I would declare that Toledo is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Peaceful sandy colors, narrow cobblestone streets, beautifully decorated houses and impressive doors, wonderful views to the city roofs from various observation points. Besides, you need less than an hour to reach this city from Madrid. This all makes Toledo a perfect candidate for a day-trip from Madrid.
I will add several facts which hopefully will wake your curiosity and you will firmly decide to visit this wonderful city once:
Toledo has a special historic significance for the country:
- First, three cultures, Christian, Jewish and Muslim co-exist peacefully since ages.
- Second, Toledo was the capital of Spain before Madrid.
- Third, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- In Toledo starts the famous Route of Don Quixote. It is also a part of the Camino de Levante which joins Camino de Santiago.
- Toledo is famous for its steel swards. Since the Middle Ages, Toledo steel was a competitor to Damascene steel.
Toledo is famous for its amazing cuisine:
Toledo has been chosen as Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy in 2016. This statement we confirmed personally in the Bar Restaurante La Fábrica de Harinas (Calle de los Reyes Católicos, 5, 45002 Toledo, Spain, hotelsanjuandelosreyes.com). We have eaten delicious pasta riso with mushrooms and white truffle and cream-soup with mushrooms as a starter, soft and tender hake (“merluza” in Spanish) with mushrooms as a main dish and most unusually served cheesecake for a dessert.
In the close proximity from this restaurant you can find a cozy teahouse Teteria Dar Al Chai (Plaza Barrio Nuevo, 5, 45002 Toledo, Spain). This teahouse is recommended in many blogs and we wanted to go there as well. Unfortunately, it opens only at 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays: we were way earlier there. Nevertheless, I want to leave a short entry in here so the next time I’m in Toledo, I visit this place.
The most famous desert in Toledo is marzipan. The history of this specialty starts in the 9th century. Toledo can even be the geographic origin of marzipan, though at that time this dessert was known as Postre Regio. Marzipan was also a part of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights mentioned as an aphrodisiac almond paste eaten during Ramadan. By the way, following the Mazapan de Toledo standard, the content of almonds has to be at least 50% of the weight of the product.
The architecture and atmosphere in the city are beautiful
Initially, we had our doubts if we have planned too much time for a little city. But the time elusively passed by while we were strolling along the cozy pedestrian streets, gazing at the harmonic colors of the houses and roofs, mostly sand and camel tones. Conclusion: eight hours are definitely not enough for this charming city.
We started our journey from the tourist information office (Oficina Turística, Plaza Zocodover, 6, 45001 Toledo, Spain) and received a detailed map of the city.
The first stop was the famous Alcazar de Toledo. It was built on the place of a former Roman fort. Formerly a fortress and a garrison, the Alcazar currently hosts a library, a museum and a cafeteria on the last floor. The view is beautiful from the wonderful. Coffee and churros (Spanish pastry) as well. The entrance is free.
Then we walked to the Cathedral of Toledo. Catedral de Toledo with its impressive gothic architecture is one of the most prominent Christian landmarks in Spain. The surrounding buildings have almost entirely hidden the true size of the Cathedral, which is one of the biggest in Spain. The regular admission fee is 8 €. However, we found a free entrance: if you follow Calle Chapineria to the Cathedral, you will see the gates of Portal of the Clock (Puerta del Reloj) in front of you. This portal was built in the 14th century and is the oldest of the Cathedral portals. From this entrance you can’t see the whole Cathedral, but give brief look to the interior.
We also spotted a hat hanging on the gates and made a guess that it could have been belonged to Don Quixote. Unfortunately, Google didn’t help me finding the real story behind this hat. Maybe, one of the readers can explain this detail?
The Sinagoga del Tránsito is the most important Jewish monument in Toledo. In the middle of 14th century, this synagogue was the heart of a thriving Jewish community. The entrance fee is 3€. In front of the Synagogue building you can enjoy a view to the other bank of the Tagus River.
The house where the painter El Greco lived (Casa El Greco, the El Greco Museum, Calle Samuel Leví 3) is situated next to the Synagogue of El Tránsito. More than 20 works of the famous Spanish painter are exhibited in the rooms of the house. The opening hours you can check on the website of the museum: http://en.museodelgreco.mcu.es/. The entrance fee is 3€.
You can enjoy the most incredible view to the city from the Mirador del Valle. You can reach it within 40 minutes by foot or within 10 minutes if you take a taxi for around 6€ (the counter in Toledo starts from 4,60€ – this is probably the minimum rate inside the city). We had incredible luck: the day was quite greyish, but at the moment we were on the observation point, the sun came out and beautified our photos at once!
If you decide to take a walk from the Miradour del Valle to the city center, you will most probably cross the Puente de Alcántara bridge. Originally this bridge has an ancient Roman structure. It was rebuilt by the Moors in the end of the 9th century. The Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes towers on the other side of the bridge.
Several months ago I was desperately looking for a compact leather backpack – city style, you know. I found one in the internet shop and now I’m absolutely happy with it. But if I had known that the choice of natural leather bags and backpacks in Toledo is so big and the products are so cheap (less than 30€ for a medium-size bag), I would rather have waited for this trip. However, we bought an elegant city backpack for my mom and I was satisfied.
It is very easy to reach Toledo from Madrid
There are two options:
1.By bus which is cheap and long:
- From: Alsa buses start from Plaza Eliptica – you either take a taxi – about 14 € or a metro)
- How often: Buses go from Madrid to Toledo and back every 20-30 minutes from 6 am to 11 pm.
- How long: The drive takes 50 minutes.
- How much: 10 € for a return ticket.
- Booking: You can book the Alsa bus in advance: https://www.alsa.es/en
2.By train which is quick and expensive:
- From: Renfe trains start from Atocha Railway station.
- How often: the trains go every hour.
- How long: it takes 35 minutes to reach Toledo.
- How much: 25€ for a return ticket.
- Booking: possible in advance: http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html.
My ultimate advice: if you have a free day to spend in Madrid, dedicate this day to a trip to Toledo. This wonderful city has true reasons to be called the heart and the soul of Spain. I hope that you will like Toledo as much as we did!