Euro City Guides: Toledo
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Only a 30 minute train ride from the busy center of Madrid is the small city of Toledo. Once you step off the train and walk into the old town, you'll feel like you've been transported back in time to a completely different world. Toledo gives off the feel of a small, medieval village, and is extremely welcoming to tourists without being overly touristed.
I went here for a weekend in late September, and while it was quite hot with temperatures between 80-90F all day, the tiny, narrow, cobblestone streets surrounded by tall buildings kept in a lot of shade and kept me cool enough for a full day of sightseeing. The city is quite hilly as well, which was really helpful when walking around and exploring all day.
While Toledo is an easy day trip from Madrid, I preferred to spend the weekend there to really see the city. I came back later on in November for a day trip though! Each time it was pretty seamless. I stayed in an Airbnb in the center of town, tucked away on a quiet street about a 2 minute walk from the cathedral. This was the perfect place to stay, as it was a great base for exploring the city. This beautiful, old, medieval city has plenty of hills with great views of the countryside, and you'll find these awesome vistas just by walking around the city.
Toledo is located in the province of Castilla-La Mancha, the home of Don Quixote, manchego cheese, and lots of delicious red wine. I hope I've convinced you to visit by now, it's pretty easy to add on to any Madrid trip. Tons of tourist companies in Madrid will ask you to pay a fee to go on an organized day trip with them, but to be honest that's pretty unnecessary. I've provided below my tips and recommendations for visiting the city on your own!
As I've mentioned before, Toledo is only a 30 minute train ride from Madrid. The train leaves from Atocha Station, and there are multiple throughout the day. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay between 10-20 euros round trip. The bus is definitely a cheaper option, since it's usually under 10 euros or free if you have an Abono Joven card. The bus does take a full hour though, so it depends what you prefer. The train is faster, more comfortable, and leaves from Madrid's city center, but the bus will save you quite a bit of money. Once you're in the old city of Toledo, everything is walkable. It takes only 20 minutes to walk just about anywhere in the old city.
While there's not a ton of stuff to see, it's plenty when compared to the size of the city. This will keep you really busy with just one day, but if you wake up early enough and hustle you can get it done. Otherwise, I'd recommend picking and choosing what's more important for you to see for a day trip. If you're in Madrid for awhile you can always come back.
Catedral Primada: This is the main cathedral of Toledo, and it's the city's main tourist attraction. If you're going to pay to see one sight while you're in Toledo, go here. It's a massive old cathedral with beautiful artwork and ornate gothic architecture.
Zocodover Square: As the main plaza or square in the city, this is a great meeting spot, or a place to start or end your day. There are a few restaurants and bars here, you could start your day drinking a cafe con leche in the square and end your day here with a sangria.
Alcazar: When you look at any view of Toledo, the Alcazar is the building that is the most prominent. Once a giant palace, this military fortification stands over the city and is the main focus of the city's "skyline". There is allegedly a museum inside, but I was unable to find it after searching the complex multiple times. It was probably closed that day, so check online to make sure and get directions.
El Greco Museum: Located in Toledo's beautiful, old Jewish quarter, this museum houses much of the famous artist's best work. It consists of two houses that share a garden, and it's a tranquil, relaxing place that I definitely recommend checking out.
Puerta de San Martin: This is one of the few gates into the old city, but there are more than one. If you continue walking down the hill from the El Greco Museum toward the river you'll come across this gate. It's a great place to walk around and take pictures with nice views of the hills of Toledo from the bridge. There is also ziplining available!
Mirador del Valle: This stunning viewpoint looks out over the entire city. It's a bit of a hike uphill, so allow yourself much more time than it says on Google Maps. But it's a beautiful hike, and gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery and nature on the way up.
Most places in the city are either tourist traps or traditional Spanish food. As a vegetarian it can sometimes be a challenge to find something to eat at a Spanish restaurant, so I've left below two restaurant recommendations for any vegetarians out there looking for a solid meal!
Madre Tierra Restaurante: I had to do some research beforehand to find a good veggie spot in Toledo, but this place definitely did not disappoint. I went here my first night in the city and it was great! They had tons of good, healthy options, and I was able to order a full meal with appetizers and sides as well as enjoy some organic sangria. Pretty big portions, so be prepared to take some home. All their food is vegetarian, and they can make most of their items vegan if they aren't already.
Comes Pizzeria: This two-story pizza place is great. On the bottom floor there is a regular pizza shop, but the second-floor is a reservation-only restaurant. The service was great, and we had good pizza and good wine. You can build your own pizza here, as well as apps and salads.
I'm honestly not sure what Toledo's nightlife is like, but I don't think it's anything crazy. Walking around at night there are some lively bars, but I don't think that's as big of a thing there, and the streets can get pretty empty. However, I did find a couple places that were really cool, and definitely worth checking out.
Carlos Roof Bar: I think this is Toledo's only rooftop bar, but don't quote me on that. They're located on the roof of Hotel Carlos V, and it's a really cool vibe with great views of the city. The drinks are on the pricier side, but you get what you pay for because they're really large drinks and they're super strong. They also have a really unique cocktail menu with cool drinks I'd never heard of. The views were great at night, but I'm sure it would be a great place to go at sunset.
Taberna El Botero: This cute, cozy bar is super central, right by the cathedral. They have tons of unique cocktails here as well, and it gives off sort of a trendy, vintage, speakeasy kind of vibe (if that makes sense). They were pretty packed when we went, but I still highly recommend checking this place out for the good drinks and good atmosphere.
I hope I've convinced you to visit Toledo! It's a really magical city, and a very authentically Spanish experience. If you're trying to figure out somewhere to add on to your Spain trip, I hope you consider Toledo.
For more pictures of beautiful places, check out my Flickr.