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The city of the three cultures: Toledo

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There are many gateways from the Spanish capital that you can handle in a day in a relaxed way, just one-hour drive or half an hour train journey would take you to awesome retreats.
The most common are: El Escorial, Segovia and Toledo. Every touristic stall in Madrid offers all these one-day trips for usually more than 50 euro with the bus tickets and some museum entries.
The truth is that you can organize a very pleasant route for half, or even less than half of that price.
Between these three options, the first unmissable is Toledo.
Less that one hour by bus, around 10 euro for the round trip, and amazing escalators will load all the tourists right at the top of the hill where all the main attractions are.
The first thing that everyone needs to know about Toledo is that it is called “the city of three cultures” which is its most emblematic feature, intertwining three different worlds.
As most of our favorite sights, Toledo is a part of the UNESCO Heritage for its unique history and untouched patrimony.
The first thing to visit is the Museum Santa Cruz, very close to Plaza de Zocodover. It’s a cultural space born from the merge of the Hospital de Santa Cruz and the Convento de Santa Fe, offering different temporary exhibitions all year.

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The front side of the Alcazar over the terrace

Then it’s time to move to Alcázar, the place where you can spend hours admiring all the historic pictures and military armaments. Four floors, I don’t know how many rooms and topics and things to see, but you should spend at least two hours in here. It is not just about the inside, the special location of this building gives the mind-blowing view from the top of the hill.
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This position gave Alcázar an opportunity to become an important and strategic venue during Spanish Civil war.

Time to rest and eat something typical in one of the numerous tapas bars in the tiny streets that connect Alcázar with the second most important venue of the city: the Cathedral.
Before arriving at the Cathedral, it is interesting to step into these tiny streets where a lot of Arabic buildings can be found, easily recognizable by their architecture and decorations.
As all the city museums have military collections on display, the local souvenir shops also specialise in this merchandise, most popular tourist take-aways are souvenirs dedicated to the war history.
Knives and guns are everywhere, it is really impressive. By the way, the choice of marzipan is enormous, at it is considered the most typical food of the area.
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The Cathedral of Santa María de Toledo is huge and gothic, and the entrance ticket is 10 euros, but there is a dedicated free entrance (in the picture) if you want to pray, exactly on the opposite side from the main entrance.

Of course, there is a sort of a fence of this area, but you can at least see and have an idea of the style and the dimensions of the church from the inside.
It was built in 1226 during Catholic monarchy and is considered one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture in Spain.
On the 15th of August, there is a strange tradition during the Virgen del Sagrario celebrations. The Cathedral is full of water from the Pozo (well) del Claustro because it is considered miraculous, and you can later buy this water all year long, at the entrance.
On Sundays at 9 am when the holy mass starts, it is also great to hear the incredible pipe organ.
The Jewish area is very close to the Cathedral, that’s why visiting at least one of the synagogues right after the Catholic marathon is a very good idea.
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The view from the Alcazar (the Cathedral on the left)

Toledo is famous for its tolerance and who different cultures that have coexisted together for such a long time, even though the Jewish community was expelled from Spain in 1492 with the edict of expulsion.
If you are not a staunch devotee of any religion, visiting churches is still a good idea, you can focus totally on art instead of religion.
Inside Santo Tomé church, in fact, there is one of the most famous Spanish works of art by El Greco. 
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El entierro del señor de Orgaz – El Greco (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Foundation)

Do you recognize it? It’s the representation of “el entierro del conde de orgaz” which means “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” right at the entrance of the church. It’s oil on canvas dated 1588. It illustrates a popular local legend. Being an exceptionally large painting, it is clearly divided into two zones: the heavenly above and the terrestrial below, brought together in a single composition.

The entrance is not free, but for meager 2 euros you can see this masterpiece and the church of course.
It is strictly prohibited to take pictures inside Santo Tomé, a bodyguard is constantly observing the visitors ready to block every attempt to shoot.
Not enough of El Greco? Well, Toledo is the right place for El Greco lovers. You can finish the day visiting the museum dedicated to him.
Make sure to visit this city when in Spain because “You haven’t seen Spain until you saw Toledo”.
Curious about the other two one day trip mentioned at the beginning of the blog? A new article about them is coming soon.
[Previously posted on Routes.tips]