Since the Roman days, Toledo has been a center of life on the hills of central Spain. A city of churches, swordsmiths, and medieval roads, the old Spanish capital offers a lively atmosphere along with the old Moorish citadels, Spanish Renaissance masterworks, and broad plains of Castilla-La Mancha. Winding cobblestone roads wrap around buildings that date back to the Holy Roman Empire, hilltop castles offer a grand piece of historic scenery, and a great selection of sights and things to do in Toledo help to make it one of the most popular destinations in Spain.
Bounded by the banks of the Tagus to the south and the old fortifications to the north, Toledo’s core is a walled city that possesses four civilizations’ worth of landmarks clustered on a maze of narrow streets. Medieval walls still stand on the hillside, and the cityscape is dotted with little plazas surrounded by pubs and cafés.
On the opposite bank from Toledo’s old city, Santa Barbara is home to the city’s railway station, and the Toledo Infantry Academy stands on the cliffs over the river. With more open space than the historic center, the area sports slightly wider streets, public parks, and easy access to the countryside.
Built up outside the city walls since the mid-19th century, the newer areas around the core of Toledo feature wide avenues, roundabouts, and the hallmarks of urban planning in the Modern Age. Parks and green spaces run along the river, and sports venues range from the ancient Roman Circus to the bullring at Plaza de Toros.
Separated by open country from the rest of Toledo, the development of Santa María de Benquerencia holds the city’s most modern neighborhood. Tree-filled plazas run along the main thoroughfare, facing a narrow industrial district dotted with shops.
Climb to the Alcazar at the top of Toledo’s main hill to get a 150-degree view of the banks of the Tagus. At the medieval Castle of San Servando, get an up-close look at city walls that date back to the Romans, with stages built across the centuries by the Visigoths, Moors, and Spanish. The area is filled with reminders of the city’s trio of religious influences, from the Synagogue of El Transito to the former mosque of Cristo de la Luz and the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes that was built for Ferdinand and Isabella.
The people of Toledo have preserved the centuries of traditions that have built up in the city, with ample examples, masterworks of Damascene art, and finely forged swords showing off the artisans’ and makers’ skills. The Museum of Santa Cruz is a great place to check out handicrafts and décor in a former medieval hospital, while the El Greco Museum in the Jewish Quarter shows off the painter’s great mannerist works in a reconstruction of his home.
Set aside some time for a walk through the historic city, and consider teaming up with a guide to point out the sites you shouldn’t miss. Get a look at Toledo’s Roman foundations with a trip through the ruins of the city’s underground, or pick up a bicycle to ride out to the city’s beautiful newer districts or along the shores of the Tagus.
For adventures beyond Toledo’s city limits, you can explore charming little villages like Lagartera, famous for its embroidered cloth, and the medieval houses of Oropesa. Satisfy your literary curiosities by following the Route of Don Quixote to see the landmarks named in Cervantes’ classic novel, go for an active hike into the Toledo Mountains, or look for deer, wild boar, and other wildlife with a trip to Cabañeros National Park.