A Day Trip to Toledo
Toledo is a magical city located some 60 km from Madrid. Before the Royal court moved to Madrid, this city was the capital of Spanish kingdom in mid Sixteenth century. Toledo has been ruled by Romans, Visigoth, Moors and Catholics all. Toledo has signs of every invader and ever ruler and the mix works rather well. There are churches here that used to be mosques and synagogues with a lot of previous structure intact, it is fascinating truly. The old city has a maze of narrow streets that take you to some amazing places, small squares and grand buildings.
I visited Toledo towards the end of February, the temperature was perfect and the glorious spring sunshone throughout the day, I didn’t even need my jacket most of the day.
Check out my Vlog about the Segovia trip below on YouTube.
Getting to Toledo from Madrid
Toledo is very close to Madrid and it is very easy to get to Madrid with high-speed trains and buses both. I purchased my train tickets in advance via Trainline online.
Note: Trainline prices are higher than the official Renfe prices. Use Chrome browser to open the Renfe website because it is quite bad and only in Spanish, I think. You can also buy tickets at the spot which can be tricky in high season. You can use the email version of tickets and don’t need the printed version.
The trains leave from Atocha station in Madrid and take roughly 25 minutes to arrive in Toledo station. The train station is about a 15 minutes walk from Bisagra Door and Tourist Information centre.
Al alternate is taking the bus which you can take from Plaza Elíptica bus station in Madrid. the buses run every 30 minutes and took 45 minutes to an hour to get to the Toledo bus station. You can book the tickets online on ALSA website.
Toledo has the most beautiful Moorish style train station, perhaps the most beautiful train station in Spain. I was so mesmerised by it inside and outside I came back early just to spend time in it…
Food in Toledo
Toledo is in the heart of Castile and Leon region and there is no lack of amazing food here. The best and timely option is tapas here. there are a lot of restaurants that offer free tapas with a drink but that’s more of a local thing in the evenings. Lunch is the biggest meal in Spain and the heaviest as well.
Public transport is quite good in Toledo but a bit useless. the city is quite small and you do not need to use it. I highly recommend against it also because getting lost in smaller streets yields some amazing discoveries. Ditch the buses and use your feet seriously! In the old city some parts have very narrow streets, it would be hardly possible to squeeze through a bicycle let alone a bus or a car.
I made the mistake of not buying this bracelet which gives you access to 9 different locations, some of them below. At this price it is totally worth it and you should definitely got for it. I ended up paying more because I thought of it as a bit of a tourist scam but it was totally worth it. You can purchase it at multiple points including Tourist information centre.
One Day itinerary of Essential Toledo
Toledo has a lot to offer but the old city is relatively small and can be done in a day if you’re up for a fun, challenging day.
Note: Down the walking map at the end of the post to follow the path.
Note: Make sure you have comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot and there’s quite a bit of climbing involved.
Bisagra Door – Puerta de Bisagra
The old city of Toledo is walled and most of the walls are in great condition with multiple doors, this one is the most beautiful one and a great place to start the day. I headed from the train station and a 15 minutes walk later I was standing in front of Tourist Information Centre. The attending lady was very sweet and provided me detailed ifnormation with lots of patience and didn’t mind me marking and creating a route. She also highlighted the spots for food, which I didn’t need because good places are abundant in almost every corner.
I headed inside the gate and the first surprise was the Moorish church or Parroquia De Santiago el Mayor. This beautiful church has a prominent Moorish touch. I did want to go inside but it was closed sadly and I had to move on but even from outside, this place was beguiling.
The city was already bustling with tourists including tons of kids who were on a school trip and excited about a day out in the sun rather than caring about the location, I miss those days!
I walked up and arrived at the next door inside the walls called Puerta del Sol. I was heading to the next spot which required me to take stairs opposite the door to go up..
La Luz Church – Mezquita del Cristo de La Luz
Entry Fee: €3
La Luz church is a small church which has an interesting name; Mosque of Christ of the Light. The building used to be a mosque.
The queue outside was quite long and judging by the unimpressed faces of exitors, I assumed there wasn’t much inside, I decided to conserve my energy for the main cathedral and moved on towards the main plaza of the town; Zocodover.
The walk between the church and Zocodover was quite interesting. The streets became quite narrow and the houses more interesting. I saw a typical Andalusian style patio in a house on the way which was quite a treat.
It wasn’t long before I arrived at the main square. It was packed with people of all nationalities, colour and creed. I got some green tea and sat down to watch the people going about.
The plaza itself has a lot of typical touristy places like fast food restaurants and fancy hotels but I’d not recommend eating here since most places looks like typical tourist establishments.
Note: You can take the ho-on-hop-off bus and the mini train from here. The cost of Train ticket is €7 and bus is €15. Both take you to Mirador Valle, the bus stops at San Martin bridge and Mirador Valle and train stops only at Mirador Valle. Both don’t stop at Alcantara bridge. I decided to skip these which worked out better.
Entry Fee: €5
The Alcazar of Toledo is the built on the highest spot in the town and it is visible from most points. The majestic building is a solid square-ish block with a museum inside which you can see. I was more interested in the viewpoint across which overlooked the Infantry academy (which has quite a palatial facade itself) across the Tagus river. The sun was getting higher up still and it was time to get some lunch for me.
I headed to Plaza Mayor and ate at La Mona Bar which was a chilled out place with amazing food, I ordered an oxtail burger with sweet reminders of Cordoba for me.
Entry Fee: €10, 12 with tour and visit of bell tower
After some great food, I was fresh to explore the most beautiful interior of Toledo. The main cathedral of Toledo is a giganomous structure with an amazingly impressive facade. The tower was under renovation. It was no surprise that the former capital of Spain was host to an incredible High Gothic church, rightly considered as the magnum opus of the Gothic style in Spain. From the entry point to the beautiful courtyard, the place is simply spell binding.
The adornments are detailed and so intricate you want to stay close to the beauty. I am not particularly fond of religions but this is detail that convince you there has to be a higher purpose and power because it transcends your meager senses. Incredibly marvelous simply!
I spent a good hour inside enjoying the relative cold of the cathedral with sunlight coming in through the beautiful rose window. The square outside with the main facade is called Plaza del Ayuntamiento which was another busy place with lots of tourists but soon enough the place became quiet between one tourist group leaving and another one coming.
Jesuits Church – Iglesia de Los Jesuistas
Entry Fee: €3
I grabbed my bag and headed to the Jesuits Church but before going on, I had to stop to appreciate the simple, small square outside the church. In front of the grand facade, Plaza del Padre Juan de Mariana looked simple but with the cathedral tower on one side and the magnificent Baroque facade of Jesuits church on the other side, it didn’t need much more.
The church inside was equally a stunner. The white interior was markedly different from the golden interior of the Cathedral of Toledo. The decoration was also quite different and rather simple in comparison but no less impressive.
Iglesia del San Salvador
Entry Fee: €3
It was the second half of the day and I had a few places to explore so I headed to my next stop which I decided to skip going inside. San Salvador church is another church which used to be a mosque and was later converted to a church. I headed to the simpler Santo Tome church instead.
Iglesia de Santo Tomé
Entry Fee: €3
This church is host to a magnificent piece of art; the painting of El Greco; Doménikos Theotokópoulos. He was so named because he was Greek and Toledo is host to a lot of his work especially in the El Greco museum. His masterpiece however is placed inside this church; The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. The painting is placed above the grave of the count and draws huge crowds. There s a sense of fascination with this rather dark painting which shows duality with the body of dead cunt below and heavens above but the overall mood is somber and dark rather than an uplifting union of a subject meeting his Lord. The painting was fascinating in a weird way, the faces almost came alive when I looked too keenly, it was a different experience for me, El Greco was not a master of art for no reason afterall.
The church itself is rather dull and has nothing special to offer but worth a quick stroll through. I eventually came out and headed down on the right hand side to the museum of El Greco.
Museo del Greco
Entry Fee: €3
I am allergic to museums and find them incredibly dull with particular lighting and the sterilised environment with white paint reminds me of my fathers hospital. I skipped this one as well and spent time instead in the square outside which had a rather creepy but fascinating sculpture.
Santa Maria Synagogue -Sinagoga Santa María La Blanca
Note: If you are interested in the Jewish heritage, this is your area with two previous synagogues and the old jewish homes at the back of this synagogues.
Entry Fee: €3
The second last spot before heading out of the old town, the old synagogues is empty inside with timber roof. The completely white walls with golden arches and dark brown wooden roof have an interesting effect. The trees covering the outside entrance also makes you feel at peace.
Los Reyes Monastery – Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
Entry Fee: €2.8
I was eyeing the monastery and after seeing the other monasteries in Segovia, I was quite intrigued to see how Toledo would top the magnificence and dear heavens, it surpassed all expectations!
From the entrance to the central courtyard, the building is very well preserved. I could totally see myself spending a summer meditating here. The orange tree in the courtyard brought the whole place alive.
The church inside was rather grey and offered a different interior, no less grand and opulent in any which way. I wish I have had more time to spend here but I still had a few more places to explore so I left but not before I went to the upper floor to appreciate the wooden ceilings.
I left the monastery and headed towards the brisge of St Maryin passing by the Puerta del Cambron. In another 5 minutes I was at the bridge.
St Martin Bridge
Just before the bridge started, I saw something interesting; Fly Toledo. You can cross the river Tagus zip lining along with the bridge and if I have had more time I’d definitely opt for it but there was a bit of a queue there already.
The bridge was magnificent and until I arrived at the edge, I didn’t realise the scale of its length, width and height. The river Tagus certainly has a presence. I could truly appreciate why Toledo was built here and how secure the old citizens of the city must have felt because of this river and how easy this bridge would have made their lives.
I realised I had 2 more hours until my train left and I had some time so I chilled at the bridge for a bit, it was fun watching people ziplining across the river, some adrenaline junkies and some doing it under peer pressure.
It was time to call a taxi, I certainly didn’t fancy walking 32 minutes to Mirador Valle and risk missing my train. Across the bridge, in a shop, a lady at the counter gave me a number to call a taxi and the taxi was there in 5 minutes and from the bridge to Mirador Valle, Alcantara bridge and dropping at Toledo station cost me €10.
No matter what you have to miss, do not miss this point. Mirador Valle offers you an unparalleled view of the entire old city of Toledo. The sun was setting behind me and the light was just perfect to highlight the golden colour of this incredible city.
The taxi driver sped me to the last stop of the day with 30 minutes left for my train, the traffic wasn’t too bad and we soon arrived at the bridge. After St Martin’s Bridge this one seemed like a rather simple affair. If I had to skip one bridge of the two, I’d give this one a miss but it wasn’t bad to catch a glimpse before finally heading towards the train station.
Toledo truly is an incredible gem, Spain has a lot of them but this one has a special place for me and I will hopefully return one day with more time to explore in depth. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey with me, do let me know what you think.
Download the map below and follow the route for a smooth exploring guide.