Toledo is a cute Medieval Spanish city just 30 minutes ride on the fast-train from Madrid.
Situated at the heart of Spain and once the Capital, it is a labyrinth of old cobbled streets and stone buildings. Behind the imposing old city walls and grand bridge entrances are some of Spain’s most historical landmarks.
Brad and I visited Toledo on a particularly wet and grey day in November. But even though we were a bit cold and a bit soggy we still had a fab time and cannot wait to go back to Toledo in the summer.
This post will cover everything you need to know to spend a lovely day exploring Toledo.
You could be forgiven for imagining that Toledo would be a bit of a tourist trap town. Using the Medieval angle as a gimmick to lure people into shop after shop, selling them ceramics, leather and replica swords.
But when you visit you will realise that Toledo is rich in a diverse religious history and proudly displays the monuments, artefacts and memorabilia from it’s past. There is a vast amount of Muslim, Christian and Jewish heritage crammed into a small area but it’s all restored and celebrated very authentically.
Toledo is known as “the city of three cultures” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was declared so in 1986 for it’s extensive monumental and cultural heritage.
Toledo is famous for traditional metal work and the production of blade weapons. That’s still a big industry today and they supply many film sets, including Lord of the Rings with stage weaponry and sell replicas as souvenirs.
The main sights in Toledo
The Alcazar is the first building you see as you approach Toledo. It is situated high up on the hill and the best viewing point to capture photos of the Alcazar is from a distance at the Mirador de Valle. It’s an ancient Moorish fortress that has been restored to contain an Army Museum and exhibits in the Civil War, entrance costs €5.
The grand Gothic architecture of the Cathedral can be spotted from most vantage points in the city. It sits almost central and is arguably the most important building in Toledo. It was built in the 13th century and has 750 stained glass windows, monumental doors, alter piece and choir chairs. Entrance costs €5.50, you also get access to the Tapestry museum which is located a few minutes’ walk away. Here they display beautiful, large, wall tapestries.
The most notable, among the many churches in Toledo are Iglesia de Santo Tome, originally a mosque like many churches in Toledo, it holds one of El Greco’s most famous paintings. And Iglesia San Idlefonso, a Baroque church that has great views from its tower.
The impressive building of Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes was a convent founded in 1476.
There are two main bridges in Toledo that cross the river Tagus, Puente de San Martin & Puente de Alcantara. These impressive structures are a great example of the Medieval style.
The grand Moorish walls and original entrance to the city called Puerta Vieja de Bisagra, was built in the 9th century.
There are an awful lot of museums in Toledo. Highlights are El Greco, a collection of the most modern paintings by the artist El Greco. And Museo de Santa Cruz, which houses fine arts and archaeology pieces.
The South West Corner of Toledo is known as the Juderia or Jewish Quarter. In the 14th century a thriving community if Jewish-Spanish lived here. You’ll find information about the culture in El Transito Synagogue and the Sephardic Museum.
Some fun things to do in Toledo
Fly Toledo is a zip line over the river near Puente de San Martin. It costs €10 per person and is lots of fun!
Cuentame Toledo offer a free walking tour in English every day at 11am. It starts at Zocodover square and lasts about 2 hours.
We’ve mentioned the weapon souvenir shops but there is also some great shops selling jewellery, local ceramics, leather shoes and bags and a selection of more modern clothes shops.
Mazapan is a sweet delicacy made from almonds, sugar and honey. It was originally made to beat famine, as these simple ingredients were plentiful in the area and became key in keeping the people of Toledo from going hungry.
Museo de Queso Manchego tells you about the history of local cheese production and is attached to a shop/bar selling local cheese & wine. Enjoy a cheese and wine tasting for €4 per person.
The local wine is very nice and there are lots of little wine shops that offer information on local suppliers and impromptu private wine tastings.
My tips for visiting Toledo
- If you can stay the night, I would recommend it. There are lots of reasonably priced little hotels and it’s a lovely place to see by night
- If you can only go for the day have a plan of what sights you want to see, as there is lots to do
- Have change ready to pay the museum and church entrance fees
- Some museums only have text in Spanish so have a translation app ready on your phone
- Make sure you grab a map because it’s easy to get lost
- It’s very hilly in Toledo so wear comfortable shoes
- The cobble stones can be slippery so tread carefully
- Toledo gets extremely busy during the summer with tourist groups
- Be aware that the narrow streets are not pedestrianised so always look and listen out for cars
How to get to Toledo from Madrid
From Madrid you can either take an organised coach day-trip, the public bus or train.
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.
The Alsa bus leaves from Plaza Elpitica and it takes 50 mins.
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.
Have you visited Toledo in Spain before? If you have I’d love to hear all about it, leave me a message in the comments box below.
If you interested in other easy day trips from Madrid take a look at these posts by Seeking the Spanish Sun…
Other Seeking the Spanish Sun Madrid travel guides you might like…