Toledo: ancient city of three religions twining and crossing across time. To step onto the steep roads of this Spanish hill town is to step back in history. Toledo is a city best seen in sunshine, all the better to see the intricate details of the buildings and the sun glinting off the river – lucky for your trip, rain seems to seldom fall here.
Toledo is half an hour from Madrid by train and forty-five minutes by bus, making it the ideal spur of the moment day trip for students hoping to make the most of a day off or an unplanned weekend.
After two trips to Toledo in the last month, here are a few of my favorite things to recommend to anyone hoping to make a visit!
Cross the River
A focal point of Toledo is the broad, deep blue river surrounding the curving paths up into the city. For the best photo of Toledo, be sure to stop on the opposite side of river, just short of the main bridge, taking in its graceful arches, the steep stone walls tracing the city’s base, and the pointed towers of the Alcazar in the near distance.
Dream in the Cathedral
Toledo’s intricate, colorful, and stunning cathedral is an amalgamation of every style and color within a gothic, immensely decorated white limestone shell. Pay the 8 Euro fee for an audio guide and a tour you will never forget. Be sure not to miss the ornate puertas (or rather, portals or entrances) leading into the Cathedral from all sides, the altarpiece featuring painted wooden figures from the Bible and ornate golden gild, and the priceless works of art in the Sacristy from Goya to El Greco to Caravaggio to Raphael. To truly catch the magic of this church, sit in the pews and simply watch, see the children playing hopscotch across the checkerboard marble tiles and hiding in nooks and crevices, observe the tours streaming by and the many languages floating through the air, and sneak a peak into the chapel off the central garden to catch a glimpse of a wedding.
Make a Picnic
To make the most of both your wallet and your time in Toledo, take a trip to one of the local mercados, pick up queso, carne, pan, torron, galletas, y naranjas and wander down to one of the parks or paths near the river. Soak up the sun and fresh flavors in the shadow of the city.
Find Roman Ruins
Toledo is full of surprises, not the least of which being the constant historical twists and turns. To catch a glimmer of Toledo’s ancient past, step into the least likely of places: a clothing store – specifically “Koker.” Wander around the store and look down through the glass floors onto the ruins of the town that Toledo was built upon. Around the corner, you can find another location in which to roam underground and find more ruins.
ATTENTION SWEET TOOTHS!!: Toledo is famed for marzipan production. This sweet treat is made from an addictive concoction of sugar, almond, and an amalgamation of other flavors. Wander from marzipan store to marzipan store to see the different creations – from a castle made of marzipan to a marzipan “jamón” or “limón.”
Enjoy the Sunset
Above all, Toledo is known for its sunsets. To see the city at its best and most beautiful, seek out a rooftop bar like that at the Carlos V Hotel, sip on a cerveza or vino, and watch as the setting sun sets the city aflame in pinks, yellows, and reds that melt into the countryside and off the horizon.
What are your favorite Toledo experiences? Let us know in the comments!
By Heather Keleher