Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. The capital of the region, it’s known as the “Imperial City” because it was the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in Spain, and as the “City of the Three Cultures” for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims, and Jews reflected in its history.
Its proximity to Madrid (30-60 minutes) makes it one of the best day trips from the Spanish capital.
How to get there
Getting to Toledo from Madrid is easy, fast and affordable. It can take only 30 minutes, so it can be a half-day trip with no problem. However; given that it is a walled city on top of a hill, it requires walking all the way from the outside until the top. Fortunately, there are some escalators in some areas, depending on the entrance you arrive from.
So to get there you can go…
The train is the fastest and easiest way to go. Also, train travel remains overall the most environmentally friendly.
A single trip takes 30 minutes and costs €13.90. The company running the service is called Renfe and tickets can be purchased at the station or online. I strongly recommend doing it online and avoiding losing time with the vending machines. Trains can also get full, especially on weekends, so better to book in advance.
Trains depart from Madrid’s main train station, Atocha.
Buses are also available. They take more time but are cheaper. In this case, they depart from Plaza Eliptica and cost €5.73 for a single trip. It takes 1 hour and the station is slightly further from the old town than the train one. Just bear in mind to take one that is direct, otherwise, it will take 30 minutes more.
The company running the service is called Alsa and tickets can be purchased at the station or online.
It can take between 60 and 90 minutes depending on traffic. It’s almost 80km from the city centre. On top of that, you will need to find a parking space (there are some parking lots outside the gates) and walk to the old town.
Toledo was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1940, UNESCO later gave it the title of World Heritage in 1987. Some of the main attractions include:
- Castillo de San Servando, a medieval castle near the banks of the Tagus river and the Infantry Academy.
- The Gothic Cathedral, dating from the thirteenth century. Inside there is the Clear from Narciso Tome, in Baroque.
- Alcazar fortress (16th century), located in the highest part of town, overlooking the city. From 2009 it houses the collection of the Army Museum.
- Alcántara bridge, Roman bridge across the Tagus.
- Puente de San Martin, medieval bridge across the Tagus.
- El Greco Museum, a house museum designed as a recreation of the artist’s home. It houses several important paintings.
- Synagogue of El Transito, in the Jewish Quarter. It is home to the Sephardic Museum.
- Santa María la Blanca, the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing, now owned by the Catholic Church.
- Iglesia de Santo Tome. Mudéjar style, the fourteenth century, houses the famous Burial of Count Orgaz, by El Greco.
- El Cristo de la Luz, a small mosque-oratory built in 999, later extended with Mudéjar apse for conversion into a church.
- Galiana Palace (13th century), in Mudéjar style.
- Tornerías Mosque (11th century).
- Puerta Bab al-Mardum (10th century), the oldest city gate of Toledo.
- Puerta de Bisagra Antigua (10th century), the main entrance to the city in Andalusian times. Also known as “Puerta de Alfonso VI”.
- Puerta del Sol (14th century), built by the Knights Hospitallers.
- Puerta de Bisagra Nueva (16th century), of Moorish origin re-built by Alonso de Covarrubias. The main entrance and face of Toledo today.
Toledo’s cuisine is grouped with that of Castile–La Mancha, well-set in its traditions and closely linked to hunting and grazing. A good number of recipes are the result of a combination of Moorish and Christian influences.
Some of its specialties include lamb roast or stew, cochifrito, alubias con perdiz (beans with partridge) and perdiz estofoda (partridge stew), carcamusa, migas, gachas manchegas, and tortilla a la magra. In addition, in Toledo, there are local versions of dishes from the nearby capital of Spain, Madrid, as is the case of the cocido toledano, La Mancha version of the famous Madrid stew.
Two of the city’s most famous food productions are Manchego cheese and marzipan, which has a Protected Geographical Indication. (mazapán de Toledo). Another interesting traditional food is Toledanas, crescent-shaped pastries filled with pumpkin preserve (cabello de ángel).
Some recommended restaurants are:
- El Trébol
- Bar Skala
- Bar Ludeña