We got up bright and early to go and buy our train tickets for our trip to Toledo. Today was going to be a half-day excursion to this old city, and other than hearing “it’s absolutely stunning!”, we didn’t know what to expect.
We reached the train station, bought our tickets, and waited until we could begin boarding our train. Once we got to our seats, the excitement began to settle in. Honestly, I think just being on the train adds a solid 25% extra to my excitement no matter where I am – trains are honestly my favourite mode of transport. Traffic is never a problem with them, they don’t cause me motion sickness, and you’re just able to relax and watch the scenery pass by.
We got to Toledo in 30 minutes (which left me wanting more train time to watch the countryside roll by). And it was upon stepping out of the train station that we realized that we really had no idea where to go from there.
We were pointed towards the general direction of where a map would be. But since we couldn’t figure out where we were on it, it didn’t help much. So we went for plan B: we saw some old, stunning looking buildings a ways away and thought that it was a good bet to go in that direction, so off we went! So we went for plan B: we saw some old, stunning looking buildings a ways away and thought that it was a good bet to go in that direction, so off we went!
Walking with a view
After around a half-hour of walking, we stumbled upon a bridge that invited us to come to the other side.
And then, the stairs began. We had two options, left or right – both going up, but both going to two different, unknown destinations. Right seemed to be on the side with the view, so away we went! And was it ever the right choice.
With the burning of our thighs as we climbed the myriads of stairs that lay in our wake, the view of the city became more and more beautiful.
To the left, the old city loomed over, lined with its cobblestone streets and impressive buildings. To the right, the countryside expanded over miles and miles. Green trees sprinkled the meadows, and mountains peeked out in the backdrop. And in the middle flowed a river, with its water calmly moving down and adding to the picturesque dream that lay before us.
I could have spent hours up here, just looking down and basking in the view, but time was of the essence and we were on a count-down for our pre-booked train tickets back to Madrid.
So we kept walking, excited to see what Toledo had in store for us.
Exploring the shops and finding some sights
We first stumbled across some shops that sold some very impressive things – ranging from jewelry, to bowls, to sculptures, and even swords! Yes, that’s right, swords! I have never seen any place with a more concentrated amount of stores dedicated to knives and swords than Toledo is.
And from there, we started meandering the streets.
I, of course, got hungry (because I’m always hungry, there’s no denying that). And being the smart mother that she is, my mom had packed us some good ol’ snacks! So, side track from talking about Toledo for a second, and let me just say: THE ALMOND COOKIES IN SPAIN THO. When you go to Spain, pop into a bakery and find one of these bad boys. They’re so delicious!
Okay, back on track.
We stopped by the information center to get an idea of what places we should visit before our time was over in this picturesque town. Here, it was explained to us that the old city of Toledo dated back to the Roman occupation in 192BC. Furthermore, it was the capital of the Spanish empire until the mid-1500s, when the royal court moved to Madrid. The city itself had 3 quarters [Christian, Muslim, and Jewish] and we were encouraged to visit each as they had amazing history and culture.
We first made our way to the Christian quarter, since it was the closest to us.
As we began winding our way down the streets, we first came across the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo. Its tower looming over us and making us feel quite small.
The cathedral began being built in 1226 and now stands as one of three 13th century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain.
You are able to go into a small portion of its interior for free, but if you want to see the rest, an admission fee of 6€ – 10€ is needed.
The Jewish quarter came next.
Here, we made our way down the winding roads, not knowing where they would lead. As we walked, we kept finding blue tiles associated with the quarter scattered on the cobblestone streets. Some were depictions of items and others were words in Hebrew.
We looked into stores and admired the synagogues. I was in Spain, but it felt like I had gone back to Israel (just a greener and more lush one).
Here, we only had a brief time to visit because we were in a bit of a rush to get back to our train.
Like the other quarters, we wound our way through the streets and explored as much as we could. We even spotted a mosque! Though it was definitely different than what I had expected.
Where is Toledo?
How do I get there?
The train can easily be accessed from Madrid to Toledo at the Atocha train station. It is only a short 30 minute ride, so it is definitely doable to do a half-day trip there.
You can book tickets online through the Renfe website (the Spanish train company). You can also go to the station and get tickets from a manned ticket booth. A two-way ticket costs approximately 20€.
What would have been nice to have while there?
Data! If only my phone had internet access we wouldn’t have gotten lost so many times in the small and windy streets. Granted, getting lost is always a fun part of traveling, but when you’re on a time crunch, it may add a bit of stress.
What should I know before going?
The locals are very kind and sweet. Whenever we would go into a store to ask for directions, most would take the time to explain where we should go and some even walked with us out of their shops to direct us in the right direction.
I’m going to Spain, is it worth going to Toledo?
Go, go, go! Toledo was truly one of the highlights of my trip. Barcelona and Madrid were quite busy and crowded, so Toledo was a nice peaceful getaway for half a day. The picturesque town will leave you dreaming about coming back. I personally don’t think you would need more than a day, so if you have the time, you should try to go pay the town a visit.
For more adventures in Spain, check out the blogs here.