Click here to take a virtual walking tour of Toledo
The panorama of Toledo, Spain, is one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever had the pleasure to view. I’ve joined a long line of canvas-carrying and camera-toting visitors who have attempted to translate this Spanish town’s stunning vistas and inspiring architecture into our respective mediums.
Perhaps the most famous of these artists was Domenico Theotocopuli, better known as El Greco, who lived in Toledo from 1577 until his death in 1614. El Greco used the city as one of his main inspirations, most famously in his piece titled "View of Toledo."
A modern-day view of Toledo
In 1986, UNESCO named Toledo a World Heritage City and, having been there, I can understand why. The streets of this ancient town are quintessentially medieval, with generation after generation building atop, below and around existing structures that were built and influenced by a melange of Roman, Visigoth, Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures.
To get to Toledo from Madrid, Spain, is rather easy. High-speed AVE trains cover the 42-mile distance from Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha Station in about 30 minutes for less than 10 euros. Toledo can also be reached by motorway along the newly constructed AP-41 from Madrid’s Barajas International Airport.
Once your clients arrive in Toledo, they will find that must-see attractions abound. A good starting point is its 13th-century Cathedral of Toledo, a Gothic structure which, in addition to incredible architectural elements, houses an immense collection of priceless works of art, and a room displaying robes worn by religious leaders dating back hundreds of years.
The Tourist Office of Spain has also created different itineraries by which visitors can explore the city. These are available in a PDF, which can be downloaded from its Web site. Regardless of the itinerary, however, comfortable shoes are mandatory to explore Toledo’s mostly cobblestone streets.
One cannot survive on great art and historic sites alone. Gastronomic opportunities are numerous and often works of art in their own right. Toledo is especially known for its game dishes, such as partridge, Toledo-style.
At the top of my places to eat list is El Palacete Restaurante, which is located in an historic Hispanic/Muslim building from the 11th century that was actually built upon Roman and Visigoth ruins. El Palacete was recently recommended in last year’s Michelin Guide and specializes in local cuisine.
For those with specific gastronomic interests, there are a number of specialty tours. Wine Time has a route through a selection of wine bars along the way explaining the varietals that make Spanish wine unique. Evocarte, a Toledo-based tour operator that specializes in cultural tourism, offers a hands-on marzipan workshop.
Dinner at Conde de Orgaz at the El Parador de Toledo hotel, which is located three miles from the center of Toledo, is not only a great place to take in good food but a stunning sunset as well. This former country house turned boutique hotel has a panoramic view of the city.
Luxury hotels within castles and palaces, called paradors, are located throughout Spain. The concept, which was put into practice in 1928, belongs to the Marquis de la Vega Inclan and was meant "to act as guardian of [Spain’s] national and artistic heritage while promoting tourism." Paradors are flourishing throughout the country.
I stayed at the AC Ciudad de Toledo, which also boasts a commanding view of the city. The AC brand of hotels offers its guests beautiful and unique boutique accommodations throughout Spain, Portugal and Italy with modern amenities and conveniences including high-speed Internet connections.
Looking back on my sojourn to Toledo, I’m not sure whether the exclamation "Holy Toledo!" actually had anything to do with this historic Spanish town, but any visitor would be hard-pressed to think of a more appropriate reaction to this World Heritage City.