Toledo wasn’t even on our radar. In fact, I had never even heard of it until a Spanish travel blogger in Sri Lanka told me about it. According to her, Toledo is a must visit in Spain so naturally, I added it to our itinerary.
As it turns out, Toledo is one of the most popular day trip destinations from Madrid. It’s proximity to the Spanish capital also makes it one of the easiest. Thanks to the AVE, you can travel by high-speed train from Madrid to Toledo in just half an hour.
If you’re staying long enough in Madrid and looking to go beyond the city, then this Toledo travel guide will tell you all you need to know to plan a day trip to Toledo from Madrid.
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GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Because of the global pandemic, travel guidelines have been changing very frequently. Our friends at SafetyWing created this informative website that describes the latest containment measures, testing and treatment information, and travel restrictions around the globe.
Before doing any serious planning, be sure to check the Flatten the Curve website for information on travel restrictions to Spain.
TOLEDO AT A GLANCE
Toledo is an historic city overlooking the Tagus River in Castilla-La Mancha. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a long and colorful history dating back over two millennia.
Toledo was once a Roman municipium before becoming the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom. It came under Moorish rule for 374 years before being recaptured by the Christian Reconquest of Spain in 1085. In the mid-16th century, it served as Spain’s imperial capital under Charles V.
Today, Toledo is referred to as the “City of the Three Cultures” to reflect the roles Christianity, Judaism, and Islam played in shaping its history. This confluence of cultural influences is what makes Toledo so fascinating.
MADRID TO TOLEDO
One of the fastest and most popular ways of getting from Madrid to Toledo is by train, but that depends on where you’re staying. Depending on your hotel’s location, your budget, and time constraints, there are several ways of getting to Toledo from Madrid.
If you’re staying near Madrid Atocha railway station, then traveling by high-speed AVE train is the fastest way of going from Madrid to Toledo. This is what I did. It takes around 30 minutes and costs about EUR 11 (with tax) each way.
You can buy train tickets at the station or in advance through Trainline. If purchasing them online, then choose “Madrid – Atocha Cercanias” as the starting station and “Toledo” as the destination.
If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t mind a longer journey, then you can go from Madrid to Toledo by bus. It takes around 1 hr 30 mins and costs about EUR 5 each way. Buses depart every half hour from Plaza Eliptica.
If you’re traveling with enough people to split the cost, then a good alternative may be to rent a car. The drive from Madrid to Toledo takes about an hour each way and you can book a car in advance through Rentalcars.com.
We rented a car to drive from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable legs of our trip.
By Guided Tour
If you’d like to explore Toledo with a guide, then it’s best to go on a tour. There are several day tours you can choose from on Get Your Guide or Klook. Many will include transportation so you won’t need to worry about going from Madrid to Toledo on your own.
THINGS TO DO IN TOLEDO, SPAIN
Toledo is a small city packed with many interesting historical and religious buildings. This isn’t an exhaustive list but described below are fifteen of the most prominent tourist attractions in Toledo.
1. Alcazar de Toledo
The Alcazar is the first building you’ll notice when crossing Alcantara Bridge into Toledo. It’s a stone fortification situated in the highest part of the city.
The Alcazar was originally built as a Roman palace in the 3rd century. Today, it houses the Castilla-La Mancha Regional Library (Biblioteca Autonomica) and the Museum of the Army (Museo del Ejercito). We didn’t enter the Army Museum but we did go up to the library to enjoy bird’s eye views of the city.
You can purchase tickets to the Museum of the Army at the door. If you’d like to go on a guided tour of the Alcazar and the museum, then you can book it in advance through Get Your Guide.
Admission: EUR 5
2. Castillo de San Servando
The Castle of San Servando is one of the first attractions you’ll see after exiting Toledo Railway Station. It’s situated on top of a hill near Puente del Alcantara, across the Tagus River from Toledo.
The castle was originally built as a monastery before being converted into a fortress for the Knights Templar. It’s elevated position served as a strategic point of defense to protect Alcantara Bridge from possible Muslim attacks.
Today, the castle functions as a youth hostel. Unfortunately, it isn’t open to tourists but you can explore the outside before crossing the bridge into Toledo.
3. Iglesia de San Ildefonso
The Church of San Ildefonso is a Jesuit church dedicated to Saint Ildefonsus, a former archbishop and patron of Toledo. He was born in the early 7th century in the house where this Baroque-style church now stands.
The Church of San Ildefonso is one of seven attractions you can visit with a Toledo Tourist Bracelet.
Admission: EUR 3
4. Iglesia de Santiago del Arrabal
The Church of Santiago del Arrabal is a Catholic church built in the mid-13th century, on the site of an older building that may have been a mosque. Looking at the church, it does bear a resemblance to the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz.
5. Iglesia de Santo Tome
The Church of Santo Tome was founded after the Reconquista and built on the site of a former mosque. It’s best known for being the home of The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, a large painting by renowned Greek painter El Greco. There’s an El Greco museum less than 200 meters from here as well.
The Church of Santo Tome is one of seven attractions you can visit with a Toledo Tourist Bracelet.
6. Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
The Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes is a Franciscan monastery built by the Catholic Monarchs – King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile – to commemorate the birth of their son and their victory at the Battle of Toro.
The monastery was initially conceived to be the mausoleum of the Catholic Monarchs. They would later change their plans and choose Granada to be their final resting place.
The Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes is one of seven attractions you can visit with a Toledo Tourist Bracelet.
Admission: EUR 3
7. Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is one of the most interesting buildings in the city. It’s a former mosque that was one of ten that existed in Toledo during the Moorish period.
The mosque was built in 999 in an area of the city that was once inhabited by wealthy Muslims. Originally measuring just 8 m x 8 m (26 ft x 26 ft), a semi-circular section was added to the building when it was converted into a church after the Reconquista. This was done to give the building more Christian-like features, with the semicircular section symbolizing the head of the cross.
The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is one of seven attractions you can visit with a Toledo Tourist Bracelet.
Admission: EUR 3
8. Museo del Greco
Museo del Greco is a museum dedicated to the works of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, a Greek painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. Better known as El Greco, he was born in Crete but spent much of his life in Toledo where he worked until his death in 1614.
The museum features many works from El Greco’s late period as well as a garden and a recreation of his former home which no longer exists.
9. Plaza de Zocodover
Plaza de Zocodover is the main square in Toledo. It’s long been the city’s nerve center where markets, bullfights, and even public executions were held. Beasts of burden like horses, donkeys, and mules were bartered and sold at this plaza. In fact, the name Zocodover stems from Arabic and means “market of burden beasts”.
Today, the plaza still functions as a center for social life in Toledo. It’s a favorite meeting point with its many restaurants and cafes and remains the site of a centuries-old weekly market that’s held every Tuesday.
10. Puente del Alcantara
Alcantara Bridge is a Roman arch bridge situated at the foot of the Castle of San Servando. It spans the Tagus River and is the closest entry point into Toledo from the railway station.
11. Puente de San Martin
St. Martin’s Bridge is a medieval bridge that spans the Tagus River on the western side of the city. It complements Alcantara Bridge which provides access to Toledo on the eastern side.
12. Puerta de Bisagra Nueva
The Puerta de Bisagra Nueva or New Bisagra Gate is the main entryway into Toledo. Located in the northern part of the city, it dates back to the Moorish period but its main structure was built in the mid-16th century by Spanish Renaissance architect Alonso de Covarrubias.
As you can see in the picture below, the gate bears the coat of arms of Emperor Charles V. Its construction supplanted the Puerta Bisagra Antigua as the main entrance into Toledo.
13. Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca
The Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca was constructed in 1180 and is believed to be the oldest surviving synagogue in Europe. It was turned into a church in the early 15th century but now functions as a museum.
Interestingly, the synagogue was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It’s considered a cooperation of the three cultures that helped shape the history and character of Toledo.
The Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca is one of seven attractions you can visit with a Toledo Tourist Bracelet.
Admission: EUR 3
14. Sinagoga del Transito
El Transito is a former synagogue that was built in the mid-14th century. It was converted into a church after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and now functions as a museum.
The synagogue is renowned for its ornate stucco decoration which has drawn comparisons to the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palaces in Granada.
15. Toledo Cathedral
The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is a Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toledo. Impressive in its size and design, this massive cathedral is perhaps the single most awe-inspiring building in the city.
Toledo Cathedral is one of three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain. For some, it’s considered the greatest example of Gothic-style architecture in the country. Construction of the cathedral began in 1226 and continued until 1493.
You can purchase Toledo Cathedral tickets at the door or you can get skip-the-line passes through Klook. If you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2).
Admission: EUR 8
WHERE TO EAT
1. MasaMadre Toledo
MasaMadre is a family-run bakery that makes the most delicious pastries. They offer many baked goodies, both savory and sweet, but I read about their croissants so that’s what we went with. The reviews were spot on. MasaMadre’s croissants are flaky and buttery and absolutely delicious. In fact, they were so good we brought a box home!
MasaMadre seems to be popular with locals as the shop was filled with mostly Spanish-speaking customers. They were chatting and laughing with the owners like regulars.
MasaMadre is tucked away in an alley near the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz. It isn’t as easy to find so I don’t think you’ll find as many tourists here.
They have a lovely indoor courtyard that makes for a great place to have breakfast. I suggest having pastries and coffee here before exploring Toledo.
2. Viandas de Salamanca
One of my favorite snacks in Spain is bocadillo de jamon. It’s a simple sandwich made with Spanish baguette and slices of jamon. I enjoy it because it’s cheap, delicious, and easy to have on the go.
Viandas de Salamanca is a chain of jamonerias with outlets throughout Spain. For EUR 4.90, I had a tasty and filling bocadillo made with jamon y queso. Delicioso!
In contrast to MasaMadre, Viandas de Salamanca is located along Calle Comercio, one of the busiest streets in Toledo.
3. El Fogon del Quijote
I was planning on having dinner at El Fogon del Quijote but something turned up that made me go back to Madrid sooner than expected. El Fogon is a restaurant that serves traditional Castile–La Mancha food.
I wanted to try local specialties like perdiz estofoda (partridge stew) and cochifrito (pork meat fried in olive oil and garlic) and I read that El Fogon del Quijote was a great place to try it in Toledo. The restaurant is located just across St. Martin’s Bridge.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Toledo is relatively small with most of its top tourist attractions clustered in the northern half of the city. We got around entirely on foot but some parts of the city are fairly hilly. If you have mobility issues, then you may want to explore Toledo using the transportation services provided to tourists.
There’s a Hop On Hop Off bus and a Toledo Tourist Train (trolley) that take you to the city’s top tourist attractions. The bus is more expensive but your ticket is valid for 24 hours, while the trolley pass is only good for 45 minutes.
If all you want is a quick ride around the city, then the Tourist Train is ideal. But if you want to spend time exploring each attraction, then it’s best to go with the Hop On Hop Off bus. You can purchase tickets for either on Get Your Guide (Hop On Hop Off Bus / Tourist Train) or Klook (Hop On Hop Off Bus / Tourist Train).
Regardless of how you choose to get around, I suggest downloading the Google Maps app (iOS | Android) if you haven’t already. It’ll tell you all the best ways to get from point A to point B, either on foot or using a city’s public transportation system. It’s accurate and helpful and something we never travel without.
TOLEDO ONE-DAY ITINERARY
Toledo isn’t that big so it’s possible to see its top tourist attractions in a day. If you’re arriving by AVE high-speed train and getting around on foot, then I suggest visiting them in this order.
TOLEDO IN A DAY|
• Castillo de San Servando
• Puente del Alcantara
• Alcazar de Toledo
• Plaza de Zocodover
• MasaMadre Toledo (breakfast)
• Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
• Puerta del Sol
• Iglesia de Santiago del Arrabal
• Puerta de Bisagra Nueva
• Viandas de Salamanca (lunch)
• Iglesia de San Ildefonso
• Iglesia de Santo Tome
• Museo del Greco
• Sinagoga del Transito
• Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca
• Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
• Puente de San Martin
• El Fogon Del Quijote (dinner)
POINTS OF INTEREST IN TOLEDO
To help you visualize and better understand the above itinerary, I’ve pinned all of the places recommended in this guide on a map. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map.
1. Buy Your Train Tickets in Advance
Many people don’t feel the need to buy train or bus tickets until the day of their trip. Personally, I like to get them early, especially if we’re going during peak tourism season. If you’re sure about the date of your day trip to Toledo, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t get tickets in advance.
If you’re planning on taking the AVE train to Toledo from Madrid, then you can book tickets through Trainline. If you’d like to visit Toledo on a guided tour, then you can buy tour tickets on Get Your Guide or Klook.
2. Get a Toledo City Card or a Tourist Bracelet
If you plan on exploring Toledo on your own, then you may want to invest in a tourist pass. I know of two tourist passes in Toledo – the Toledo City Card and the Toledo Tourist Bracelet.
The Toledo City Card entitles you to three walking tours, a Toledo Tourist Train ticket, and entry into Alcazar’s Museum of the Army. You can purchase it in advance through Get Your Guide or Klook. Klook also offers the Toledo City Card PLUS which entitles you to four walking tours, a Toledo Tourist Train ticket, and entrance to nine monuments.
If you’re traveling on a budget, then the best option may be to get a Toledo Tourist Bracelet. It costs just EUR 10 and gives you access to seven monuments in Toledo.
3. Buy Toledo Steel
When we got to Toledo, one of the first things I noticed were all the souvenir shops selling swords and knives. As it turns out, Toledo has been a traditional sword-making center since around 500 BC and is famed for its unusually hard steel.
Toledo steel is known for its high quality alloy and was used as a standard source of weaponry for Roman legions. If you’re looking to bring home a unique souvenir, then Toledo steel may be just the thing.
4. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
Having a reliable wifi connection is a must these days, especially when you’re on the road. You’ll need it to navigate, do research, and stay connected on social media. Having access to Google Maps alone justifies the cost.
If you need to rent a mobile router that works in Spain and Europe, then you can try Tep Wireless. They’re one of the more established portable wifi providers in the market today. You can have the device shipped to your home before your trip, or to your hotel in Europe.
5. Get Travel Insurance
We don’t always get travel insurance. It depends on where we’re going and what we’ll be doing. If we plan on doing physical activities, anything that could get us hurt, then we’ll definitely get it.
When we do feel the need for insurance, we’ll get it from either World Nomads or SafetyWing. They’re both leading travel medical insurance providers used by many long-term travelers. Check out my article on why we buy travel insurance for a description of the two. You can click on the links to get a free quote from World Nomads or SafetyWing.
I’m not an expert on Toledo but I do hope you find this guide useful. I’m only sharing the things I learned from our trip. If you have any comments or suggestions, then please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for stopping by and have a great exploring Toledo!
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