The stunning city of Toledo is a hugely popular day trip from Madrid, with tourists searching for some medieval history. If you’re looking at excursion options from Madrid, we would highly recommend green lighting a day trip to Toledo.
If a day doesn’t sound long enough for you, stay a night like we did! Alternatively, why not combine Toledo with another fantastic day trip from Madrid – Segovia?!
Located roughly 42 miles South West of Spain’s capital city Madrid, you will discover that Toledo is picturesque and rich with a culturally diverse history. The old city sits atop a hill, surrounded on 3 sides by the River Tagus and it’s awesome Alcazar dominates the skyline.
Toledo is like a lightweight boxer packing a right jab of charm and a left hook of character. It’s small but graceful. You’ll see from the pictures below just how striking Toledo is.
The old city is captivating and quaint and easily one of the most attractive places we visited in Europe. Here’s our guide to taking the perfect day trip to Toledo, plus extras for those who decide to stay a night. As always, we’ve tried and tested this itinerary ourselves.
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Brief History of Toledo
Toledo played an important role in the history of Spain. The Roman empire conquered Toledo under General Marcus Nobilior in 193BC. The Visigoths then ruled from Toledo before the Moors invaded in 712 and ruled for over 350 years.
Christianity came to Toledo in 1085 under Alfonso VI and Toledo thrived until 1561 when King Philip II moved his court to Madrid.
The co-existence of Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures earned Toledo the nickname ‘the city of three cultures’ and it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986.
Getting to Toledo
A day trip to Toledo is super easy to make, it’s just a 33 minute train ride from Madrid, with 13 trains leaving each day. The train leaves from Madrid Atocha station, South East of the center.
We’d recommend arriving into Toledo train station as early as possible as there’s a lot to see. The 8:50am train gives you plenty of time to grab breakfast and get to Atocha station. Arrival at 9:23am gives you more freedom to slow the pace down in Toledo.
Prices should be around €14 ($16) but be sure to check out thetrainline for all times and prices.
The other option is to take the bus from Madrid Plaza Eliptica to Toledo bus station. The bus is cheaper at $7 but takes longer at 50 minutes – 1 hour 30 minutes depending on time of departure.
Either way, there’s no metro system in Toledo and it’s a fairly strenuous walk up to the old city. Remember, there are taxi’s and buses around the station.
Best Things to do in Toledo
Lose Track of Time in the Labyrinthine Streets
…but not too much, unless you decided to stay a night!
Wander around the beautifully intricate streets and admire the buildings around you. Taking things slowly is the best way to see Toledo.
The main tourist walkways from Plaza de Zocodover to the cathedral are packed full of souvenir shops and restaurants. We would suggest giving them a once over and then heading to quieter parts like the Jewish quarter, where you will find more of Toledo’s medieval history.
Appreciate the Diversity of Toledo’s Architecture
Toledo’s architecture is as diverse as it is picturesque. There are churches, synagogues and mosques to discover, showcasing influences from Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Many of the important buildings are spread out across Toledo. Fortunately, it’s small enough to cover them all! Use the list below to work out which you’re interested in and plot a route.
Santa Iglesia Cathedral Primada de Toledo
Wow. Located exactly in the center of the city in Plaza del Ayuntamiento is Toledo’s stunning 13th century High Gothic cathedral … and it’s the must see on your itinerary.
Originally a Visigothic church, it became the site of the Great Mosque of Toledo before work on the new church began in 1226.
The cathedral is considered by some to be the best of Spain’s Gothic style. It houses masterpieces by local legend El Greco and a wonderful baroque high altar.
There are more than 750 artistic stained glass windows which absorb the light and illuminate the interior of the cathedral.
Bonus: Be sure to check out the Toledo El Greco museum (separate from Cathedral) if you’re a fan of art.
Hours: Mon to Sat 10am – 6.30pm, Sun 4pm – 6.30pm.
Tickets: €5.50 adult, students/over 65/groups €4.85, under 14 free.
Army Museum at the Alcazar Fortress
The Alcazar of Toledo is an easy on the eye fort found at the highest point of Toledo. It was rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War and the siege of the Alcazar, between 1939 and 1957. Seen from afar, the fort is prominent in the Toledo skyline and makes for the best photo opportunities in town.
The Alcazar now houses a library and the army museum because it is no longer required for military purposes.
Firearms, swords, knives, uniforms, artillery and flags are just some of the exhibits in the museum. We spent 2 hours in the museum but could have easily spent longer.
Tickets: €5 entry plus €4 per audio guide, reduced €2.50, children free.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm, closed Mondays.
Walk the River Tagus / Discover Toledo’s Gates & Bridges
If you are just on a day trip to Toledo, you might not have time enough time to walk the river, but you should try to check out the 2 main bridge entrances to the city.
The River Tagus runs around three quarters of the city. There are tons of picnic spots along the way to eat a cheap lunch and perhaps a cheeky glass of wine, which is exactly what we did on our first day!
Toledo’s gates; Puerta Bisagra, Puerta del Cambron and Puerta del Sol each have their own story to tell of historical importance and of sieges in days gone by.
The bridges; Puente de San Martin and Puente de Alcantara have some amazing photo opportunities. If you stand in the calmness and tranquility around the bridges, can you imagine what a siege would have been like a thousand years ago?
Extras if Staying the Night
Drink Beers & Eat Tapas in a Local Tavern
We really hope you decide to stay a night, Toledo is so peaceful in the evening. It’s a lovely place to stroll around after a late dinner but there is pretty much no nightlife scene, so if that’s what you’re looking for, staying over may not suit you.
However, there are some quiet local taverns run by friendly residents who are more than happy to have you in. They serve up super tasty tapas for free for as long as you keep ordering drinks.
Beers are cheap and the atmosphere is relaxed. A perfect place to catch up on work or read a book.
We had a bit of a one-off situation in Toledo. Real Madrid played Liverpool in the champions league final that night and being only 40 miles away from Madrid, we knew we couldn’t miss it.
At first the locals assumed we were Liverpool fans but little did they know we’re actually Manchester United fans, therefore weren’t too fussed about a Los Blancos win. Once the locals discovered this, we were everyone’s best friends and damn, the beers flowed that night!
Learn from a Local on a Free Walking Tour
A good way to spend your second morning is to fill up on cafe con leche and then take a free walking tour starting at 11am in Plaza del Zocodover. Better yet you could get up for an early morning run and watch the sun rise over Toledo before the tour begins!
The tour will cover all the most important historical areas of Toledo and you pay only what you think the tour was worth at the end. Our guide was genuinely interested in Toledo and its history and her passion led to our gain in knowledge!
You will walk past places you visited on day 1 but this time you learn all the facts from a local about the history. And you’ll definitely see things you missed on your first day, just as we missed the Peurta del Sol pictured above. Toledo’s small size means that the tour covers the whole area of the old town and ends at the cathedral.
You could of course do the free walking tour on just a day trip to Toledo, but it will eat up a good chunk of your day.
Where to Stay in Toledo
Toledo is actually split into the old city and the new city. Truth be told, we didn’t venture over to the new city because it was just too cozy and attractive in the old city! Almost all tourists will stay in the old city.
B&B’s and pensions (similar to hostels) can be found in tall and narrow buildings throughout Toledo. They are very affordable in the old city. It doesn’t matter where you base yourself in the old city as it’s so small, it only depends on your budget.
Our budget was low to mid-level and we try to book private double rooms when possible. We stayed in Pension Reina Isabel, it was small and had squeaky beds but it was cheap and only 3 minutes walk from the cathedral.
We use booking.com to book accommodation, it’s the easiest hotel booking engine to use and almost always has the cheapest rates. Head over to booking.com to book your Toledo stay!
What to Eat in Toledo
During the day when walking the streets, stop off at cafes, drink plenty of great coffee and eat some of Spain’s famous churros!
Try to stay away from the tourist hot spots for a more authentic experience. It does get busy in Toledo so it can be hard to escape the crowds. Head towards the Jewish quarter for quieter restaurants.
In the evening, try some local food. Toledo was Spain’s capital of gastronomy in 2016 after all!
Their most famous dishes are hearty meat stews and marzipan. If you love cheese (like we do) you have to try locally produced manchego cheese. But if you want something more substantial, try the manchego lamb or partridge casserole.
Interactive Map for Toledo Itinerary
Note: If you are reading on a phone and you can’t access the interactive map, just click on the blue ‘Terms’ word at the bottom of the map. You should then be able to move and zoom freely!
A big part of our travel style is try to stay active and get out on hikes, eat as healthily as possible and consider our general well being. You can read more on our wellness page.
That being said, it’s easier to do those things in certain places and not so easy in others. Toledo was one of the latter. There’s not much room to get a workout in, plus you don’t really want to be getting sweaty on a day trip.
You could skip the escalators up to town for a good legs workout. But our best advice to those who like to add a little fitness element to their days out is to walk up to Mirador del Valle viewpoint. You’ll get a bit of exercise and an incredible view over Toledo.
Our best tip for Toledo is to head up to the observation deck for sunset, Toledo looks fantastic with it’s buildings turning orange as the lights illuminate the city.
If you’re planning a Spain itinerary for an upcoming trip, be sure to check out some other articles from our Spanish adventure!
An Ultimate Guide to a Weekend in Barcelona – The beautiful capital of Catalonia with stunning architecture and medieval quarters.
Segovia: Ultimate Day Trip Guide – Another easy to reach UNESCO city from Madrid. Segovia is home to an incredible aqueduct that has to be seen to be believed.
Alluring Ronda: An Andalusian Gem – Spain’s unique city where a famous bridge connects an old Moorish town (La Ciudad) with a newer modernized town (EL Mercadillo).
Cordoba, Spain: One Action Packed Day – An awesome Andalusian city, similar in many ways to Granada. Don’t miss the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral!
Hiking Los Cahorros in Sierra Nevada Spain – One of our favorite hikes in Andalusia!
Quiz Question: Hernan Cortes was received at the Alcazar in Toledo following what?
His Conquest of the Aztecs
Hernan Cortes was the conquistador leading the Spanish expedition to the brutal demise of the Aztec empire.
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