Having arrived in Madrid the previous day, I decided what better way to spend a day than to jump on a train to the nearby town of Toledo, Spain. Toledo is a small town about 30 minutes from Madrid that was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Toledo is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” for the historical influences of the Muslims, Christians and Jews. The influences of these groups is apparent all around Toledo in the form of churches, mosques and synagogues.
My solo adventure to Toledo started from the Room Mate Mario Hotel in Madrid’s city centre. By the time I made it to the Puerta De Atocha train station, I had just missed the train to Toledo so I had some time to find some travel snacks before my train left an hour later.
When I arrived at the Toledo train station I knew that there was at least one thing I definitely wanted to see and that was the view overlooking the beautiful hilltop town. Luckily, just as I exited the station, there was a bus that would take me to the Mirador del Valle before dropping me off in the middle of the town. The Mirador del Valle offers a panoramic view of the town with the towering Alcazar de Toledo fortress standing prominently over the city.
With so much to see in the small town, I focused my efforts around the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada del Toledo, also known as the Toledo Cathedral. The cathedral was built atop a Muslim mosque, which itself was built above a Visigothic church. The five naves of the cathedral are said to have been built specifically to cover the former mosque. The cathedral is large and there is plenty to see within including paintings by the master El Greco and the Baroque altarpiece, El Transparente.
Besides the cathedral, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the maze of streets and soaking up the atmosphere of the city. The layout of the city makes it very easy to get lost which can be part of the fun. A few common souvenirs from Toledo are the locally made mazapan (Spanish marzipan) or a famous Toledo sword. Toledo became a center for sword making in the 16th century due to the high quality product and became a primary weapon for the Romans.
Before ending my day in Toledo, I stopped into a small local shop for a sandwich of traditional serrano ham and manchego cheese.
Things to Do in Toledo:
- Mirador del Valle – viewpoint over the city and great for photographs
- Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada del Toledo – 13th century Gothic cathedral
- Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes – 15th century Gothic Flemish church with beautiful cloisters surrounding lush garden of rose bushes and orange trees
- Puente San Martin – medieval stone bridge with views of the town and Tagus River
- Ayuntamiento de Toledo – City Hall
What to Eat:
- Try the local treat mazapan which is the Spanish version of marzipan. The Mazapan are made by kneading almonds with sugar until a paste is formed. Almonds must consist of at least 50% of the final product to be considered Mazapan de Toledo.
- Visit the gourmet food market, Mercado de San Agustin.
How to Get To Toledo:
- The most convenient mode of transportation is by Renfe train from Madrid’s Puerta De Atocha to Toledo (30 minutes)
- Buses from Madrid’s Estacion Sur are also available and cost slightly less than the train but will add three times the travel time (1.5 hours)
- By car in about 50 minutes