2 May 2020, Toledo Spain – It’s difficult to resist the idea of a day trip to Toledo from Madrid. The high-speed train takes only 30 mins and about 10 euros. There are regular train services but buying a ticket in advance is highly recommended, in my personal experience, I could not manage to get a ticket and end up having to buy one for the next day. The bus is cheaper than the train, about 5 euros but takes you thrice the time to get there. The train station is the start of an eye feast of the beautiful architectural design, with cultural influences of Christians Muslims, and Jews. In fact, Toledo is also known as the ‘City of the Three Cultures’ and was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.
How to Plan a Day Trip to Toledo Spain
Since this is a day trip, I’ve singled out some of the to-dos, and reminded myself not to rush through the day.
- Take a quick tour around the city in a hop-on hop-off bus
- Explore around the city area of Plaza de Zocodover and Juderia district
- Savour the local delights
- Stroll around to marvel at the grandeur of Alcázar de Toledo
- Take the guided tour inside the Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo
- Visit the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
I thought the easiest way to first explore around is to take a City Sightseeing Hop-on, Hop-off bus. With stops that you can make anytime, and regular buses which you can hop on again, that’s the perfect way to first get a glimpse of the beauty around this city. Cost about 15 euros and comes with free audio guide as well as free entry to Alcázar de Toledo, and a guided tour to the Cathedral. Also saves me trouble having to figure out how to get back to the train station after the day tour which I realised later the day it can be quite a challenge when everyone is trying to go back to the train station with a very heavy traffic flow out of the elevated old city.
Plaza de Zocodover
Main square of the city of Toledo. In the older days, horses, donkeys, mares, mules and other animals are sold during the Spanish Muslim era. This was also the place where bullfighting, public execution of prisoners as well as any other main events. Today it’s full of tourists and this is the place where you can find walking tours or starting point into the smaller lanes for more surprise finds. I’ve found some interesting little shops selling all kinds of stuff, from flamenco dresses, fans, swords, fresh produce, and etc.
All over the city, I was in awe with the beautiful ancient medieval architecture and stone brick formation. The best way to explore is definitely walking, there are narrow corners and uneven terrain. Walking around might be a challenge if I was not wearing proper walking shoes. It is also easy to get lost roaming around, but who cares when you are on vacation, that’s the best way to explore a place.
It was also coincidental when I visited, the narrow streets are covered by a long stretch of white cloth in preparation of a holy festival, the Corpus Christi, a celebration of a solemn public procession to exhibit the Sacred Host for veneration by the faithful.
Judeira district, aka the Jewish quarter of Toledo was the neighborhood where the Jews lived in the Middle Ages, which also is the most populous and rich of the Kingdom of Castile. It’s amazing that for centuries, Muslims and Christians have co-existed in this place peacefully. One thing I really find amazing are the Jewish symbols and characters embedded into the stoned pathways as a decorative feature, it really marks the area as Jewish.
Alcázar de Toledo
The Alcazar in Toledo Spain has an air of authority and even without any references, one can sense its significance to the city of Toledo. A stone fortification standing at the highest part of Toledo, which was once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century, and subsequently restored in the 1540s. There is the Museum of the Army as well as a regional library, definitely a place to learn more about Spanish military history.
Savour local delights in Toledo Spain
Lunch hour came and I was starving. The issue with traveling to a highly populous tourist place is that every other eatery and restaurant is all packed with queues of hungry tourists. I managed to find a very local looking place. The restaurant manager was really nice to make sure I was well taken care of. Had some local olives with sangria, local bean soup and leg of lamb. He even insisted to take a picture of me LOL.
It’s also apparent that in every other corner of Toledo’s street, there’s a sweet store selling the marzipan – one of the most popular local specialty Toledo Spain is synonymous with. Marzipan is local sweet made with almonds, sugar and egg yolks. What’s most impressive is the way the display is decorated with minitures of cute nuns and figurines in the kitchen making marzipan. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I can go away without trying it out. So here it is, afternoon coffee with marzipan for a wake-me-up. It’s sweet and almond-ry, just as expected, and definitely tastes fresh like just out of the oven.
Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, Spain
Aka as the Toledo Cathedral or formally as the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo Spain, is a Roman Catholic church in Toledo, Spain. It is known to be one of the three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered, in the opinion of some authorities, to be the magnum opus of the Gothic style in Spain.
The facade and interior of the Cathedral is nicely preserved, one can easily see the grandeur and glory of its significance in both the ancient and modern times.
Perhaps one of the most interesting exhibit is the great Monstrance of Arfe, also known as La Gran Ostensoria de Toledo. The great monstrance is made of the finest silver and gold and set with precious gems and pearls, standing over ten feet tall. The monstrance is famous for being used in the annual feast of Corpus Christi of Toledo. It looked like a complex piece of work, but it can be dismantled almost entirely thanks to the systematic use of pegs, screws, nuts and pins, inscribed with numbers and letters thus making it easy to reassemble in the correct order.
Within the cathedral, the sacristy exhibits treasures such as major works of art. The ceiling paining is indeed mesmerising, by Luca Giordano. And of course the most treasured piece is the main one hanging on the wall, The Disrobing of Christ, 1579, by El Greco. And through this, I learnt about El Greco and also visited the art museum in Madrid and saw some of his awesome works.
Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes or the Monastery of Saint John of the Monarchs is an Isabelline style Franciscan monastery, built by the Catholic Monarchs (1477–1504). Built under the reign of Elizabeth of Castile, one of Spain’s most powerful queens, with the intention of being used as the royal mausoleum. The monastery features a long and narrow construction, with many chapels decorating its sides, designed in the Mudéjar style, featuring a very clear Arabic influence.
These marked my solo day trip. Was glad to have traveled safely and saw many interesting and historical sights. I’ll mark this as a place I would love to come back and visit over a few days.
Do check out my post on another historic city in Europe: Italy’s Mantova.