Toledo and the River Tagus

We can’t talk about Toledo without mentioning the Tagus due to its importance in the city’s origin, shape and development. The Tagus is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, splitting it on its east-west axis with a slight tilt towards the south-east. Its source is in the Montes Universales in the Sierra de Albarracín. From there it travels 626 miles (1008 kilometres) before reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Lisbon.

On its way to the sea it travels through our city. Toledo rises on a rock high above the surrounding river which meanders its way through the landscape. This impressive geography has been key to Toledo’s defence throughout history, providing a natural defence on all but the city’s northern side where walls had to be built.

On the flipside, this also necessitated the building of various bridges throughout Toledo’s history in order to cross the river and allow access to the city such as the San Martín Bridge and the Puente de Alc´antara.

Another problem the city had to solve was how to meet the city’s demand for water. The challenge has been met in various different ways. The Romans brought the water 16 miles (25 kilometres) to the city through an aqueduct whose remains still line the river to this day.

The 16th century solution was a design by Juanelo utilising hydraulic engineering to pump the water up from the river below. We also mustn’t forget that until relatively recently the figure of a water vender carrying water to the city on a donkey was still a common sight.

When you do get round to making that long planned trip to Toledo, stop for a second and take in the Tagus. The River’s importance to the city is immeasurable and its legacy enduring. As you cross the various bridges and follow the course of the River, you’ll be able to appreciate the impact it has had on the development of this place.

Toledo and the Tagus from a bird’s eye view