Cobblestone streets, cozy cafes, and towering cathedrals. Toledo is known as the “city of the three cultures” because Christians, Arabs, and Jews lived there together for centuries. The city is surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River and two medieval walls on the fourth side. Toledo’s close proximity to Madrid (1 hour by bus or 30 min by high speed train) makes it the perfect day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Behind its walls, Toledo is a treasure chest of churches, museums, synagogues and mosques.
So, what is the best way to explore Toledo? Get lost! Spend some time exploring Toledo’s medieval streets and you’ll be surprised what cultural landmarks you encounter. Toledo is relatively small and can be crossed in about 45 minutes, so don’t be too worried about actually getting lost and not being able to find your way. If you head back uphill you’re more than likely going to end up at the main plaza, Plaza de Zocodover.
One stop you can’t miss on your visit to Toledo is the Catedral de Santa Maria de Toledo (Cathedral of Toledo). This cathedral is a 13th- century High Gothic cathedral and took over 200 years to build. The detail in the artwork inside the cathedral and outside is absolutely stunning.
Toledo is home to a variety of religious building which can be visited with a tourist bracelet (8 euros at any of the sites) or with individual entry. The religious sites covered with the tourist bracelet include the Iglesia de los Jesuitas, Mezquita Cristo de la Luz, Iglesia del Salvador, Iglesia de Santo Tome, Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, and Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes. It’s worth it to spend a little time researching these religious sites before arriving in Toledo to determine which buildings you’re most interested in seeing and which ones you would prefer to skip.
In addition to these religious buildings, you can’t miss a visit to the Alcázar de Toledo. It’s a stone fortification located in the highest part of Toledo that once served as a Roman palace but is now the site of the city’s Army Museum.
After spending most of the day exploring, grab a seat in a local cafe and order a tasty beverage and a bite to eat while soaking in the small town Spanish atmosphere before heading back to the big city. To me, Toledo was exactly what I pictured in my mind when I thought of a traditional Spanish town- narrow, cobblestone streets, a towering cathedral and an abundance of religious and cultural landmarks waiting to be discovered.
Toledo is by far one of my favorite cities I’ve visited in Spain for the small town, medieval atmosphere that follows you through the winding streets of the city. Toledo has become a popular tourist destination and for good reason, it’s hard to fully appreciate Spain if you never venture outside the big cities. Spend some time exploring the smaller, more traditional Spanish towns and I’m sure you’ll find a greater appreciation for all that Spain has to offer.
What are your favorite cities to explore in Spain?