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One day in Toledo

Toledo

Mix of cultures


One day in Toledo never seems enough. The famous “city of three cultures” is expecting you very close to the country’s capital, scarcely 70 kilometres from Madrid and connected by high-speed train in a journey of around half an hours.Its historic quarter –a UNESCO World Heritage Site– still preserves its original medieval layout, making it a fascinating place to visit. On a tour through its narrow, winding streets you will discover a series of incredible buildings, still very much alive both inside and out.

MORNING

You can spend the first part of the day visiting the city’s two most important monuments: the Cathedral and the Alcázar fortress. You'll be amazed by them.

A convent converted into a museum

Head towards the Santa Cruz Museum, located to one side of Plaza de Zocodover square. This site consists of the old Hospital de Santa Cruz and the Santa Fe Convent, which have been refurbished and converted into a cultural venue hosting major temporary exhibitions. Enter the convent building from Calle de Santa Fe.The first thing that attracts your attention is how contemporary elements and materials have been incorporated into the structure of the old convent building. In this last building there is a vast glass window offering views over the Paseo del Miradero avenue, the gardens of the new Conference Centre and the River Tagus. Exit the building onto Calle Santa Fe, and if you turn left, you will come to the Santa Cruz Hospital building. It is well worth a visit, if only to see the courtyard, the marble staircase of Covarrubias and the enormous arches in its interior.

Refreshments at the Alcázar fortress

This is a good time to stop for a cup of coffee or a snack. There are several cafés and outdoor terraces in this area, but as you are so close to the Alcázar fortress, make a stop at the café in the Castile-La Mancha library, located in one of the towers, and enjoy the panoramic view. There is spectacular aerial view of Toledo through the window. 

Images of the Santa María Cathedral in Toledo, Castile-La Mancha

The grandiose Cathedral

On leaving the Alcázar and after walking through the streets for about five minutes you will get to the Cathedral along Calle Cardenal Cisneros. This building is so imposing and has so much to see that you could spend hours there: the Monarch’s Chapel, the famous gold monstrance, the magnificent paintings in the sacristy, the choir stalls… You can learn about the curious tradition celebrated here every 15 August, on the feast day celebrations of the Virgin of Sagrario, when the custom is to drink from a variety of earthenware pots, jugs and glasses which are placed in the Cathedral and filled with water from the well in the cloister, as it is said to have miraculous properties. You’d better make a note for future visits.

A bird’s eye view of Toledo

Leave the Cathedral and head towards the Plaza del Ayuntamiento square, where you will find the two Renaissance buildings of the Episcopal Palace and the Town Hall. Along the street on the left, you’ll come to the alley of the Cuesta de la Ciudad (the city hill) which you can climb to reach the Jesuit church (also known as the church of San Ildefonso) in the Plaza Padre Juan de Mariana. It is located at the highest point of the city, so this is a perfect opportunity to catch one more view over the clustered rooftops of Toledo from its towers.

Aerial view of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha

Looking towards the south, on the upper banks of the Tagus River, you can see the Cigarrales mansions, the old recreational estates of Toledo's bourgeoisie, many of which have been transformed into luxury accommodation.

Food in an old Toledo mansion house

It's now time for lunch, and you're right beside Calle Alfileritos, which is full of bars and restaurants where you can sit and have a relaxing meal. The atmosphere in many of them is warm and inviting, because they are usually located in old Toledo town houses or small palaces spread over several floors, which have been reformed to preserve the most characteristic decorative features. Suggestions from the menu include 'cocido' (meat and chickpea stew), 'carcamusas' (stewed pork with tomato), partridge, venison, or all number of game dishes. To accompany the meal, one of the region’s Denomination of Origin wines, naturally.On the way to Alfileritos, to the left you will see the building of the former San Pedro Mártir convent, which today forms part of the University of Castilla-La Mancha. The two interior cloisters are perfect for stopping and enjoying a moment of calm.

AFTERNOON

It’s time to discover the side of Toledo known as ‘the city of the three cultures’ by visiting the Jewish quarter and the district of the convents. You can do this by taking a relaxed stroll around the area.

A tour through the Jewish quarter

After a good meal, head towards the city’s Jewish quarter. It is about a 15-minute walk to the Plaza del Salvador, where you can see the Municipal Archive in the modern style, the result of restoration works on the old church of San Marcos. The building is particularly unusual, among other reasons because the archaeological remains discovered during the building works are integrated into its structure.

Left: Church of San Marcos / Centre: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by El Greco / Right: Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, Toledo, Castile-La Mancha

Heading out of this square along Calle de Santo Tomé, you will come to Santo Tomé Church. Inside the church you can see the painting, “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”, one of the masterpieces by the famous painter, El Greco. Continue along Calle San Juan de Dios until you come to the Tránsito Synagogue, also the site of the Sephardic Museum. After marvelling at the beauty of its decorative plasterwork, you can head into the museum to learn more about the Jewish tradition in Spain. The next stop is another synagogue, Santa María la Blanca, which you can reach along the Calle Reyes Católicos. The filigree and details on its capitals are astounding.Continuing on up this street you'll come across the imposing monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, built by the Catholic Monarchs. After the tour, visitors will be surprised to learn that the monarchs apparently found it a little on the small side.There are numerous crafts and souvenir shops all over this area. Some of these shops also have a workshop where visitors can see the craftsmen at work. Particularly typical in Toledo are the items of damascene work, ceramics, leather and embroidery. Not to mention of course the famous Toledo steel swords.

In the neighbourhood of the convents

If you continue up the Paseo de la Virgen de Gracia avenue, you’ll come to the area of Toledo’s convents. If you want to enjoy a gentle stroll, this is definitely the ideal place, as the streets here are havens of peace and tranquillity.Some of the convents even sell sweets and pastries, handmade by the nuns. The convents of San Antonio, San Clemente and the Agustinas Calzadas are just a few examples.From time to time if you look up you’ll see a series of raised walkways: these were used by the nuns to go from one building to another without being seen in public. Continuing along on foot you'll come to the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz and the Puerta del Sol, from where you can see the church of Santiago del Arrabal and the inside of the Bisagra Gate.

A great panoramic spot for watching the sunset

At this point you are very near the Plaza de Zocodover square, so you could jump in a taxi from the taxi rank beside the square up to the Parador hotel located on one of the hills on the outskirts of the city,

Toledo at dusk in Castile-La Mancha

and enjoy a drink on the terrace of the café while you admire the superb view over Toledo as the sun goes down. This is the best reward after your day of sightseeing.

Places not to be missed

What to see


Tips and recommendations

Visit to the Cathedral

Tickets to the Cathedral can be bought at the ticket office located opposite the Puerta Llana gate in Calle Cardenal Cisneros. On Sundays during High Mass you can listen to the majestic cathedral organ. Also, every day (from 9 am on working days and 9.45 am on weekends and public holidays), there is a mass in the Mosarabic Rite in the Mozarabic Chapel.

How to get there

Toledo is very easy to get to from Madrid by train, coach or car. The train is a good option as it is both comfortable and fast - the journey only takes around 30 minutes from Atocha station, with trains leaving once an hour. Turn right on leaving the station, and head into the historical old quarters by bus. Lines 5, 6 and 22 stop in Plaza de Zocodover square, where there is a Tourist Information Office. The journey can also be done on foot, which is uphill and takes around 15 to 20 minutes.

When to go on the trail

Corpus Christi. A very special time to admire the Cathedral is during the feast of Corpus Christi, between the months of May and June, when the walls are adorned with majestic tapestries.Holy Week. Most of the convents are enclosed order convents and are not open to the general public. However, they can be visited during Holy week thanks to the guided tours organised by the Tourist Board.

What to do

Travel plans for inspiring you