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Toledo - The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo - v.j. photo

“This ancient capital of Spain is a must-see, if you’re exploring the area around Madrid! I’d recommend a day-trip, even if you’re only planning to see Madrid, as for me, this was the winner among the destinations around the capital – everything you learn in childhood about the Middle Ages comes to life here!

Taking the express from Madrid (a rather expensive, but genuinely fast and comfortable train journey) is the easiest way to get here. Accommodation prices are through the roof, so it’s worth booking at least a month in advance to get the best deals.

Toledo train station is a sight in and of itself, and a spectacular start to your visit. From there, it’s pleasant to stroll a few hundred meters along an oleander-lined street until you reach a bend in the Tagus River, where you can cross the Alcántara bridge. The views of the city from the river, the river from the bridge, and the river from the city walls are all spectacular.

It’s worth setting off early to see Toledo (and in comfortable shoes) because it gets seriously crowded after about noon. These tourist crowds also push up prices, and by Spanish standards I found the food and souvenirs a bit on the pricy side. Still, I like the way they use the theme of Don Quixote and windmills in their souvenir designs – a good gift idea!

Some advice: If you’re arriving by car, make sure to leave it on the far side of the river from the old town. There’s a big parking lot for this purpose, just a short walk from the old town, which is a terrible place to drive, though there are plenty who try.

If you’re travelling back by train, leave yourself a good 45 minutes spare – you’ll need to validate your ticket, and it’s good if you don’t have to rush, as you’ll want to admire the spectacular train station again. And whichever you choose, here’s another piece of advice: even though you already photographed it before, take another photo from the river of the city above you in the evening light. This will also take a few minutes.

How crowded Toledo is changes a lot with the time of day, since many sightseers come for a half-day trip from Madrid. It’s busiest between noon and 5pm – and it’s really a lot for a city of this size. I didn’t like how hard it was to get a seat at a restaurant for lunch. In recompense, though, I ate the best gazpacho I’ve ever tasted here.” (Adam, 2017)

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"If I were a poet I still couldn't find adjectives to describe this city! Absolutely captivating, I have to say. Of course, the fact that Toledo bowled me over doesn't mean that everyone who visits there will like it, but to me, it looks exactly like the ideal town. Toledo’s old town is built on a hilltop surrounded by the Tagus River. It used to be possible to get into the city on several smaller bridges, but today quite a few bridges are just ruins in the river. It is worth walking from the train station to the old town, because it may help you get your bearings. No need to prepare for colorful houses or verdant hillsides. The atmosphere is absolutely Mediterranean, though of course with occasional green spots, flowering oleanders, and other Mediterranean plants here and there. Most of the buildings are made of reddish-yellow sandstone or similar materials. The city is very homogeneous in architecture and appearance, so it makes a very unified, spectacular impression. At least it did on me.”


 

Practicals

Transport

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Toledo - Alcantara Bridge - K. Elter's photo

Food

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Toledo - ham sandwiches - Alexander S. photo

Toledo - snacks - Alexander S. photo

Shopping

“What immediately catches the eye is how many metalworking shops there are here, all producing souvenirs – from Toledo steel, specifically. You can get everything from a penknife to a set of kitchen knives, and even replica swords from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Maybe even some armor. Everything here is about steel.

I was tempted by a €250 kitchen knife, but in the end I decided against it – first because I can’t afford it, and secondly because I couldn’t put it in my hand luggage on the way home, while I’d be afraid of someone stealing it if I put it in hold luggage. I was right, too – the Spanish customs authorities later took my nail scissors from my suitcase, though I have no idea why.


Toledo - souvenir shop - swords and knives in quantities - Alexander S. photo

Public safety

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Toledo - Calle del Commercio, a pedestrian street - car of the local police - Alexander S. photo

Background

Toledo - view - Alexander S. photo

Destination in brief

Population (in 2020): 82,200

Gastronomy

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Toledo - serrano ham sandwich mouintain - v.j. photo

Attractions

Cathedral

Toledo - The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo (Toledo Cathedral), (Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo), a Roman Catholic church - k.l. photo

Toledo - The Disrobing of Christ or El Expolio - El Greco's painting in cathedral of Toledo - v.j. photo

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