Located only 1 hour south of Madrid, Toledo is an architectural marvel. It draws its multiculturalism from the fact that numerous civilizations have set up base and called the city home for quite some time in the past. All these have earned it a UNESCO World Heritage site designation. The town was granted arms in the 16th century.
Toledo is an incredibly popular city to visit as it’s so close to Madrid. The best times to visit Spain are in the early summer months and the fall in my opinion.
Getting to Toledo
From Madrid you can either take an organised coach day-trip, the public bus or train. The nearest airport to Toledo is Madrid.
There are many companies that offer this service. You can either book online, or in person at one of the kiosks in Centro Madrid. Just look out for Toledo day-trip posters around Plaza Mayor, Sol and Gran Via.
Public Mus from Madrid to Toledo
If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t mind a longer journey, then you can go from Madrid to Toledo by bus. It takes around 1 hr 30 mins and costs about EUR 5 each way. Buses depart every half hour from Plaza Eliptica.
Public Train from Madrid to Toledo
The train leaves from Puerta de Atocha. It takes around 40 mins and trains leave every hour. You can book tickets online and collect them from the machine or head to the station and buy them there. If you buy in advance you get €1-2 discount but will be restricted to the selected train time. If you buy tickets at the Renfe machine in the station you will be booked on the next train, a one-way ticket costs 12.90.
The train station in Toledo is worth seeing in itself, it’s a beautiful building with lovely stain glass windows and ornate tiles.
What to do in Toledo
Toledo is a city with immense amounts of history. There are so many museums, churches, cathedrals, beautiful bridges etc. that you will not have any shortage of things to do. As well, just walking through the small cobblestone streets is a must if you are a fan of traditional Spanish towns.
There are lot of sights to see in this town and it’s feasible to see most of them in day given how small the city is. If you are visiting on a day trip from Madrid, I would recommend arriving on the earlier side before the city really gets busy. Nothing really happens in Spain until later in the day so if you come between 8am or 9am, you can enjoy the town to yourself for a little bit.
Free walking tour
Cuentame Toledo offer a free walking tour in English every day at 11am. It starts at Zocodover square and lasts about 2 hours.
The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is a Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toledo. Impressive in its size and design, this massive cathedral is perhaps the single most awe-inspiring building in the city.
Toledo Cathedral is one of three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain. For some, it’s considered the greatest example of Gothic-style architecture in the country. Construction of the cathedral began in 1226 and continued for nearly 270 years until its completion in 1493. The building is very impressive from the inside and out. This cathedral is a massive 120 meters ong by 60 meters wide. Being the size of a football stadium, it is actually not even the largest cathedral in Spain!
You buy the entrance tickets at the gift shop located across the street from the main entrance. The ticket is 12 euros.
Visit the Jewish Quarter
Toledo, like many other Spanish cities enjoyed a storied history of all three of the main monotheistic religions. The area to the west of the old town is the Jewish quarter which is adorned with numerous synagogues and storied buildings.
TheSynagogue of Santa María la Blanca once served as a synagogue in Toledo, before it was turned into a church in the early 1400s. Fortunately, it was returned to the Jewish community in 2013 although no ceremonies are held here anymore.
Puente de Alcantara
If you’re looking for iconic views of the fortified city with an even more iconic bridge in the background, look no further than the Ronda de Juanelo bridge. Located to the northeast of the old town, this bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Spain.
Built during Roman times, this dual arch bridge that spans the Tagus River was destroyed and reconstructed numerous times in its history. Nowadays, it is entirely pedestrian allowing for beautiful views of the Alcazar and fortresses of Toledo.
This is definitely the place to take nice photos, of which I’d highly recommend the sunset times once the sun lights up the beautiful stone of the city.
San Martin bridge
Located on the other side of the Puenta Alcantara is another bridge that offers similarly stunning views of the city. This bridge is perfect for sunset and there is even a zip line company that operates here on the weekends. This is apparently the longest urban zip line in Europe at 180 meters long!
Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
The Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes is a Franciscan monastery built under the reign of Isabella I of Castile, one of Spain’s most powerful queens. It was meant to be a royal mausoleum and serve as a memorial for their victory at the Battle of Toro. The structure is a stunning example of the Isabelline style that was predominant in Spain under the monarch’s reign. Long and narrow, it features many side chapels, and the Mudéjar-style ceiling is particularly remarkable.
Mirador Del Valle
The best lookout point in all of Toledo is from the Mirador del Valle. From here you can see lots of the cities attractions including the Alcazar, Cathedral and Tagus River. This is probably the best viewpoint of the city in my opinion and is totally worth the hike.
Visit this area at night time for a different take on the city when all of the monuments are lit up by orange light.
Alcazar of Toledo
The Alcazar is the first building you’ll notice when crossing Alcantara Bridge into Toledo. It’s a stone fortification situated in the highest part of the old town.
The Alcazar was originally built as a Roman palace in the 3rd century. Today, it houses the Castilla-La Mancha Regional Library (Biblioteca Autonomica) and the Museum of the Army (Museo del Ejercito). We didn’t enter the Army Museum but we did go up to the library to enjoy bird’s eye views of the city.
You can purchase tickets to the Museum of the Army at the door. If you’d like to go on a guided tour of the Alcazar and the museum, you can pay for that at the entrance as well. The museum is huge and spans the entire timeline of human history when it comes to the Spanish military. You can spend hours here reading up on Spain’s involvement in WW2 or their choice of attire when conquering Morocco.
Castillo de San Servando
The Castle of San Servando is one of the first attractions you’ll see after exiting Toledo Railway Station. It’s situated on top of a hill near Puente del Alcantara, across the Tagus River from Toledo.
The castle was originally built as a monastery before being converted into a fortress for the Knights Templar. It’s elevated position served as a strategic point of defense to protect Alcantara Bridge from possible Muslim attacks.
Today, the castle functions as a youth hostel. Unfortunately, it isn’t open to tourists but you can explore the outside before crossing the bridge into Toledo.
Where to eat
As you’d expect, Toledo is a culinary delight. There are countless amazing Spanish restaurants in and around the city center so you’ll never go hungry. In the summer months, Toledo becomes can be become extremely touristy and busy. The main streets are small so expect to be shoulder to shoulder with others. Also, you will need to make reservations to any decent restaurant in town.
You can increase your chances for a successful reservation by simply going at an earlier time, or a normal time by any non Spaniard standard. If you make a reservation between 7 and 8, assuming the restaurant is open, you will increase your chances of getting a spot. Spanish people are famous for eating at ungodly late hours anyhow!
Jamoneria Risco II
To me, there is nothing more Spanish and iconic than a thin slice of 100% Bellota Iberico Jamon. If you’ve never had real Iberico Jamon hand sliced by a Jamonero, you are missing out and you must immediately go to a Jamoneria.
Hand slice normally means square to rectangular sized cuts that offer equal parts of fat and meat. The meat of a 100% Belloto Iberico pig is nothing short of life changing. The fat melts and coats your mouth with just umami. It’s something I’ve never felt before and a must do experience.
Jamoneria Risco on the Calle Comercio in the middle of town is a great spot to try this. They have delicious jamon as well as an abundance of red wine to pair it with. It’s a sort of jamon bar and I spent many hours here. They also sell bocadillos (Spanish ham sandwiches) to go as do many other shops. These will not include the highest quality Iberico however (but are still tasty if you need a quick and cheap snack).
La Ilicitana Arroceria
Located right in the center of town, this little restaurant was located on a small side street. It received amazing reviews online and I could see why. It’s a small restaurant run by a young chef who specializes in various Spanish dishes as well as Paella. The paella was delicious, reminding me of some of the amazing arroz I had in Valencia. His gambas a la ajillo was perhaps the best I’ve ever had, and various other dishes were just fantastic.
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