Toledo's cathedral reflects the city's historical significance as the heart of Catholic Spain and it's one of the most extravagant cathedrals in the country, The heavy interior, with sturdy columns dividing the space into five naves, is on a monumental scale. Every one of the numerous side chapels has artistic treasures, with the other main highlights being the coro, Capilla Mayor, Transparente, sacristia and belltower (for €3 extra).
From the earliest days of the Visigothic occupation, the current site of the cathedral has been a centre of worship. During Muslim rule, it contained Toledo's central mosque, destroyed in 1085. Dating from the 13th century and essentially a Gothic structure, the cathedral is nevertheless a melting pot of styles, including Mudéjar and Renaissance. The Visigothic influence continues today in the unique celebration of the Mozarabic Rite, a 6th-century liturgy that was allowed to endure after Cardinal Cisneros put its legitimacy to the test by burning missals in a fire of faith; they survived more or less intact. The rite is celebrated in the Capilla Mozarabe at 9am Monday to Saturday, and at 9.45am on Sundays.
The high altar sits in the extravagant Capilla Mayor , whose masterpiece is the retablo (altarpiece), with painted wooden sculptures depicting scenes from the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary; it's flanked by royal tombs. The oldest of the cathedral's magnificent stained-glass pieces is the rose window above the Puerta del Reloj. Behind the main altar lies a mesmerising piece of 18th-century churrigueresque (lavish Baroque ornamentation), the Transparente , which is illuminated by a light well carved into the dome above.
In the centre of things, the coro (choir) is a feast of sculpture and carved wooden stalls. The 15th-century lower tier depicts the various stages of the conquest of Granada.
The tesoro , however, deals in treasure of the glittery kind. It's dominated by the extraordinary Custodia de Arfe : with 18kg of pure gold and 183kg of silver, this 16th-century processional monstrance bristles with some 260 statuettes. Its big day out is the Feast of Corpus Christi , when it is paraded around Toledo's streets.
Other noteworthy features include the sober cloister , off which is the 14th-century Capilla de San Blas , with Gothic tombs and stunning frescoes, the gilded Capilla de Reyes Nuevos , and the sala capitular (chapterhouse), with its remarkable 500-year-old artesonado (wooden Mudéjar ceiling) and portraits of all the archbishops of Toledo.
The highlight of all, however, is the sacristía (sacristy), which contains a gallery with paintings by such masters as El Greco, Zurbarán, Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael and Velázquez. It can be difficult to appreciate the packed-together, poorly lit artworks, but it's a stunning assemblage in a small space. In an adjacent chamber, don't miss the spectacular Moorish standard captured in the Battle of Salado in 1340.
An extra €3 gets you entrance to the upper level of the cloister, and the belltower , which offers predictably wonderful views over the centre of historic Toledo.