|If you want to get to know Toledo, dust off
your walking shoes and get ready. The city is an intricate, windy
conglomeration of narrow and often steep streets that cannot possibly be
mastered in a short period of time. A map of the city shows a magnificent
labyrinth placed atop a hill, with no structure whatsoever. To arrive in
Toledo is to confront a city in which almost every stone tells a centuries
old history. There is no point in trying to divide it rationally; there
are really only two concrete areas: the Casco Histórico, or Historical
Quarter, which is, essentially, the whole of the old city; and the
newly-built neighbourhoods, which are separated by the city walls. The
Puerta de Bisagra (Bisagra Gate) is probably the most popular means of
entry into the old city.
Go through the impressive Puerta de Bisagra and you find yourself in the Historical Quarter; you will immediately perceive the special atmosphere that is the result of the mixture of history and modernity, most notably in architecture. You can easily note this blend in the Plaza de Zocodover, which used to be the marketplace and is now the city's nerve centre, both in social and geographical terms. Here the architecture of the impressive entrances that surround the plaza is blended together with that of the accommodation now built into the romantic arches. And just by the square you can visit Calle Comercio, the street with the greatest concentration of shops as well as typical Toledo craft workshops.
From Zocodover the Cuesta del Alcázar (Fortress Hill) leads up to the Alcázar itself, the military citadel built by Alfonso VI after the Reconquest. It now houses the Military Museum and the regional library and, in spite of its sombre and imposing appearance, the building's magnificence is undeniable. From Zocodover, you can reach the Museum of Santa Cruz and the Tuesday market, by crossing through the Arco de la Sangre (Arch of Blood). From here you also have an impressive view out over the Tagus (Tajo) River.
Calle Comercio also leads to the Cathedral, after crossing the narrow but lively Hombre de Palo Street, which is also full of shops and restaurants that are quite popular with tourists and locals alike. The street ends at an intersection that leads to different areas of interest. Off to the left are places such as Palacio Arzobispal (the Archbishop's Palace) and the cathedral walls, which rise up in front of the palace; these Gothic walls support one of the most important cathedrals not only in Spain, but in all of Europe, due to its architectonic majesty. Both of these sights are found in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square), where you can also see the Renaissance style Casa Consistorial (Town Hall) itself.
Carrying on straight on Hombre de Palo Street leads to Calle Trinidad, a steep hill that leads up to Plaza del Salvador (Square of the Saviour), where both tourists and Toledans go for a bit of recreation, especially on sunny days. This is very close to one of Toledo's most popular streets, Santo Tomé, which has recently been pedestrianised. Here there are arts and crafts shops, restaurants, as well as beautiful buildings like Palacio de Fuensalida (Fuensalida Palace) and El Greco's House. This whole area is full of art, history and religion. From Santo Tomé Street you can also get to Museo Taller del Moro (Museum and Workshop of the Moor) and from there to Paseo del Tránsito, one of the city's best lookout points, where you get a great view of the area referred to as El Valle (The Valley) where you can see the cigarrales, typical Toledo country homes.
Outside of the city walls, you find a very different Toledo; a modern city with all the apartment blocks you find all over Spain, though some parts, such as Vega Baja, have historic remains such as those of the Circo Romano (Roman Amphitheatre). The Covachuelas neighbourhood, too, is where the Roman Theatre is buried. Aside from these areas, the Buenavista and Avenida de Europa neighbourhoods offer shopping and leisure opportunities to the visitor, if not historical ones.