Visiting Toledo, Spain – Lost in a Medieval Capital

Toledo, Spain

With an easy 30 minute AVE train ride from Atocha REF station in Madrid, Tony and I found ourselves in Toledo, a former capital of Spain and UNESCO World Heritage site. Many other travelers got off ready for their day trip around Toledo.  At the station a long of tour buses try to sell their tour.  Most get on one of those hop on and off tour buses or took a taxi.  When the hustle and bustle of the tourist business slowed down, Tony and I were left all alone.

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Alone we decided to just walk over from the station to the downtown area in what turned out to be a pretty easy walking/bike path

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A city built upon and around a hill was met within 5 minutes. We laughed at the fools who took a cab to the city center. Sitting at the top of the hill is the Toledo Alcazar that was built by Romans and a stone wall that might be one of the oldest in Spain. The Alcazar houses mostly government offices, a library and a museum that we decided to skip out on.

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We ran up the steps of the city Rocky style only to realize at the top of the crazy hill is an escalator   AN ESCALATOR  That ran from the garage under the city.  I don’t know why but I felt crushed and disappointed by this modern addition to such a beautiful medieval city.

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Toledo has some of the oldest and most beautiful city walls I have ever seen.

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It was cold compared to Southern Spain (54 degrees) and besides opening up to some beautiful stone structures, walking around was also another way to try to stay warm.

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The streets similar to the older quarters in Seville, were super narrow and curvy.  I always made sure to lean a little closer to the wall because you never knew when a high-speed taxi or rental car would come charging down a hill.

Toledo Spain 7The only problem there is about wandering around and getting lost is that i have no idea what I’m looking at or maybe i don’t remember. One of the many decorated buildings in Toledo.  I think it was a small church or a government building.

Toledo Spain 2One of my favorite sites that you just can’t miss is the Toledo Santa Maria Cathedral.
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As cold as it was, I took a few minutes to sit down and take in the details that make this so much different then the Seville or Barcelona Gothic Cathedrals.

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I skipped going inside as at $8 per person I don’t think I would have seen anything more exciting inside that I haven’t seen in other Cathedrals throughout this trip.  However, there was more than enough to admire from the outside.  These statues reminded me of soldiers!

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Although my favorite part of it all were the lions and gargoyle statues.

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I have no sense of direction so I can’t tell you for sure but I think if you walk North or whichever way is in the direction of the bull ring you come out of a beautiful stone entry way to a main road that has one of the best views of the city!

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Although Toledo is a city that was made up of multiple cultures (Roman, Visigoth, Emirates of Cordoba, and of course the Spanish) and religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and time periods, the majority that thrives the most would be the churches and catholic influenced structures and symbolism.  However, take the time to walk around the Jewish and Muslim parts.

The synagogue and mosque may not have the same grandeur as the cathedral, but are worth a walk around at least on the outside.  Just like the cathedral, both the mosque and synagogue charge admission and towards the end of the trip I was a little more clingy to my remaining Euros.  In retrospect the one thing I wish I did was pay to visit the synagogue as I now know it’s one of the oldest still standing synagogue buildings in Europe.  What I’m seeing online are some beautiful Judaic stucco decor and it would have been great to see.

Final Tips on Visiting Toledo, Spain

  • Take the AVE high-speed direct train – It’s about $9 each way and only 30 minutes.  I also recommend buying the tickets a day or two before.  The ticket line can be a little long at times and on nicer weekends the popular morning and evening train times sells out.  After getting off the AVE, i recommend walking there instead of taking a cab.  There’s also a public bus that runs there but I think it goes in a roundabout way so walking would be faster.
  • Wear comfortable shoes – It’s hilly and cobble stoned so unless you’re doing a bus tour, I think you want your feet to be comfortable.  I wore Toms and those were fine, I would just skip heels and possibly even wedges.
  • Get Lost – From what I saw, the best thing to do in Toledo is to get lost in this beautiful medieval city.  Sure there are museums and trinket shops with beautiful swords but that’s if you have and want to spend money.  Walk around as with each turn you’ll walk into another beautiful sight.  Cozy up with a cafe con leche at a random hole in the wall.
  • Free WiFi – There’s a McDonald’s in the town plaza that has free WiFi   Could be useful if you’re looking for a specific place to eat or trying to check the train schedule for an earlier train back to Madrid.  Or just want to catch up on emails.  There’s local cafes all around but I didn’t see any with WiFi.

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