At the door of the Jewish Quarter in Toledo we can read these words from the famous Spanish poet Becquer: ” In the name of poets and artists, in the name of those who dream and those who study, it is forbidden for every civilization to touch any of these bricks with its prosaic devastating hand. “
And so it appears over the Tagus river, ancient and majestic as if nobody had ever touched it, the radiant city of Toledo, one of our favourite destinations for private tours in Spain.
What follows is a one day step by step route from one of our lasts customised private tours in Toledo…
9.00 Coffee and Churros in front of the Bisagra
Contemplated from the Kiosk Catalino located in the Paseo de Merchán, sipping coffee and churros before starting our route, the door of the Bisagra is imposing with its bulging turrets and its giant imperial shield. Some traces of its Arab origin are barely visible in the Renaissance construction. It’s like almost everything in Toledo, an amalgam of cultures. Proof of this continuous blend are the ruins of the Roman Circus that are conserved in the park on the other side of the Avenue of the Reconquista, and also the Mudejar Tower of the Church of Santa Leocadia, patron saint of the city, which we will find as we climb up the mechanical lift of the Recaredo. From there we get to the Convent of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, which hosts the mortal remains attributed to the Greco and his first Spanish paintings.
11.00 Buñuel in Santo Domingo el Real
In number 8 of the street of San Ildefonso lived the writer romantic Gustavo Adolfo Becquer (1836-1870) only for a time, but his presence is constantly visible throughout whole tour in Toledo. Surrounded by the briquetting Convent of the Capuchinos and its Placita, which was portrayed by the surrealist spanish filmmaker Buñuel in Tristana, we head across the Street of the Cisternas until reaching Santo Domingo el Real.
There is a legend that tells that Becquer, who used to wander around the streets of Toledo at nightly hours, fell in love with a beautiful novice who entered this convent, and that from the sadness that he this love grew sprang up his legend titled the Three Dates. In the square there is a plaque with some lines of this beautiful story. In the frieze of the plateresque entrance of the Convent of San Clemente, which boasts of having elaborated the first marzipan, one can see, if it is sought well, the signature of Becquer.
13.00 Of Plazas and Caves
In Toledo there is a church in each corner, at each corner a square, and each square is beautiful. Several streets lead to the narrow Santa Clara Street, surrounded by its Monastery and the Palace of the Marquis of Malpica.
In San Vicente Street there is the Circle of Art, an old temple converted into a cultural center. The Mudejar Church of San Román is the Museum of the Councils, with reproductions of the Visigoth treasure of the Guarrazar and Romanesque frescoes on the walls. Beyond, in the Street of Alfonso X The Sage we find the largest concentration of artisan and souvenir shops, selling handicrafts and swords for both tourists and collectors. In historical establishments like Simon you can check how the Damascene goldsmiths work and maybe acquire some piece.
In the Street of the Becquers — which indeed most people call Lettuce Street — is the Cave of Hercules, the legacy of the continuous passing of cultures in the city. In the ruins of the Old Nuncio Street, Roman vaults can be seen across the thermal baths and primitive water distribution cisterns. Outside, there are tables and parasols in the plaza of Juan de Mariana, where we first have a snack and then try the modern gastronomy from the Tavern Alfileritos 24, housed in a very well renovated historical building. Another of our favourite locations in this area is the Adolfo School Restaurant, in Synagogue Street, where we can contemplate the roofs of the city while having some great tapas.
16.00 To the Jewish quarter by the gates
We walk to the Plaza del Conde, heading first to the Museo del Greco and later the Church of Santo Tomé, where we may find the burial of the famous Count of Orgaz. On one side, the narrow district of the Jewish Quarter with the imposing Synagogue of the Transit.
On the other side, the Lomas de la Sagra dotted with majestic trees all around. At the end of the Angel Street, the Arquillo del Judio (Jew’s Arch)— a medieval gate that joined the slums with the major Jewish quarter — leads to the Plaza de San Juan de los Reyes, with the Mudejar building of the School of Arts and Crafts and the fabulous Gothic Monastery that bears the same name. The monastery has a lavish decoration whose symbology was quite shocking in its time, such as the figures and gargoyles of the cloister. On the other side, Toledo faces the Tagus behind the Renaissance Arch of the Cambrón Gate. In the 15th century it served as the main entrance to the Jewish quarter, and in order to cross everyone was obliged to the payment of a portazgo.
17.30 Way Up to The Fat bell
The corridor of the town hall ends at another door that marked the border between the Christian quarter and the Jew, and then we get to the town Hall Square, in front of the Cathedral. Erected successively on a mosque and a Visigoth temple, the architectural and artistic richness of the cathedral could keep us occupied for the whole day. At least we make sure to climb to the Fat Bell and contemplate the city with bird’s eye.
19.00 Alleys and passageways
In Zocodovere, The Old Arab Beast market, is the Obrador Santo Tomé, where you can taste one of the best marzipans made in Toledo. From here we take the street of the Ashlars and arrive at the Mosque of the Christ of Light. And there, nibbling a marzipan at the foot of the wall, we try to make a hard final decision: leaving the city towards the viewpoints of the ring to see the panorama on the Tagus and the Bridges of San Martín and Alcántara, both of which loved by el Greco , or rest and wait til night to get lost in the romantic penumbra of alleys and passageways, as Becquer did… Toledo’s options are endless, and thats what makes this unique location one of our customers favourite destinations for luxury tours in Spain.