What to See and Things to do in Toledo, Spain

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 the city of Toledo in Spain is today a quiet city of 50,000 inhabitants, a perfect day tour from Madrid that will marvel you as soon as you see it. Gone are the days when it was not only the capital city of Spain but the capital of the largest empire in the world, one where the sun never set as Emperor Carlos V said in 1556. Overlooking the longest river in the Iberian peninsula it’s easy to realize that since its establishment in the 7th century BC the city has fallen under the influence of different empires and cultures, with a distinct combination of moor and roman religions and thus architecture. Because of this unique historical background most of Toledo’s attractions are cultural, which is perfect as the city is easily walkable .

toledo-spain

The Alcazar at the top of Toledo, with the Tajo river meandering around the city.

Most travelers reach Toledo from Madrid as Spain’s capital city is only 70km away, and if this is your case I recommend you reach Toledo the easies and cheapest way: buy a 24 hour Toledo Card that includes transportation, lunch, entrances to the four most important historical sites, a guided tour of Toledo’s old quarter and its cathedral (the fourth largest in the world) and an open air tourist bus that will take you to the city from the train station, allowing the best view of the city as you can see in the picture above.

toledo card

I know..I know… If instead of holding my Toledo Card I was holding a number this picture could have been taken in any police station. But that’s not the point!

No sooner have you hopped off the train when you realize that you are in for an extraordinary visit- its train station was built in 1919 with an architecture that will have you pull your camera out in no time. The bus ride to the historical center takes just over 20 minutes but is a must because of the beautiful views; it’s during this part of the trip that you’ll be able to take the picture above, hopefully with a blue sky .

When you get off the bus your guide will be waiting for you, in our case a local female who returned to her city after living in Madrid for a few years. She eagerly explained interesting facts of the city as we walked from the Puerta del Cambron to the Cathedral, perhaps Toledo’s most impressive building of all. It is the fourth largest in the world and took more than 250 years to build. Mass is still given  in this colossal building, but the old way: unlike in modern churches where the priest stands at the front of the crowd, here he stands with the bishops in closed quarters behind a wooden structure and attendees come to listen and not see.

inside-cathedral-toledo

Inside Toledo´s cathedral. Mass here is held behind that wood structure you see on the bottom right.

The good thing about Toledo is that no matter where you look you will see something interesting. Its cobbled streets lead to antique shops filled with swords and armors, petite restaurants that serve local high-calorie delicacies and small bazaars that sell jewelry and other fantastic souvenirs. It is important you know that Toledo’s swords became very famous for their steel in the middle age, so much that even the Samurais in Japan new about it. Not in vain did Hannibal and the Roman legions make these their weapons of choice, as the swords were lighter yet stronger than any others at the time.

toledo-cathedral-and-alley

Even small alleys are interesting in Toledo.

Other things to do in Toledo include visiting the Alcazar fortress which houses the collection of the army museum, Santo Tomé church, Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue and San Juan de los Reyes monastery- your Toledo card includes the entrances to these last four attractions. Make sure you also allow some time to cross one if not two of the bridges that connect old Toledo with other areas-they are great photo opportunities as well.

Santo Tome church

Inside Santo Tome church

And then of course there is the food. Toledo’s most popular dishes are partridges and others that come from hunting, and for those with a sweet tooth this is the land of marzipan, where it was invented. Your Toledo card comes with a meal at three restaurants to choose from; we went to the Abadia and it was a great choice. Smack in the old quarter the building itself is interesting and the meals have a great flavor.

synagogue in Toledo

One of the two synagogues in Toledo. Oh yeah, and me.

If wondering if there are things to do in Toledo worth a trip from Madrid rest assured, there are. So many in fact that if your plan is to spend 3 days in Madrid and then go elsewhere I highly recommend you use on of those to visit Toledo and its attractions in a day as it is very affordable, very easy, and very very interesting. Plus, you’ll be able to brag about the fact that you’ve visited the capital city of the largest empire that ever existed- and that’s a big deal!

This tour was a courtesy by GetYourGuide.com , offering thousands of affordable day and multi-day tours all over the world- check them out!  The opinions and photos in this article remain unbiased and are, as always, my own.

Have you visited Toledo? Heard about it? What did you like most…and least? Is it the kind of destiantion you like to visit when traveling? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you liked it!

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