Toledo is a small city, with a population of around 80,000. It is located 70 km (40 mi) southeast of Madrid. The old city is situated on a mountaintop with 150 degrees view, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River, and contains many historical sites, including the Alcázar, the Cathedral (the primate church of Spain), and the Zocodover, a central market place.
Due to its strategic location Toledo's history is long and interesting. The Visigoths first made it their capital in the early 5th century. The Moors then took control in the 6th century, before the Spanish king, Alfonso VI, took it in 1085. When Philip II moved the royal court from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the old city went into a slow decline from which it never recovered, but still today it is the religious center of Spain.
Toledo , declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, is one of the Spanish cities with the greatest wealth of monuments. Known as the "city of the three cultures", because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived there together for centuries, Toledo was a European center for knowledge and learning in the 13th century. Behind its walls, Toledo preserves an artistic and cultural legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues, making the old quarters of Toledo a real open air museum.
Started in 1227 and finished in about 1493, the magnificent Toledo Cathedral is thought of as one of the best in all Spain, and houses a selection of masterpieces, such as oil paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Valazques, Goya and El Greco. The Cathedral has five naves and measures 120 meters long and 59 meters wide. The roof is supported by 88 columns. The massive Alcazar Castle from the 13th century dominates the Toledo skyline.The origin of the building dates back to the presence of a Roman camp in the third century.
Toledo was famed for its production of iron and especially of swords, and the city is still a center for the manufacture of knives and other steel implements. Also the gold and black enamel work by local artists is known throughout Spain. Many shops in Toledo sell decorated plates, shields, swords, spoons and key rings.
The nearest international airport to Toledo is Barajas in Madrid. The AVE high-speed train takes 30 minutes from Madrid's Atocha station to Toledo, making Toledo an easy one day trip destination from Madrid. Most of Toledo's hotels are located at the Plaza de Zocodover in the old town, and there are also a good number of excellent restaurants and bars in this area of Toledo.