Fascinating Confluence of Three Cultures
Because of its artistic riches, the city that so inspired El Greco makes for a rather frantic day trip from Madrid—the average time unsuspecting tourists allot. Better to spend a little more time. But any visit, brief or leisurely, should start at Toledo’s famous cathedral.
Ranked among the world’s greatest Gothic structures, it was built between the 13th and 15th centuries on the site of an old Arab mosque. This layering and juxtaposition of the artistic, architectural, and historic legacies of Toledo’s Catholic, Moorish, and Jewish communities are what make the city fascinating.
After Alfonso VI captured Toledo from the Moors in 1085, a cosmopolitan tolerance endured for five centuries, encouraging intellectual exchange and trade. The ensuing prosperity and Toledo’s role as a center of culture and learning filled the city with master craftsmen, whose superb talents can be admired in the cathedral’s exquisite details.
El Greco’s most famous painting, The Burial of Count Orgaz, hangs in the nearby Iglesia de Santo Tome (Church of St. Thomas), but the sacristy here has close to thirty of his paintings as well as works by Velazquez, Titian, and Goya.
Toledo’s best restaurant, Hostal del Cardenal, is housed in an elegant 18th-century cardinal’s palace, which is also the most charming place to spend the night, guaranteeing the luxury of seeing this intriguing city before and after the daily deluge of day-trippers.