Visiting the historical ancient city of Toledo is essential while traveling through Spain. Whether you do a day trip from Madrid or stay in this medieval city for a couple of nights, a trip to Toledo will leave you enchanted.
I decided to do a day trip from Madrid, and I took a chartered bus that took a little over an hour. I should have stayed longer in Toledo, but I knew that I would be back one day. At least now I have a layout of the city in my mind, and have an idea of where I would to stay.
Toldeo is rich in history and culture that spans to the Roman times. In 1986, Toldedo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site:
Successively a Roman municipium, the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom, a fortress of the Emirate of Cordoba, an outpost of the Christian kingdoms fighting the Moors and, in the 16th century, the temporary seat of supreme power under Charles V, Toledo is the repository of more than 2,000 years of history. Its masterpieces are the product of heterogeneous civilizations in an environment where the existence of three major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – was a major factor.– UNESCO World Heritage Website
If you are interested in architecture, history or UNESCO sites, Toledo is an impressive city to visit!
Getting to Toledo
The closest big city to Toledo is Madrid, and it is approximately 50 miles south of the city. There are different options to travel Toledo; by car, train or bus. The train is the quickest, and it will take you a little more than a half an hour. Driving will be less than an hour depending on traffic, and the bus will take you a little more than an hour.
There are also Full and Half Day Tours from Madrid, if you do not want to wander on your own. Most of the tours include round trip transportation, a visit to the cathedral, and other religious sites, plus a guided walk through the cobblestone back streets. If you are interested in booking a guided tour, research online through TripAdvisor or Viator. Your hotel can also set you up with a tour when you arrive to Madrid.
If you find yourself outside the city walls. which is below the city there are escalators that will take you up. The coach I took was a chartered bus, and they brought us to the base of the escalators. It was an easy way up and was a short walking distance to the main square.
I believe the next time that I visit Toledo from Madrid, I will hire a private driver to take me into the city and bring me to my hotel. There are many cobbled stone roads, steps, and windy pedestrian streets. The more convenient the better for me especially when I have my luggage.
Plaza De Zocodover
Considered the nerve center, Plaza de Zocodover, has always acted as Toledo’s Main Square. This historic square has seen it’s share of interesting events from public executions, to bull fights, and to the selling of large animals. Zocodover has always been a gathering place in one way or another. Even today, the main square is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike. There is plenty of public seating, plus several restaurants and shops that surround the main square.
If you wander down one of the many streets that shoot off from Plaza de Zocodover, you will find more places to shop and eat. I found myself wandering for a long time visiting many of the lovely jewelry shops. I did purchase several pieces of jewelry, since it was small enough to put in my purse.
Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo
In the heart of Toledo, which in itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, majestically stands the 13th- Century Spanish gothic style cathedral. This extravagant Catholic cathedral is considered to be the magnum opus of the three similar High Gothic Cathedrals in Spain.
Since my time was limited in Toledo, I did not get to spend a lot of time in the cathedral. From what I saw the interior of the cathedral is what you would expect it to be, considering the opulent façade of the church. It was all breathtaking and the attention to every detail was extraordinary.
Lunch at Restaurante Plaza Mayor
To one side of Toledo’s Cathedral, and anchoring the small Plaza Mayor is Restaurante Plaza Mayor. I decided to stop in for lunch because the restaurant looked interesting. To get to the dining area, you will need to walk down a flight of stairs where you will find yourself in a below ground restaurant. I found the restaurant very comfortable and friendly.
When I was seated I was not given a lunch menu, but was told that lunch had two courses. I was also TOLD what was available. I have heard of places like this, where you pretty much have whatever the chef is cooking. No explanations, just “This is what we got, Lady!” It might be different during dinner, but I can only report to you what happened during lunchtime.
Paella was one of the first course menu items, and I was thrilled. I love paella, which is a traditional Spanish rice dish. The paella was flavorful, and was loaded with seafood- Perfecto! I was also told that “Pork” was one of the menu items for the second course. I was not sure how it was prepared, and I took a chance. I was not about to ask how it was cooked, I just trusted my instincts. What was served was a tender stewed pork that was flavorsome and hearty. I also loved the traditional side of patatas that accompanied the “Pork”.
Strolling the Streets
One of the joys of visiting Toledo is getting lost within the medieval city streets. If you have a good navigation app like “Maps.me” that works offline, you will never really get lost. Just wander wherever your instincts guide you, turn left and turn right, it is all good. Then when it is time to head back, navigate your way with your phone app.
I could have walked the city streets more if I had time. This is one reason that I plan on returning and staying a few days. I felt that I was rushed, and did not get to engage with this magnificent city like I wanted to.
Every turn I made, whether it be left or right, was breathtaking. It could have been a quiet neighborhood street lined with old apartments and iron balconies, or an intersection draped with fabric and a hanging chandelier. The city of Toledo charmed and enchanted me, I count the days until I return.
Many of the streets are not even, uphill/ downhill and are cobblestone, so wear comfortable shoes.
Tabenera El Botero
The day before when I was in Madrid, I dined at the legendary Restaurante Zalacain. The managerial staff at Zalacain highly recommended Tabenera El Botero for their tapas and drinks. Botero is located in quiet neighborhood of Toldedo, and inside a charming old store font.
Since I already had a large lunch prior, and I overestimated my appetite while eating at Restaurante Plaza Mayor, I decided on ordering a dessert. Again, I already knew that I would be back to Toledo. I figured that I would hold off on all the tempting tapas for my future visit. My God, their tapas menu looked heavenly- I cannot wait!
If Botero’s tapas are anything like their dessert then I totally missed out. I am sure they were, but it is okay, at least I was able to taste their Lemon Pie. It was an extraordinary dessert and a surprise when it was put down in front of me. This scrumptious dessert was a deconstructed lemon pie that was both sweet and tart. The creamy lemon filling was openly placed over a bed of sweet cake crumbs. Then it was topped with mint leaves and little lemon cookies similar to Madeleines. It was divine!
For restaurant information, Tabenera El Botero
El Mirador Toledo
On everybody’s top ‘To Do List’ for Toledo is to catch a glimpse and a photo of the fairytale city. The only place to get this full shot is outside the city, and across the river at El Mirador Toledo or The Mirador del Valle Toledo. If the weather is nice and the sky is blue, you will get a memorable picture of this ancient city.
The safest and easiest way to arrive at The Mirador del Valle Toledo is by bus tours or vehicle. There are several turnouts along the road to Toledo, where you can pull off safely for your photos.
If you do not have a vehicle and did not take a day tour from Madrid, you can take the Hop on Hop off Bus in Toledo. This bus is a convenient way to visit the city, and it will take you to many sites including El Mirador Toledo.
One of the highlights of my trip to Madrid was taking a day off and exploring Toledo. I fell in love with her charm, and intrigued by her history. As I strolled the medieval streets, I understood why Toledo became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I wholeheartedly recommend you to visit Toledo, even if it is just for a day.
The best education I have ever received was through travel.– Lisa Ling
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