Known as the 'city of three cultures', the World Heritage city of Toledo was renowned in medieval times for intellectual and religious tolerance. The expression of this can still be seen in the variety of the city's monuments - churches, synagogues, mosques, palaces and battlements built over the centuries in an exuberant blend of Gothic-Mujedar-Sephardic styles. Wandering through the twisting medieval streets and narrow covered passages, you feel as though you have been time-warped into a mysterious fairytale past.
The famous 16th century artist El Greco, born in Crete, settled in Toledo long after its heyday when the city was in the grip of a fervid mystical Christianity, which he translated into extraordinarily vivid visual imagery. Toledo itself, perched on a rocky hill enclosed on three sides by the deep ox-bow gorge of the River Tajo, appears in many guises as a favourite background in his paintings and is the subject of one of his most iconic - and haunting - works ('View of Toledo').
If you cross the 13th century five-arched Puente San Martin to the south bank of the Tajo and walk along the Carretera de Circunvalción, following the bend in the river all the way along the gorge to the restored Roman Puente de Alcantara, you can see the amazing views that were the inspiration for El Greco's Gothic masterpiece. The time-scoured city walls of earth-brown brick emerge from the hill in perfect harmony with the golden landscape, dark green olive groves contrast with the parched hills and the spire of the Cathedral, like a raised sword, stands guard over the land. Your walk culrnillates in the magnificent spectacle of the four towers of the Alcazar fortress looming dramatically above you as you re-enter Toledo through the Baroque Gate of the Alcantara Bridge, and your head is filled with visions of this magical city from an entirely different perspective.
WHEN TO GO
April to October
TIME IT TAKES
One to two hours
Toledo Cathedral - one of the largest in the world.
The Alcazar (Castle).
Museum of EI Greco - re-creation of the artist's house with exhibits of his work.
Puerta Bisagra - main entrance gate to the Old City.
Iglesia de Santo Tome - contains the famous EI Greco painting Burial of Count Orgaz.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
This walk is particularly lovely in the evening light. To even skim the surface of this beautiful historic town, you should aim to spend at least one night here. Hotels in Toledo