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Rick Steve visits Toledo, Spain

Visiting Toledo, where the great artist El Greco worked and lived
BY RICK STEVES Published: July 7, 2013

Toledo's Santa Cruz Museum, now completely open after years of renovation, holds a superb collection of El Greco paintings, including the impressive altarpiece Assumption of Mary. Finished one year before El Greco's death, it's the culmination of his inimitable style, combining all his signature elements to express an otherworldly event. No painter before or since has captured the supernatural world better than El Greco.

True El-Grecophiles will also want to visit the small El Greco Museum, built near the site of El Greco's house. It's worth a stop if only to see El Greco's panoramic map of the city as it appeared in 1614 (commissioned to promote Toledo after the king moved to Madrid and the city was no longer Spain's capital).

A day full of El Greco and the romance of Toledo after dark puts me in the mood for game and other traditional cuisine. Typical Toledo dishes include partridge (perdiz), venison (venado), wild boar (jabali), roast suckling pig (cochinillo asado) or baby lamb (cordero — similarly roasted after a few weeks of mother's milk).

Plaza de Zocodover is busy with eateries serving edible food at affordable prices, and its people-watching scene is great. But it's worth a few extra minutes — and the navigating challenge — to explore Toledo's side streets and find places where you'll be eating with locals as well as tourists.

After dinner, I like to enjoy a tasty leftover from Toledo's Moorish days, almond-fruity mazapan. Shops all over town sell mazapan goodies in ready-made gift boxes, but I prefer to select my own. For a sweet and romantic evening finale, I pick up a few pastries and find a bench on the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

The fountain burbles to my right, Spain's best-looking City Hall is at my back, and before me is her top cathedral — built back when Toledo was Spain's capital, and still shining brightly against the black night sky.

Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at and follow his blog on Facebook.