An Escape to Toledo, Spain

Toledo is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. Even if I’ve only been there for a couple of hours (again with my amazing skill in time management), I’ve fallen in love with it. Not that I’m an expert, but being there makes you feel like you’re taken back in time.

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Staying in Madrid for a few days gave me an opportunity to have that quick escape to Toledo. A lot of people told me that Toledo is a must. Not really knowing what’s in store for me, I just trusted that I am really in for a treat. Although I had set a whole day for this, my love for Madrid caught me to the point that I almost had to let this one pass by. It was a good thing that my roommates cheerfully encouraged me.

Toledo is just a 30-minute train ride away from Madrid. It was pretty quick. However, it was already late in the afternoon and to get the most out of the city, I had to ride the bus to the city center (Plaza de Zocodover) instead of crossing one of the beautiful bridges which I have yet to find. By “late afternoon” I mean–really late, to the point that it was almost sunset!

I met two nice Americans in the short bus ride. They were really enthusiastic about me traveling alone. Ahhh I love encouragements. 🙂 They were spending the night (s) there and told me that Toledo is said to be really pretty at night. I guess I’ll spend more time there the next chance I get.

Upon arriving at Plaza de Zocodover, I decided to take the city tour bus before exploring the city on foot. I thought, this had to do for now as time wasn’t really in my hands. It was a good 30 minutes of being driven around, mostly outside the hill/city proper wherein you’ll get a glimpse of the city as a whole. A glimpse of the bridges, a glimpse of Rio Tajo (Tagus River), a glimpse of my cityscape–Toledo.

I wouldn’t have taken this bus had I be given a lot of time. I am thankful though that I did take it. I know myself. Once I start walking, I would get so consumed within its walls. I would probably not be able to see the city away from the city not knowing that the best spot for it to be viewed is across the Tagus River, which is something that I probably wouldn’t even think of!

A View from Afar: Here’s Toledo as seen from the outside, with the Rio Tajo surrounding it.

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A view of Toledo with the Rio Tajo surrounding it.

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A few buildings from afar:

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The Alcazar

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Even if I expected it, I was still surprised when we were taken back to Plaza de Zocodover in a short span of time. I was looking forward to seeing more of the city with the HoHo type of city bus. I am quite unaware if this bus provided that. However, the night was approaching and maybe this was the last trip of the day. I guess it’s time for me to catch up and discover the city with my usual strategy.

Getting to know you from the inside: On foot.

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The road leading to the Old Town (left) and the gate of Toledo, Arco de la Sangre (right).

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Plaza de Zocodover

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Arco de la Sangre

From Plaza de Zocodover, I chose to walk uphill towards Toledo Cathedral rather than downhill to look for the fortress (which I would later on realize was almost in front of me–by that I mean 3 years!!). It was nearer and easier to navigate, given that I had to make use of my time wisely.  Surprisingly, there weren’t that many tourists compared to that of Madrid (it was my “base” during this trip, thus, serves as my main comparison). Maybe the locals here opted to spend the weekend elsewhere? Or maybe it isn’t that touristy yet back in 2010?

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There were a lot of interesting shops along the way, but I thought I shouldn’t buy anything that would bother me for the rest of my walk. Apart from the usual souvenirs (shirts, bags, magnets and key chains), there were also quite a few unusual pieces that are pretty interesting. There goes the armor and the sword.

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I walked farther around to look for the cathedral. I actually chose the longer way and noticed that a few were following me rather than relying on their map. 😀

The streets were almost empty and at some point, they even looked the same. Even the houses and the buildings didn’t seem occupied. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that this was a ghost town. Thankfully, I saw a few tourists from time to time until I reached the cathedral.

It’s quite easy to get lost in the streets here. For some reason, it’s really confusing even with the map. Or is the map outdated? Or was it just me?

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I found the cathedral from its back to the square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento) in front of it. There seems to be an event on the works at the square. Maybe not until later that night?

This Gothic Cathedral of Toledo is said to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals all over the world. Quite possibly the most beautiful one in Spain. Unfortunately, I was too late to get inside. Some of my friends who had the chance to see it told me of its majestic beauty. One said it’s even better than the Notre Dame of France. Not sure though, I have yet to see both for myself.

Here are some of the photos of Toledo Cathedral. If only time allowed me, I would have seen the inside of it as well. I will definitely go back.

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The rest are some of the photos in and around Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

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Ayuntamiento, the Town Hall

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A view of the Cathedral from a street between Ayuntamiento and Palacio Arzobispal

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3033Plaza del Ayuntamiento and Palacio Arzobispal (on the right)

From here I thought of exploring farther to the Jews’ and the Muslims’ side of the map. However, I decided to take an early detour because in my attempt, I could barely find the Jewish quarters. I am good with maps, but somehow I was clueless, which is why I concluded this attempt before it consumes me to bits and pieces. It was getting late and the night would definitely make me lost and confused.

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Even at night, the sky was blue. It’s really amazing to see it that way. Although I can’t get enough of it, the night was my cue to start heading back. As much as I wanted to stay, I needed to get back to Madrid to meet a few friends. Can’t bail out on that one.

Here are some photos from Arco de la Sangre, downhill, and the guard watching over Toledo. This was around 9 pm, a few minutes before I take the bus to the train station for the last ride of the night.

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And as clueless as I was (maybe due to time pressure), I missed the Alcazar despite it being just across the bus stop. Isn’t it funny? Where were my senses?

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Remember what I mentioned earlier, about being bothered by souvenirs? Funny thing is, I bought myself a sword! In my defense, the shops were very inviting. I knew it was going to be a problem, especially that I was only at the first leg of my trip. Yet, I still bought it! Oh goodness, I hate souvenirs. It’s not a sharp sword though. It’s more like a practice/game sword.

Upon arriving at the train station a few minutes before departure, the security didn’t want to let me in because of my new toy/souvenir. The shop owner just wrapped it in a page of newspaper and this alone caused me a huge problem! I had to find something that would wrap the sword completely to make it seem “travel friendly.” It was almost a lost cause as there weren’t any shops around that could provide what I needed.

I wanted to cry but somehow I found myself inside a restaurant whose Chinese hostess helped me wrap my sword with lots of newspaper and tape. Thank heavens! And thank her!!! 🙂

All is well at the end of the day even if I almost missed seeing Toledo and getting my train back home. After seeing what I’ve almost missed, I feel like I would definitely regret not going, especially now that I know what Toledo has to offer. But who knows?  I guess, me being there was really meant to be. I am lucky.

Quick Tips:

1. See the city away from the city proper: across the Tagus River. I was able to do so upon taking the tour bus, but I guess it is also possible should you be driving or walking as well!

2. Visit the Toledo Cathedral. It closes by 6 pm (from what I know), but regardless, be early! It’s beautiful from the outside, and I could only imagine how it looks like inside. I have yet to see it and I can’t wait for my “next time” to happen.

3. Be prepared with a good, reliable footwear. This is a city of cobbled streets and your footwear is your best friend.

4. Be prepared to be taken back in time.

5. If you have the opportunity, spend a good amount of time there. A whole day (and night), perhaps?

6. Other places that I missed to explore are the Alcazar, the Moors and the Jewish buildings, the medieval castle, and yes, a lot more. Join me next time?

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11 thoughts on “An Escape to Toledo, Spain

  1. Great photos! Toledo is a very cool place – I must dig out my photos. I seem to recall having difficulties getting either the Alcazar or the Cathedral completely into my camera frame.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 For some reason, it’s quite hard to fit them in a single shot due to its proximity. I realized I got a photo of the Alcazar from afar that I’ve just added now. 😀

  2. Beautiful Post! I am so sorry I did not have the time to visit Toledo when I visited Spain 2 years ago to walk the Camino!

  3. I spent five days in Toledo as part of studying abroad in the summer of 2007. It’s a really beautiful city, particularly Alcazar. Toledo was one of the final cities I visited on my time in Spain, so I must admit I was underwhelmed by the Cathedral of Toledo. So much of the architecture in Spain is very similar stylistically, so by the third or fourth major cathedral I visited, I felt like I’d seen them all. The best experience of the visit was actually my arrival. Riding up to the walled city of Toledo with Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” playing was a surreal experience.

    1. I have yet to see the inside of the Cathedral. I wasn’t really bummed that I missed going inside until my friends told me that it’s really beautiful. I guess I have to see it for myself next time. I must agree with you on the part of feeling like you’ve seen them all. At first everything felt overwhelming, but eventually it gets old.
      I could only imagine how surreal it must’ve been to have the ecstasy of gold as a background music. Currently listening to it and thinking about Toledo, it feels quite theatrical. 😀

  4. The place looks beautiful!! 🙂 Good thing you decided to go then! worth the escape! 🙂

    1. Indeed it is! I miss the Cathedral though! I heard it’s one of the most beautiful ones.

  5. Nice pics! I love old cities like this. I did something similar a few years ago – stayed in Madrid and daytripped jt to Toledo. Smart move! If you ever do go back, the view from the top of the cathedral is fab. Keep on traveling!

    1. Thanks Caroline! I almost didn’t go there because I was feeling tired. Good thing I went though and I was really caught of guard by its beauty! I hope I can go back there soon. More travels for you too! 🙂

  6. […] there reminded me a bit of Toledo. It’s also relatively small, a bit uphill with a view downhill, and has that medieval vibe […]

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