Toledo, Castilla La Mancha 45002, Spain
Hours: May 1st to October 30th: 10 a.m.-6:45 p.m.; October 31st to April 30th: 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.
From $ 13
Former Spanish capital Toledo was famously once home to three diverse and thriving cultures: the Catholics, the Muslims and the Jews. And there’s no better place to discover the rich history of the latter – the Jews – than by visiting the city’s El Tránsito Synagogue. It was constructed in the 14th century, and is now home to the Museo Sefardí (the Sephardic Museum) featuring Jewish art, objects and history.
The synagogue was founded and financed by Sameul ha-Leví, after whom it was originally named. Following the expulsion of the Jews, however, it eventually served other purposes, such as a military barracks, and as an church called Nuestra Señora del Tránsito, hence the synagogue’s current name. What you’ll find here today is a splendid, albeit small example of Mudéjar-style architecture, and, beyond that, an educational and meaningful link to the city’s Jewish past.
The exhibits’ informational boards are only available in Spanish, so English speakers will get more out of the experience by opting for the audio tour. Note that the synagogue is closed on Mondays.
Address: Calle Samuel Leví s/n, Toledo, Castile-La Mancha 45002, Spain
Hours: March 1- Oct 31: Tues-Sat, 9:30am-6:30pm Holidays & Sundays, 10:00 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov 1-Feb 28: Tues-Sat, 9:30am-6pm Holidays & Sundays, 10am-3pm Closed Mondays year round.
Admission: General: €3 euros; reduced: €1.50
From $ 91
As is the case with so many of Toledo’s sights, the Mosque of Christ of the Light (or, in Spanish, the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz) is a blend of cultural influences, telling the story of the city through its architecture. The mosque, considered the most important piece of Islamic art in Toledo, was built in 999 and, come the 12th century, was turned into a Catholic church.
What makes it particularly special is the fact that it is the only remaining mosque of ten that once existed in the city, and that it very much remains in its original state. Though the space is small, its grounds — from the small square interior with Moorish horseshoe arches, to the outside gardens with views of the city — transport visitors back some thousand years in time, making this a pretty special stop.
The mosque is located in the northern part of the city and is easily reachable from anywhere in the old quarter.
Address: Cristo de la Luz, 22, Toledo, Castilla La Mancha 45002, Spain
Hours: Hours vary by season
Admission: €2.50; accredited groups: €2.20; children under 11: free.
From $ 13
Your first proper stop in Toledo may very well be the city’s main plaza, Plaza de Zocodover, as it receives visitors not far from the northern entrance to the city. The plaza has served as Toledo’s main square for pretty much all of the city’s history, and has been the site of bullfights, executions, and an important market for which the plaza was named.
Indeed, the word Zocodover has Arabic origins, meaning mercado de las bestias de carga, or, loosely, livestock market. That’s because, during those times, the plaza was home to a regular market that sold animals such as horses and donkeys. These days, apart from being one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, the plaza also hosts concerts and events, thus continuing to be the center of local life.
The plaza is just steps away from the city’s biggest sights, including the cathedral, and the Alcazar along with the Military Museum that resides within it. Note that there’s a tourism office in Plaza Zocodover, where you can get a map to plot out your Toledo visit.
Address: Plaza de Zocodover, Toledo, Castilla La Mancha 45001, Spain
From $ 13
Once upon a time, Spain’s famous Catholic Monarchs had grand plans for Toledo to be their final resting place. As such, and in commemoration of the victory of the Battle of Toro, they began building the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. Though ultimately the King and Queen were entombed in Granada, Toledo’s underrated monastery remains one of the city’s most intriguing sights.
The late 15th-century monastery is especially noted for its two-story cloister, featuring gardens, gargoyles, and an intricate Mudejar-style ceiling on the second floor. Listen carefully and you might even hear the chants of the monks. While outside the cathedral, take special note of the curious chains hanging from the façade: hung in 1494, they represent the prisoners freed from Muslim Granada, and the then triumph of Christianity in Spain.
Getting here will require a bit of an uphill trek, not unlike many other parts of town.
Address: Calle San Juan de los Reyes, Toledo, Castilla La Mancha 45002, Spain
Hours: March 1 to Oct 15: Mon-Sun, 10 a.m.-6:45pm; Oct 16 to Feb 28: Mon-Sun, 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.
From $ 13
There is no silhouette more symbolic of Toledo than that of the Alcázar of Toledo. The commanding, square-shaped building - which is anchored by its four, sky-reaching corner towers - crowns the city, and has roots that reach back deeply into the ancient capital’s history.
While structures on this site date back to Roman times, the version you see today was largely erected in the 16th century under Carlos V, and has since been through many fires, reconstructions, and additions. Though it once served as home to royals (among other purposes), it now houses the country’s Military Museum, which offers an in-depth look at the nation’s past, complete with an impressive viewing terrace that overlooks the city.
While the museum is situated within the Alcázar, it doesn’t tour the fortress itself per se, so those keen to see the structure may be more satisfied just viewing it from outside. Note that the museum closes on Wednesdays, and is free to enter on Sundays.
Address: C/ Unión, s/n, Toledo, Castile-La Mancha 45001, Spain
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.
Admission: General: €5; reduced: €2.50; free for children and on Sundays
From $ 91