Toledo Spain is the perfect day trip from Madrid. It’s quick, cheap and gorgeous – what more could you ask for in a day trip?

I can’t lie – I’m having a blast here in Madrid. But when you have constantly itchy feet like I do, sometimes you need a quick day trip to temporarily satisfy your travel cravings. I woke up one morning with the urge to go somewhere, and since Toledo is one of the most popular day trips from Madrid, I figured it was worth checking out.

I would recommend planning at least the day before that way you can maximize your time there, but I literally woke up at 11AM on a Sunday and decided to go on a whim.

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How to get to Toledo

I definitely recommend taking a train to Toledo! There are gorgeous views along the way, the tickets are under 20 bucks, and the ride only takes about thirty minutes. One piece of advice: Do buy your tickets in advance. You can do this is with a travel planning website like GoEuro, which lets you compare transportation methods from one location to another, see the price and duration of the trip, and even book the tickets.

Since I showed up at the train station (Madrid Puerta de Atocha), at the last minute right before the train I wanted to take was about to leave, I ended up missing the train and having to wait for another. I’m not sure why but none of the ticket purchase machines were working, so there was a line of over fifty people waiting to purchase last minute tickets from the ticket counter. I’m not sure if this is common here, but since everyone in line was given a number and customers were called to the counter based on their number, I’m inclined to think that waiting is pretty normal. I wasted about an hour and half standing around in the train station, which obviously could have been better spent exploring Toledo!

What to do in Toledo Spain

Assuming you’re like me and train travel makes you hungry, your first stop should be to grab some tapas. (Yes, even 30 minute trains make me hungry. Ok, maybe it’s all in my head, but try telling my stomach that! Plus, do you really need an excuse to eat tapas?)

We took a taxi from the train station to the center, and asked the cab driver if he had any recommendations for lunch. He recommended El Trebol, the restaurant you see above. It was tucked away down a little alleyway off the main street, and was a cute spot for our first meal in Toledo.

Afterwards we headed to Museo del Ejercito, (also called Alcázar de Toledo,) which is a military museum built in what was a Roman palace in the 3rd century, that was reconstructed in the 1950s and only recently turned into a museum open to the public in 2010. This is a pretty neat place that I would recommend for anyone with an interest in history, military, and the medieval ages as much of what’s on display comes from that time.

Photo by trioptikmal via Flickr
Photo by trioptikmal via Flickr

Next stop that really can’t be missed: sampling marzipan.

Toledo is famous for it’s marzipan, or mazapan in Spanish, which is a sweet made from almonds, eggs, and sugar. Although it did not originate in Toledo, rumor has it that the nuns of a convent there used to make it and feed it to the people after a large famine, because they had the simple ingredients. Much of Spain’s marzipan is produced in Toledo, and many people believe the very best comes from the Santo Tome bakery.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of marzipan before coming to Toledo. I’m not even sure where I had tried it before, but I assure you, the marzipan you might find in the U.S. is nothing like the marzipan here so if you’re convinced you don’t like it, do yourself a favor and try it out anyways. The flavor is mildly sweet and pleasant, and although it’s no sea salt caramel truffle, I’m definitely a convert.

With your marzipan in hand, I now recommend talking a long stroll through the romantic streets of Toledo to admire the architecture and to peek into some little shops. As long as you don’t buy anything, this is a cheap way to get a feel for Toledo, and a great way to burn off some of those marzipan calories 😉

Something you may notice while wandering around Toledo: almost every shop has some sort of Lord of the Rings display set up in the window. My geeky side was super excited about the first two we came across, especially the large Gollum statues, but by the tenth display I was just confused. Then I found out that Toledo used to be renowned for it’s impressive sword and knife makers, and the Lord of the Rings movies actually used swords that were crafted in Toledo! If I had done more research before my trip I probably would have realized this, but I was pretty excited when I found out.

You can also wander over to Toledo’s main cathedral, or Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, if you’d like to get your Gothic-style cathedral fix.

cathedral toledo

Photo by trioptikmal via Flickr
Photo by trioptikmal via Flickr

At this point it was a little early for dinner, but we were hungry again so we went off in search of something delicious. After a quick look on TripAdvisor, we decided on Alqahira Rincon de Oriente, a small Middle Eastern restaurant that is ranked as #1 in Toledo on TripAdvisor. As fate would have it, we happened to be standing right next to it since it’s very close to the cathedral!

But fate can be cruel, and it was actually closed for a week while the owner was away on vacation, so the travel gods prevented my happiness and I am still holding a grudge against them. To say I was disappointed is an understatement, but now I plan to go back to Toledo just for this restaurant.

Since I had eaten the best pizza of my life in Barcelona only a few weeks prior, and we wondered if pizza might just be something that Spain does well,  we settled on a pie with Spanish ham on it. And we were very disappointed. (Le sigh…)

Moral of this story: just skip the pizza and make sure you go to Toledo when Alqahira Rincon de Oriente is open. Easy peasy.

How much you’ll spend:

Train tickets: 12.50 Euros each way = 25 Euro

Lunch: 10 Euro (could be cheaper)

Museo del Ejercito: 5 Euro

Marzipan & coffee: 6 Euro

Walking around the streets of Toledo: Free!

Dinner: 12 Euro

Estimated Total: 58 Euro

Clearly this is just a guess based on what I spent as you could easily spend quite a bit more or less depending on your budget and preferences.

Have you ever been to Toledo or would you like to? Have any tips or suggestions that I missed? I’d love to hear them!

Note: If you’d like to turn your time in Toledo into a relaxing weekend-long trip, I highly recommend staying at Hotel Pintor El Greco.

8 COMMENTS

  1. This sounds like an awesome spontaneous adventure! Toledo is gorgeous.

    And I know what you mean about train travel making you hungry. I always arrive feeling like I’m starving.

  2. Great post, Christina! Toledo is lovely, we really enjoyed it!
    Beautiful photos as well! If you like photography, we would like to invite you to participate in the next edition of our Travel Photography competition. Every week we publish 3 winning shots on our website and write a nice bio with a link to the photographers’ websites/FB/Flickr pages.
    Find more details here: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/your-contributions/travel-photography/
    Happy travels!

  3. Great info and photos about Toledo. Other things to check in the city: the masterpieces of El Greco (even if you are not into art it may be interesting to check his paintings and learn about his life, it is better if you have somebody who can explain the paintings to you since there are stories behind the elements) and the damasquinados (a way to work gold and create beautiful pieces, some artist studios are open to the public). However, the city is so pretty that walking around (and eating) is enough.

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