Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes

Monastery in Toledo
Image by Tono Labra / Getty Images

This imposing 15th-century Franciscan monastery and church was provocatively founded in the heart of the Jewish quarter by the Catholic monarchs Isabel and Fernando to demonstrate the supremacy of their faith. The rulers had planned to be buried here but eventually ended up in their prize conquest, Granada. The highlight is the amazing two-level cloister, a harmonious fusion of late ('flamboyant') Gothic downstairs and Mudéjar architecture upstairs, with superb statuary, arches, vaulting, elaborate pinnacles and gargoyles surrounding a lush garden.

The adjacent church has a series of enormous coats of arms of the Catholic monarchs, who were never shy about self-publicising. Outside, note the chains dangling from the northeastern facade – they once belonged to Christian prisoners liberated from Muslim Granada.