Among its many other distinctions, Toledo was home to Renaissance visionary El Greco - don’t miss the Museo El Greco, which is dedicated to his work.
70 kilometres south of Madrid is Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Spain’s most fascinating ancient cities. Toledo was an important site during Spain’s Convivencia: a period from the early 8th century to the 1492 expulsion of the Jews in which Christians, Jews and Muslims lived alongside one another. Before that it had been a Roman city, and then the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom.
This multicultural heritage has left Toledo a heterogeneous and beautiful place. Mosques, synagogues, churches and convents sit side by side; the magnificent Cathedral is just one of many architectural marvels.
The city walls alone are full of history: having existed since Roman times, they were rebuilt by the Visigoth king Wamba in the 7th century, and completed by the 11th century Spanish regent Alfonso VI, who began the city’s tradition of harmonious religious coexistence. A 10th century Moorish gate remains on the north side of the old city. The Puerta de la Bisagra, the main gate to the city that displays Toledo’s imperial shield on its façade, is Muslim in design but was reconstructed by Philip II in 1550.
Toledo’s skyline is dominated by the impressive Alcazar, an 11th century hilltop fortress whose façades again bear witness to a diverse architectural history, including Plateresque (‘in the style of a silversmith’), Churrigueresque, Medieval and Renaissance styles.
The region is also known for its tradition of blade manufacturing, which goes back to pre-Roman times. Medieval tales often feature swords made from the finest Toledo steel: it is renowned for being an unusually hard and high quality alloy. Knife and sword shops still abound today, some offering demonstrations of blades being made.
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