Tag Archives: El Greco

Outside Madrid: Toledo Spain [What to See]

imageThe majestic Alcazar (fortress) lording over the whole town of Toledo

You need not travel for hours just to escape the frenzied Madrid crowd and enjoy the quiet of the countryside. For instance, if you want to go to Toledo Spain and wish to experience what the country’s former capital has to offer, you need only less than a hour, or roughly 45 minutes to reach this magnificent hilltop town.

A popular day trip destination, Toledo is a veritable cultural melting pot of sorts if only because it was formed from the influence of three different religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Such influences molded the place into the unique and historically rich town that it is now, as seen thru its Moorish walls and towers, plazas, cathedrals, museums, bridges, and Christian Roman ruins. Consequently, its overflowing uniqueness led UNESCO to declare it as a World heritage site.

imageToledo Cathedral

Toledo is the heart and soul of Spain, being the country’s former premier city, long before Madrid became the current one. This “pueblo” within the Castille La Mancha community sets itself apart from the rest of the region because it drips in so much grandeur and history.

A major Spain attraction like Cordoba and Compostela de Santiago, what makes Toledo a preferred destination is that it requires less travel hours to reach, which means much more time to explore the place.

A marked edge of Toledo is that going there is cheaper especially if you’re from Madrid. Traveling via bus will cost you less than 10 euros if you purchase round trip tickets. Likewise, sites and attractions are near each other. You’d get to walk through the town´s cobbled streets, which can be narrow and confusing – much like a labyrinth — but exciting, nonetheless.

Visit Toledo now, see it, and in no time at all, you will fall in love with this Spanish gem. Explore the town to the fullest, and be ready to add Toledo to your list of favorite Spanish towns.

MOORISH ATTRACTIONS

1. Alcazar de Toledo

This is Toledo´s famous fortress, standing at the highest point of the town. So-called because it was controlled by the town’s ancient conquerors, the Moors. It still maintains a vast military importance to the town.

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2. Puerta de Visagra

Also called Puerta Nueva de Visagra, this imposing monument serves as the gateway to the walled city of Toledo, Castilla La Mancha.

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3. Antiguas Murallas y Torres

The ancient towers and walls that surround Toledo are clear evidences of the Moorish influence on the town.

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4. Puente de San Martin y Rio Tajo

One of the popular town attractions is the San Martin Bridge with its 5 arches, spanning over the historic Tagus River (Tajo Rio). San Martin was a Roman bridge, but was rebuilt by the Moors in 1212.

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5. Iglesia de El Salvador

I’ll include the Church of El Salvador under the Moorish group since it was originally built as a mosque, at the time when the Muslims dominated the town.

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JEWISH INFLUENCE

1. Museo de Separdi

The Sephardic Museum boasts of a rich display of the history of the Jewish people in Toledo through its valuable Judaic artifacts. Where located: Calle Samuel Levi.

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2. The Menorrah Tiles

The white Menorrah or the Jewish candle holder over a blue-background tile. Many of these tiles are embedded in the streets of Toledo, indicating a once thriving Jewish presence.

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3. Transito Synagogue

The synagogue of the Transito is unique because while it is a bonafide Jewish place of worship, the edifice evokes a Moorish design. It is built by Samuel Ha-Levi (full name: Samuel Ben Meir Ha Levi Abulafia), a Jewish advisor to the 14th century King of Castile, Pedro I.

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4. Sta Maria la Blanca

Santa Maria la Blanca, now a small Christian church and museo, was built as a synagogue, functioning as one until the latter part of the 14th century. Ownership was eventually transferred to the Catholic Church. Christian worship and cultural events are said to be held at the site.

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ROMAN CATHOLIC LEGACY

1. Catedral de Santa Maria de Toledo

A popular Roman Catholic church patterned after the Bourges Cathedral of France, it is known by many names such as the Toledo Cathedral and Cathedral of Spain. It is considered one of the finest structures that utilized Gothic architecture. Entrance ticket price: 8 euros

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2. Iglesia de San Ildefonso

The church of San Ildefonso is dedicated to the town’s patron saint, St Ildefonsus. Run by the Jesuits, the church is primarily baroque in design. It is simple and charming church that’s popular among tourists who wander within the Calle de Mejico area.

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3. Convento de San Antonio, Dulces Artisanos

The Convent of San Antonio de Padua can be found in Santo Tome, one of the Town´s central streets. It sells pastries and sweets like yemas at affordable prices, to the delight of tourists and locals alike.

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OTHER TOLEDO SPAIN ATTRACTIONS

1. Plaza Zocodover

The town´s main square, a tourist attraction, is bustling like most other main squares in Spain. People rush about in the plaza throughout the day, mainly because of the surrounding restaurants, souvenir shops, and the fancy, red-colored tourist train that brings riders to the spot where panoramic photos of the town from afar can be taken.

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2. Museo de Santa Cruz

Its location is where an ancient hospital used to stand. Now, the Santa Cruz Museum features everything that represents the magnificent era of the country — the Spanish Renaissance. It presents works of Luis Trista and El Greco, among many other renowned artists. Direccion: Miguel de Cervantes

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3. Museo del Greco

Located along Paseo del Transito, the museum is dedicated to Domenikos Theotokopoulos — or simply El Greco. As his name implies, he was from Greece but settled in Toledo Spain where he led a prolific life as an artist and architect. Here, he produced most of his beautiful painting-masterpieces.

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4. Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Another popular town Square, where the Ayuntamiento, the body in charge of the town government, and the Cathedral de Sta Maria are found.

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5. Hostal San Tome

Hotels in Toledo Spain abound, and so finding a nice accommodation is easy to be had if you want to stay in town overnight or for a few days. Hostal San Tome belongs to the list of fine Toledo hotels — for one thing, its location is right in the middle of the action. Booking a room here is the perfect thing to do. Here is its website.

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How to reach Toledo:

Bus: An ALSA bus is bound for Toledo every 20 to 30 minutes. Go to the ALSA station at Plaza Eliptica and buy tickets for 5.39 euros apiece. You pay less, 9.70 euros, if you purchase ida y vuelta tickets. Duration of travel: approximately 45 minutes.

Train: Take the Renfe AVE service at Atocha station, the price is around 25 euros (round trip). The train option is much faster; time of travel via Renfe is approximately 30 minutes.

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The Prado Museum Madrid [Museo National del Prado]: Major Madrid Attraction

imageIf you are an art connoisseur or an avid museum goer and want nothing but the best Spanish and European art pieces in Madrid, there are actually a number of good options in the city. But everyone will agree that the best choice is the Prado Museum.

Located along Paseo del Prado, it houses the biggest and most comprehensive collection of paintings and artworks by artists from Spain and all over the world. Included in the collection are the prized creations by three of the most revered Spanish artists – Francisco Goya, El Greco and Diego Velazquez.

Prado Madrid – Birth of a National Museum

imageConstruction of the Museo del Prado begun in 1785, when the design work of the edifice was assigned by Charles II to prolific architect Villanueva. It was finally completed in 1819 under the reign of Ferdinand VII, despite the halting of construction work brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. Initially called the Royal Museum of Painting, it was renamed the National Museum of the Prado in 1868.

Facts about the Prado Spain Museum

1. In the 10 best museums in the world list for 2015, the thelocal.es website ranks Prado as number four overall, beating Louvre of France, which is number 5. First in the list is the Metropolitan museum of New York.

2. If there is one distinct difference between Prado Museum and Louvre museum – you can take photographs inside the Louvre, while Prado prohibits visitors from doing so within its premises. I had been to both, and while I was reprimanded by a Prado curator for having taken a stolen shot, I had tons of Louvre photos as souvenirs, even a selfie that shows the Mona Lisa (although I believe the Mona Lisa was on display then was not the original).

3. The Las Meninas by Velazquez is the most important painting in the Museum’s collection. The art piece is unique in that one figure seen in the painting is Velazquez himself.

1024px-Las_Meninas,_by_Diego_Velázquez,_from_Prado_in_Google_EarthDiego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Franciaso Goya’s art work constitutes a good portion of the museum’s entire collection that his sculpture is displayed outside the museum in his honor. One of Goya’s work that’s worth seeing is the naked Maja, or the La Maja desnuda. This particular painting caused people to accuse him of obscenity.

image5. Museo del Prado belongs to the so-called The Golden Triad or Triangle of Art of Madrid, the top three art museums close to each other within the Prado vicinity. The other two are the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a private museum of contemporary art, and Reina Sofia Museum, also national museo that features the finest in contemporary artwork.

6. Another painting that’s a must-see by Prado visitors is the Descent of the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, a renowned painter from Belgium. This particular painting is filled with remarkable details, with the artist succeeding in making the work so life-like. Anyone would notice how the body of Jesus as it is being lowered down and the fallen Mary, His Mother, had been similarly positioned by the artist.

7. The museum houses more or less 7,600 paintings and 1000 sculptures, all of which are high in value, both historical and monetary. As many as 3 million visitors are welcomed by the museum every year.

Nearby Madrid attractions

imageOne of the more popular churches in the area, San Jeronimo el Real has been serving the vicinity since the 10th century
imageMuseo Naval is a popular museum near the area. Also known as the Naval Museum of Madrid, it is highly visited because of its rich display of ancient and valuable historical items from the Spanish Navy
imageThe Royal Botanical Garden is in front of the Murillo Gate of the museo
imageStatue of Neptune (Neptuno) along the Paseo del Prado
imagePalacio de Cibeles is just a block away from the museum, and holds its own cultural and arts expositions at the Centro Centro. Also called the Palacio de Communicaciones, it dwarfs everything else within the Plaza Cibeles

How to go:

Direccion – Paseo del Prado 28014 Madrid

Prado Museum tickets:

Price of Admission is 14 euros

Take advantage of the free admission

Monday to Saturday: 6 to 8 PM

Sunday and holidays: 5 to 7 PM

Prado Museum hours:

The museum is open everyday of the year, except December 25, January 1, May 1

Regular opening hours

Monday to Saturday: 10AM to 8PM

Sunday and Holiday: 10AM to 7PM

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