Things to do in Toledo Spain: Why Toledo Deserves More Than a Day Trip from Madrid

By Abi King | Spain

Aug 29

Things to do in Toledo Spain

As you’d expect from a UNESCO World Heritage City, Toledo Spain has plenty of things to do. It’s only an hour or so from Madrid so attracts plenty of day trippers. But there’s a better way to see the city and explore its unique sights: stay there. Here’s how to make it happen and what to do in Toledo Spain.

Things to do in Toledo, Spain

Before we head straight into the list of things to do in Toledo, let’s spend a moment to put the place in context. Perched on a steep outcrop from the days when capitals needed to defend themselves, you’ll find plenty of medieval walls, cobbled streets, gates and the sense of a fortress.

Former wealth and power exude from the delicate carvings and imposing facades, as well you might imagine from other similar cities across Europe.

But Toledo really stands out for its former tolerance. Its role in shaping the arts. And its new role as an emerging culinary destination.

Medieval Toledo Spain

Medieval Toledo, Spain

The medieval city of Toledo sits proud on the plains of Castilla-La Mancha, only 30 minutes from Madrid by high-speed train. Its guidebook status lists classic sights like St Mary’s Cathedral, the medieval synagogues of Santa María La Blanca and El Tránsito, the Roman Baths and the museum dedicated to former resident and art superstar El Greco.

Such rich pickings reflect Toledo’s capital status until it was unceremoniously overtaken by Madrid in 1563.

Come the European summertime months, the hordes descend on these tiny cobbled streets as daytrippers seek to notch up those sights before zipping back to Madrid before the purple night clouds fall.

But all these years of full time travel have taught me a trick or two, you see.

Toledo Spain main things to do

Skip Madrid and Head Straight to Toledo

In this case, the trick lies in bypassing Madrid altogether and making Toledo and its surroundings a destination in their own right. You can either slot the area in to a week or so’s longer plan in Spain or jet across from the UK for a weekend and spend less than you would if you’d stayed in London.

Which is more of less what we did. We made it a long weekend.

Toledo’s surroundings include the infamous windmills of Don Quixote, the UNESCO biosphere reserve of the Tablas de Daimiel and the house and former acting grounds of Shakespeare’s contemporary: Cervantes.

Toledo itself, meanwhile, flourishes its own UNESCO World Heritage Status through bold, block arches above ground and hidden passageways beneath.

Long before it even became a popular idea, Toledo functioned as a hub for tolerance and religious respect. Muslims, Christians and Jews all lived together peacefully, albeit not perfectly, and even though it later turned ugly instead.

Toledo’s other striking accolade involves something rather more modern.

Toledo Spain City of Gastronomy

Toledo – Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy 2016

Toledo has ratcheted up the prestigious title of Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy 2016, expanding on its traditional marzipan treats into Michelin-starred dining, wine tasting for beginners, underground bodegas and chorizo-laced migas.

Details, hungry readers, below.

But the real charm, for me, came at night when the tourists faded into the shadows and dissolved back to Madrid. Spain’s famed inability to ever go to bed at a reasonable hour emerged at a gentle, almost twinkling pace.

Echoing courtyards, wine tasting via computer game, chattering beneath floodlit cathedrals.

More tired than usual due to my then-hidden-ish pregnancy, I walked home alone, reflecting on those who had lived together, harmoniously, for a time on these steep, moonlit cobblestones.

And perhaps that was the most magnificent view of all. A glimpse into the past that teaches us, once again, that good things are possible. Always.

For now, goodnight Toledo.

Abi (2)

 

 

 

Toledo, Spain Travel Recommendations

For great views of Toledo, visit this Mirador or lookout. 

For a place to stay, explore the cream and gold elegance of the Fontecruz Toledo.

For Michelin-starred dining just outside Toledo: El Carmen de Montesion

Head out to Daimiel, near the UNESCO biosphere, to the atmospheric cellar: Restaurante El Bodegon

Head into the surrounding countryside to retrace the steps of Cervantes and Don Quixote.

Disclosure: I love Spain well and have visited many times and even lived there for a while. On this occasion, I visited in partnership with iAmbassador and Castilla La Mancha. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. And to go to bed at a reasonable hour, just occasionally, even in Spain…

48 hours in Toledo Spain - a great place to visit via @insidetravellabThe former capital of Spain, Toledo, makes a great place to visit in Spain. Here's why from @insidetravellab

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About the Author

Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!

  • I have a ‘one day’ trip to a string of Spanish cities planned. Tole do is very firmly on that list now.

    • Abi says:

      Brilliant! Do stay overnight if you can – such a great atmosphere in the evening and early morning.

  • I only spent a day in Toledo, but I loved it. I plan to take my hubby there soon. I agree, a pleasant change from Madrid.

    • Abi says:

      I do love Madrid, but Toledo is so compact and yet manages to have so much to do in one place. I have plans to go back with my husband too!

  • Aimee Gabay says:

    I visited Toledo once, despite it being only a few hours away from me, to watch my brother downhill race. They sometimes hold urban downhill races down the medieval and cobblestoned streets of Toledo. In case you haven’t heard of downhill it’s basically when you throw yourself off mountains on bicycles, it is as terrifying as it sounds (I’ve tried it), but in this case it was interesting because it was in the town and some streets were closed for the track and everybody squeezed against the walls to watch the races. It was super fun! Great post btw, I had the same experience whilst driving there – it was nasty hahahahaha!

    • Abi King says:

      Oh, wow – there are plenty of fearless festivals in Spain, aren’t there?! Toledo is STEEP! I think the younger me would have loved it but as I’ve grown older/more injured….I’m somewhat less keen! I have heard of a cheese rolling festival in England which involves men (? and women?) running down a very steep embankment trying to overtake a rolling cheese…Someone always breaks something! On the other hand, these kinds of things do give a sense of atmosphere and occasion to the proceedings, don’t they?!

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