TRAVELLING AT 300km/h on the Renfe train from Madrid to Toledo… Best decision ever on our Spanish trip this past April!
It really was only a half-hour journey and I paid €20 for a return trip. Tickets were reasonably priced, so what’s there to complain about! I would recommend anyone visiting Madrid to take a day’s trip to this beautiful ancient city of Toledo – once the capital of Spain.
I was thrilled at having the chance to snap a picturesque view of the city. Far in the distance, you can see the highest point of Toledo. The Alcázar of Toledo used to be a Roman palace, having been rebuilt many times thereafter under the reigns of different emperors. Now, it is the site of the Army museum and the fortress with its towers is still very well-preserved.
You get a feel of the old city with its walls and bridges, some dating from as early as the 2nd century. The Peunte de San Martin is one of the “newer” bridges from the medieval times in the 16th century, built across the river Tagus. There are two gates on either sides, used to prevent invaders from attacking the city back in the past. You get a lovely view from the bridge, as well as from the road above.
We stayed for 2D1N at the Oasis Hostels, just a little off the main Plaza Zocodover. Even though it was a really short stay (we reached at 1pm and departed at 11am the day after), trust me when I say that it was enough for me to fall in love with Toledo!
Toledo was known for its peaceful co-existence of the Christians, Jews and Muslims; in a time period known as the La Convivencia and during which people practiced religious tolerance. This carried on for about 700 years till the Spanish Inquisition came about in the 15th century, where many Jews and Muslims were forced to leave Spain altogether (or alternatively convert to Christianity).
At current times, visitors can still admire the remains of the old churches, synagogues and mosques. It is for this historical reason of co-existence that Toledo is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What to do in Toledo is simply to take long strolls through its streets via the cobblestone pathways. While doing that, take a look around to admire the architecture and peek into some of its shops (Toledo is famed for its traditional sword-making). I particularly liked the Jewish quarters as once in awhile, you’d catch precious moments of people’s pastimes.
The Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo is a lovely Gothic-style cathedral. Its facade had three portals, one of which had no figurative motifs (like the usual gargoyles) but only floral decorations in limestone. I was then bent on finding a souvenir fridge magnet with that design – my purpose for the rest of the day!
By contrast, the architectural influence of the Muslim Moores could be seen on the remaining mosques. More recently, Toledo’s train station boasts the Moorish Revival architecture, with its lancet arches and abstract-shaped brick ornamentations.
If you are into history, Toledo would be a perfect place for you to absorb in it. Just be sure to have a local guide you along, or take one of the many paid tours to have a deeper understanding of the old stories. I came to Toledo from Barcelona, and then to Madrid… and in each of these Spanish cities, you would again be reminded of its history through its people and places. Kind of like bits of puzzles for you to form, having a clearer picture.
And a stronger reason to come back relishing the beauty of these great cities.
My recommendations for hostel-stay:
Oasis Hostels Toledo
Calle Cadenas 5, 45001 Toledo, Spain
Visited April 2014, stayed in a private 4-bed dorm for €16/night
A friend recommended Oasis Hostels to me while she was staying in Granada, I decided to head on with the one in Toledo. Tucked in a little corner just slightly off the main Plaza Zocodover, what I really liked was its rooftop terrace with a pretty view. There is a kitchenette for you to cook and 2 computer terminals. We stayed in a 4-person dorm… Rooms were comfortable, and the bathroom is pretty neat with a bathtub as well. Really value-for-money! -My TripAdvisor review (NaniSG)