PRICE POINT: €€
FOOD TO TRY: Croquetas
TIPPING: 5% for meals/round up on drinks
TRANSPORTATION: Train from Madrid to Toledo, 35 Min.
The night before our day trip to Toledo, I chugged a glass of warm lemon-cheyenne pepper-minced garlic water. Imagine trying to chug minced garlic. Minced. Garlic. Almost immediately after stepping foot on Spanish soil to visit my homie, Bri, in Madrid, the sickness swung in like a wrecking ball. In one, giant wave of instant dying. A sickness that nothing the Spanish pharmacy could thwart. But I was too stubborn to let it ruin our day trip to Toledo. So, like any reasonable person, I Googled “Native American Cold & Flu Remedies” the night before. And thus spawned my concoction. Where the idea of garlic came in though I couldn’t tell you. BUT LET ME TELL YOU, this puppy worked! The next day I was ready to take on the world. Or maybe just Toledo. And oh baby, did we take in some Toledo.
Just a 35 minute train ride from Madrid, Toledo is one of the best day trips you can take from the capital of Spain. A round trip ticket will cost you about €26 from Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha station and can be bought at the station or online here. Trains run frequently from Puerta de Atocha station to Toledo. Because Toledo is such a popular site for tourists, I’d recommend staying past sunset to see the calmer, more peaceful side to the city. If you’re in the mood for a real life fairytale, than Toledo is it. I mean just LOOK how gorgeous even the train station is! Toledo bewitched me before I even stepped out of the train station.
BEER/WINE: Cerveza/Vino (Sir-vay-sa/Vee-no) CHEERS: ¡Salud! (Sa-lude) PLEASE: Por Favor (Poor-fay-vor) THANK YOU: Gracias (Gra-see-us) WHERE IS THE RESTROOM?: ¿Dónde está el baño? (Don-day es-ta el ban-yo)
Much like Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Toledo was historically a city of acceptance. As a center of cultural crossroads in the Middle Ages, Toledo housed Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities living peacefully together under King Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile. During his reign in 1085, the city ushered in a Golden Age marked by historic texts translated into the different languages dominant to the three separate religions living in Toledo. With over 2,000 years of history, you can feel the impact the city had back then. Since 1968, Toledo has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The ancient walled city of Toledo sits high above the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, the Tagus. Walking from the bus station is an uphill trek but trust me, this portion is nothing compared to the million +1 stairs you’ll be encountering All. Day. Long.
Pro Tip: Bring bandaids.
After taking in the sprawling city scape of Toledo from across the river, hop on over to the city via the Alcántara Bridge. Originally built by the Romans, the bridge’s name further validates the cities historical nature of coexistence – Alcántara derives from the Arabic word, al-Qantarat, meaning ‘The Bridge’.
After crossing the bridge, set out for the Toledo Cathedral. Continually ranked as one of the best cathedrals in all of Spain, the Toledo Cathedral is an impressive medieval Gothic structure. With the narrow streets of Toledo keeping many structures hidden, the cathedral seems to pop up out of nowhere.
Regrets Tip: Don’t be like us, actually go inside. We made the mistake of passing this in order to save some extra mula but after seeing photos of the inside afterwards, damn was that a mistake.
There’s a reason why Toledo is the backdrop to many movies. It’s freakin gorgeous! Literally at every turn you make within the city walls you’ll find something more to oogle at. After the cathedral we veered away from the touristy areas in favor of the quieter residential streets. We only saw a handful of people in that area and by far provided some of the best views.
Instead of following a tour or an online guide, Bri and I opted to wander about and get lost. At one point, in the midst of battling stairs that seemed like they never ended, we created a narrative where we were princesses in our castle. Wine may or may not had something to do with this. We didn’t really start looking at the map on our phones till the latter half of the day to check off the remaining sites we hadn’t stumbled upon already.
It happened you guys. I finally out-basic’ed myself more than I ever thought possible. I twirled in an ally, wearing what appears to be a pretty dress (but is actually a romper with a butt cape). Do I regret this? HELLZ NAH BRAH BECAUSE JUST LOOK AT THESE PHOTOS! Also huge shout out to Bri who loves her Nikon just as much as I do and knows how to take some stellar shots. Check out her Insta here if you want some serious envy of her time studying abroad in Madrid.
After the twirling was done we looked up and spotted this white fur ball staring down at us in total judgement. Me too pooch, me too.
If you’re to know one thing about me after reading this, you should know I love swords. Like a lot. I’ve dreamed of owning my own sword. I got really close to owning a sword in college one time after seeing one in a thrift shop. But sadly, a “friend” persuaded against it, “No Alex, you are a broke college student. You do not need a sword.” And then we came to Toledo, a city who prides itself as one of the best sword producing centers in the world. In fact, some of the most famous weapons used in Hollywood, from the likes of Gladiator, Alexander the Great and Lord of the Rings, were born in Toledo. Almost every single novelty shop sold some sort of sword. And when I found the perfect sword for only €35, I could not contain my excitement. Finally my day had come to own my first sword! Until I remembered I had only packed a carry-on and if I’ve had nail clippers taken away from me by TSA, trying to get a sword on board would be a bit problematic. So here I am, still swordless.
One of the most important Jewish centers in medieval Europe, La Juderia proves again the idyllic nature of medieval Toledo during a time where it was extremely rare to see such tolerance. Well preserved throughout the years, Toledo’s La Juderia was once a place for the Jewish community to work, live and practice their faith without fear of persecution. Unfortunately, after the Golden Age of Toledo, many Jews were targeted and their synagogues turned into churches. Not sure if you’re still in the Jewish Quarter? Look down! You’ll see these little blue tiles below noting that you’re still in the quarter.
Built in the mid 1300’s, the Synagogue El Transito is one of the two remaining synagogues (out of the ten) built in Toledo. Today the synagogue contains a museum detailing Jewish life in the Middle Ages.
Budget Tip: Are you a student? Whip out your student card for a discount on admission.
Named after a Moorish market that took place here, Plaza Zocodóver is one of the main squares of Toledo. If the leather goods and swords are just too tantalizing for your wallet to ignore (guilty, bought a dope leather purse), you can grab cash from the ATM’s located here.
Instagram vs. Reality, because let’s be real here
According to an old Spanish idiom, you haven’t seen Spain until you’ve seen Toledo. Amen to that! Not only is Toledo a beautiful, ancient city of epic proportions, it’s history can teach us a thing or two about acceptance and coexisting with others who share dissimilar world and theological views. We’re all people ya know!
Although we spent less than 24 hours in Toledo on a day trip from Madrid, every second (except maybe for some of those stair climbs) was magical. So magical that when the sun began to set behind the rolling hills, I had one of those damn, life is good moments. Those moments are the ones I live for, the ones that make up for the lunacy of everyday life.
In Don Quixote, which took place in Toledo, author Miguel de Cervantes said it best: