Day trip to Toledo, Spain

by Feb 23, 20205 comments


fallen in love prix fixe lunch and wine mid-day

This adventure is part of a larger trip to Spain with girlfriends and an organized tour. We added Toledo to see a bit more of Spain before the organized tour.

Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews in the art and architecture of the city. In some places you will see them mixed together!

Toledo is a fascinating walled medieval city overlaid with modern life. The streets are a maze, and it is incredible that people drive cars here, because the streets are very narrow in places. On some walls you can see where someone tried to squeeze through!

I am a huge fan of Rick Steves’ travel books. His suggested walks and points-of-interest for Toledo are spot on. You can do your own walking tour with his descriptions of each location.

Even the train station has a high level of detail and tile decoration

We took the fast train to Toledo, just 30 minutes to get there! We arrived early morning as things were opening up. We took the time to get ourselves oriented and get a map (always a worthwhile effort). Walking from the train station, it was not obvious that we needed to cross the bridge to enter the city — maybe we missed a sign (you can go up the escalator and skip the bridge, but then you miss a great view). Once over the bridge there is a steep set of steps to the city. It is worth the effort — the view is great from this entrance.

Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
Betsy, Karin & Katie discovered on day one that local markets were great places for a quick meal and drink — Mercado de San Miguel near Plaza Mayor

Toledo is a wonderful medieval walled city — and we are so happy to see the sun today (so far this trip has been five days of rain). The map’s a little hard to follow because there are no real blocks, but after you start exploring it makes more sense. Small streets are narrow and twisted. Again, I find it hard to believe that they let cars in here!

It is quite the climb to get into the city, but totally worth it. The walk and the view are beautiful.

Our first stop is Santo Tomé. This small chapel holds El Greco’s most-beloved painting, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. The painting is in the original church it was painted for, but it has been moved to allow people to view it without disturbing the main church. They don’t allow photos of this painting so you’ll have to go yourself to see it!

Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
San Juan de Los Reyes is a Franciscan monastery, with an impressive church and cloistered courtyard. The second floor of the courtyard has intricate wood inlay ceilings! Everywhere we look we see artistic details. Decorative tiles, carved wood, it is all so beautiful.

Built as a synagogue, but never used as one, the Sinagoga de Santa María la Blanca is a beautiful example of Moorish design. It was used as a church and then horse stables. The light in this space was just gorgeous! We are loving the architectural details of this space!

The El Greco Museum is built near El Greco’s original home. Besides being full of great art, it has nice landscaping and interesting tile accents everywhere you look. Like most places in Spain, the stone and tile work is just beautiful. The various textures and designs are visually interesing and create spaces that are inviting and comfortable.

Lunch was at Restaurante Placido (another Rick Steves’ recommendation). We have fallen in love with the prix fixe lunch and wine mid-day! It is a great way to review the mornings and refuel for the afternoon!

Walking from place to place was as interesting as the main sights. We saw workmen putting up big canvas shade cloths over the streets. In the US the traffic would have been diverted for the day. Here they wait until a few cars line up and then just pull the cloth out of the way and let them drive right over the work area. Very casual and less disruptive!

The Cathedral in Toledo is just amazing — it is so over the top! It has very high vaulted ceilings and so much art and sculpture — every turn reveals even more! There is a decorated hole in the ceiling called a Transparent. It was added to let a sunbeam brighten Mass! Get the self-guided tour — it is on a headset and you go at your own pace. The tour is chock full of great information.

We had trouble finding the Museo Santa Cruz — but the delay got us there in time to get in for free! The building is off the beaten path and around a corner. There was a tile display in one of the galleries Which was of great interest to us. And of course more works by Grecco, or his apprentices!

Our favorite architectural trend in Spain is the inner courtyard. You see them in private homes, public places and apartment buildings. These wonderful spaces are full of plants and often have running water. It is a natural oasis and retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city just outside the doors. You can forget you are in an urban environment when you are in these  relaxing places.

We are also loving how simple stones and tiles turn every floor and sidewalk into a work of art. We see this in many places. It is visually interesting and beautiful.

And don’t forget to look up — the ceilings often have as much, or more, going on as the floors!

Betsy & Katie after a day in Toledo — ready to rest on the train before our last meal in Madrid
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz

The convents in Toledo are famous for their marzipan, which you can find all over town in fanciful shapes with nuts and fillings.

We took the escalator route back to the train station for an express ride back to Madrid. We will be back at the train station tomorrow for a ride to Málaga. We were pleased that we are now familiar with the walk to the station and that we knew how to find the right train (and seats).

Back in Madrid we found a deal on paella for two with a bottle of wine for 28 Euros! We added a salad and had more than enough for all three of us. Very delicious and a wonderful goodbye to Madrid!

Make your own footprints…

Try the public transportation system

Toledo was quite a distance from Madrid, but taking the fast train made it the perfect day trip. I don’t think you need to see everything a country has to offer (I like quality over quantity) but don’t skip something because it is a little more complicated to get there. We did some research and were thrilled to discover the fast train, because we didn’t want to add two days to the trip to see Toledo, but had heard it was worthwhile.

There are often other modes of travel that let you relax and enjoy the scenery while getting in one more location. Subways, buses, boats, trains, even local planes, can make something a day trip.

Enjoy the journey!

Karin H Wilson

Karin H Wilson

Artist | Designer | Photographer | Traveler | Storyteller

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