Shopping in Toledo
Toledo has long been famous for its craftsmen. The city's specialties range from swords to marzipan. While the tourists' main shopping street is the aptly named Calle del Comercio, branching off from the Plaza Zocodover, we are going to attempt to highlight not only specific crafts, but some high-quality shops where you not only buy but also watch the process of creation.
<Toledo steel has been a byword for quality for centuries, first mentioned in the first century BC in the Cynegetica of Grattius "Faliscus". Although a good sword is something that there may be little demand for in today's modern world, workshops and craftsmen continue to produce them using the ancient cementation and crucible methods to satisfy the hordes of nostalgic tourists.
Damascene, or damasquina as the locals call it, is the ancient Moorish art of inlaying gold (or copper or silver, even) against a matte steel backdrop. The originally light grey steel is scratched and the gold is hammered into the crevices in intricate designs. Then the steel plate is baked in a kiln and blackened while the gold melts into the crevices. When it has cooled, the artist may use special hammers to pound delicate marks into the re-hardened gold. There are two types of damascene: the Spanish, which often features birds or people or scenes out of history, and the Moorish, which features geometric designs. The name comes from the city of Damascus, which was once renowned for its damascene.
Damascene can either be hand or machine made, and the difference is generally reflected in the price. Be careful not to be fooled, however, as it may be difficult for those with little knowledge of the craft to tell the difference. Fairly every tourist shop in Toledo sells damascene, and many higher quality ones have their artisans working in the shop central so you can watch as their craftsmanship in action. Here is a brief list of several of the highest quality shops dealing in lo damasquinado.
Open since 1910 and is one in which you can watch the work.
Location:Calle Airosas 5
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 AM-1 PM and 3 PM-6 PM, Saturday 10 AM-2 PM
Location: Circo Romano 8
Hours: 10 AM-7 PM
Santiago Sánchez Martín
Location: Calle Río Llano 15
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 AM-2 PM and 4 PM-7 PM
Marzipan, or mazapán as it is locally known, is a delicious dessert made of sweet almond paste, often colored and molded into shapes. It's a must try during your visit to Toledo. Made and sold by everyone from tourist shops to nuns, here are some places that come highly recommended.
Location: Plaza de Zocodover 13
Hours: 9 AM-10 PM
Convento Santa Úrsula
Location: around corner from Museo de Taller del Moro
Hours: Ring bell
Monasterio de Santo Domingo
Location: Behind the Iglesia Santo Domingo
Hours: Ring bell
Toledo has been well-known for its distinctively decorated Castilian pottery for at least the last 1000 years. The pottery of the Toledo region sets the highest standard for the rest of the world. In fact, in Latin America the common term for hand-painted ceramics is 'Talavera' after the town just about forty-five minutes away. If you're not willing, or unable to make the trip to Talavera la Reina, where it's all made, or Puente del Arzobispo, then you'll be best off buying from the large roadside emporiums on the outskirts of town, generally on the road to Madrid. You'll get better deals there than you'll find inside the city, where rents are higher.