Here at Hablamos, we love going on excursions to see other parts of this beautiful country. So, continuing our series on excursiones (excursions) you can take from Madrid while you’re here learning Spanish, we thought we’d talk about the city of Toledo

This was once the de facto capital of Spain for a time during the 16th century and as such it has lots to offer anyone wanting to learn more about the culture and history of the country.

La ciudad de tres culturas

Having been conquered by the Moors in 711 AD, the city became an important Muslim stronghold for over 300 years. It was then reconquistado (reconquered) by the Christian King Alfonso VI in 1085. For centuries, the city was also a major centre for judios (Jews) and as such is known as la ciudad de tres culturas (The city of three cultures) due to this mixing of influences. You can see this in the arquitectura (architecture) of the historic heart of Toledo, with several synagogues, an extremely important cathedral and many examples of Moorish buildings, including two remaining mosques. This makes for a fascinating experience walking around the narrow streets seeing all of this side-by-side.

La catedral de Toledo

The cathedral of Toledo is one of the most important in the Spanish Catholic Church. It is la sede (the seat) of the Arzobispo de Toledo (Archbishop of Toledo), who is the highest ranking Catholic bishop in the country. The building se remonta (dates back) to the 13th century, although the final elements weren’t completed until 1493. La Catedral de Santa María de la Asunción, as the cathedral is officially called, occupies a large plaza (square) at the very centre of Toledo. As you’d expect, it’s full of artistic treasures and is a definite must-see on any visit to the city.

Puente de Alcántara

The puente de Alcántara (Alcántara bridge) is something you’ve probably seen before if you’ve ever looked up Toledo on the internet. It’s an iconic piece of architecture which spans el río Tajo (the River Tagus) and connects the two halves of the city. Incredibly, this bridge was built in 104 AD while the city was under Roman control, and is still in full use today! If you happen to go to Toledo on the AVE (the high-speed train), it’s highly likely you’ll enter the historic side of the city via this bridge. From both sides of the bridge you get spectacular views of the city and its surroundings, so make sure you sacar muchas fotos (take a lot of pictures) to remember your trip there!

El Alcázar de Toledo

If you’ve read our blog on Segovia (and if not, go and do it after finishing this one!) you’ll recognise the word alcázar. It signifies fortress or castle (-ish!) and numerous Spanish cities have one. The alcázar in Toledo was originally built by Roman forces, and was subsequently reconstructed by Carlos I in the 16th century. The building’s iconic shape is instantly recognisable as un punto de referencia (landmark) of Toledo, and today houses a museum and library. It’s well worth a visit while you’re in the city, so make sure to add it to your itinerario (itinerary)!

La sinagoga del Tránsito

Another extremely important religious building in Toledo, and one of our recommended stops while you’re there, is the sinagoga del Tránsito (synagogue). For over 200 years it was a religious centre for the Jews who lived in the city, before they were expelled in 1492. Since then, it has passed into Christian hands, been expropriated by the Crown and then declared a monumento nacional (national monument) in 1964. Nowadays, it contains the Museo Sefardí (Sefardí Museum) dedicated to the Jewish presence in the area which existed for centuries.

Plaza de Zocodover

No trip to the ciudad imperial (Imperial city), as Toledo is also known for its past greatness as the capital of the Spanish court, is complete without stopping off in the Plaza de Zocodover. This square is one of the liveliest in the city, and a great place to stop and tomar algo (have a bite to eat/drink) while exploring Toledo. You might want to try the typical mazapanes (marzipan sweets) which Toledo is famous for too – ¡delicioso!

Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz

We did say that Toledo is la ciudad de tres culturas, so we’ll finish this trip around the city by mentioning this well-preserved mosque which you should absolutely go and take a look at. The mezquita (mosque) was built in 999 AD and is today considered to be the best preserved piece of Moorish architecture in Toledo. It’s a fairly small building, but its architectural details are a sight to behold.

El Museo del Greco

This museum is dedicated to the famous Cretan artist Doménikos Theotokópoulos, also known as El Greco (The Greek) which seems fitting given his origins! It’s known that El Greco lived and worked in Toledo during the siglo XVI (16th century) as he wanted to earn the favour of the Spanish king at the time, Felipe II. During El Greco’s time in Toledo, the massive Monastero de El Escorial (The El Escorial Monastery) was being built just north of Madrid and the king did commission El Greco to paint two of his most famous works to adorn the building. Strangely, however, the king was not satisfied with El Greco’s work and never asked him to paint anything for the corte real (Royal Court) again! This didn’t stop the painter from becoming posthumously famous and many of his works are on display at this prominent museum in the city. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re an art buff!

Clearly, there are many more places we could mention in Toledo for you to visit, but we don’t want to reveal all its secrets here. When you come to study Spanish in Madrid at Hablamos, you’ll have to make some time for yourself to go on a visit with your classmates and get to practise speaking Spanish while soaking up the local culture. Making the most of your Spanish course is crucial, and getting out of Madrid to visit amazing cities like Toledo is one way to do so. ¿A qué esperas? (What are you waiting for?).

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