Toledo, Spain: A World Heritage Site Up Close and Personal

By Chloe Hunt

Toledo, Spain–only a half-hour train ride from Madrid–is a World Heritage Site, designated by UNESCO, just like Philadelphia. I had the opportunity to spend a day exploring the ancient city, and I learned that Toledo is, in fact, quite similar to the City of Brotherly Love in some ways.

Toledo was once the original Spanish capital. Philadelphia, similarly, was an early American capital, meaning that the City is adorned with rich history that we often forget to appreciate. Just as Toledo has Plaza Zocodover–the main square dotted with old architecture and modern, globalized elements such as a McDonalds–serves as a lovely, energetic place of congregation. Most comparable is the location surrounding City Hall in Philadelphia–our City Hall is actually the largest municipal building in the country, and once the weather turns cold, City Hall becomes an arena of holiday fun. 

What was also interesting about Toledo was the art. I visited the museum honoring El Greco, the artist that spent a large sum of his life in Toledo. The astonishing yet intimate museum provided an opportunity to see the artist’s works, which have been nicely preserved for centuries. To see how El Greco envisioned Toledo, check out this link, which provides a painting currently on display at the MET in New York City. 

We have to remember that Philadelphia also has some of the world’s finest art. The Philadelphia Museum of Art actually has some works that have been attributed to El Greco. On the Museum’s website, there is an easily accessible tab, which enables one to search for a given artist or work. While looking for El Greco, his pieces “Picture of a Lady” and “Lamentation” were featured on the site and are  located on the third floor of the Museum. 

Toledo is also home to Catedral Primada, a stunning display of Gothic architecture. Second largest in Spain to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, construction began on this church in 1226. Now, the massive structure is a treasure to see both from the inside and the outside. I paid a small fee to enter, which was certainly worth it to learn about the history of Toledo through this lens. If you are interested in learning about Philadelphia’s history through the frame of cathedrals, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul, situated between Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 18th Street, is the largest Catholic church in the state. Most recently designated as part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the building provides an opportunity to see Roman-Corinthian architecture and the burial place of famed bishops. 

Traveling to Toledo was a marvelous experience that I will forever be thankful for, as it allowed me to better appreciate Philadelphia’s designation as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Philadelphia truly is global, and there is so much to see.