If you are going to Madrid, a day trip to Toledo is a must. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site which once was the capital of Spain. It still retains its magic atmosphere and aura which are characteristic of so many European capital cities. The buildings and winding streets of the old city contain hundreds of years of history, and the River Tajo which runs alongside the city walls adds even more charm to the beauty of this city.
Once fought over by armies, Toledo was to become a symbol of tolerance and a center of scholarship which attracted Moorish, Jewish and Christian people. Its two surviving synagogues – El Transito and Santa Maria la Blanca – still remind visitors that this was once home to one of Spain’s largest Jewish communities. Toledo’s name is strongly associated with the steel swords once made here and still offered for visitors as souvenirs.
Train: From Madrids Atocha station the High speed AVE will take you to Toledo in 30 minutes. Hourly services from 0650 until 2150
Coach: From the Madrid Sur station to Toledo the service is provided by Continental and takes 1hr 25 mins. Departures hourly from 0700-2200.
By Car: From Madrid take the M-30 or M-40 and follow the signs for Toledo. Turn onto the highway M42 and in less than 70km you are in Toledo.
Being one of the top Spain attractions, Toledo is usually flooded with tourists, if you want to avoid crowds, try visiting mid-week. The city welcomes tourists with a wide range of hotels and restaurants and lots of souvenir shops everywhere in the streets. They offer swords, sticks, copies of El Greco paintings, local wines and liquors and pieces of lace and embroidered cloths and other local crafts.
Places to See in Toledo
The best way to start a visit to Toledo is to enter the old city through the majestic stone gate. It is possible to visit all the main attractions within the walled city on foot in one day.
Alcázar is an outstanding castle is one of Toledo's most famous monuments and was used as a fortress by Romans, Visigods, Arabs and Christians. King Alfonso VI built his residence here. It was destroyed in the 18th century during the War of Succession, reconstructed only to be badly damaged a few years later in a fire and rebuilt yet again. It was rebuilt when the War ended.
Cathedral of Toledo was founded in the 1st Century by San Eugenio, the first Bishop of Toledo. It was changed into a mosque by the Arabs during Moorish occupation of Spain, and then converted back into a cathedral by Alfonso VI. In the 13th Century it was destroyed and the impressive Gothic building which can be seen today was built on the old cathedral's foundations.
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, a 15th century monastery in Gothic style was built on Royal demand during the reign of the Catholic King and Queen.
Monastery Cisterciense de Santo Domingo de Silos. This 16th century monastery was painted by El Greco who is buried here. The monks who still live in the monastery sell home-made sweets and pastries to visitors
After exploring the city’s major attractions, drop by one of the restaurants to try local dishes which include estofada de perdiz (partridge casserole), el cuchifrito (an original dish made with lamb, tomato, egg, saffron and white wine) and judias con perdiz (a bean and partridge stew).