Day Trip To Toledo

Introduction
Review: American Economy Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: American Business Class 767 New York To Madrid
Review: American Flagship Lounge Dallas DFW Airport
Review: British Airways First Class 777 Austin To London
Review: Westin Palace Madrid Hotel
Exploring Madrid
Day Trip To Toledo
Review: Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid
Review: Sala VIP Amnios Lounge Madrid
Review: Iberia Economy Class A321 Madrid To London
Review: American Business Class 777-300ER London To Los Angeles


One of the great perks of this gig is that we can work from anywhere. And one of the negatives is that sometimes, we have to work from anywhere. Our Monday in Madrid happened to be “one of those times,” so Ben and I quickly became lame travel companions who wouldn’t be able to do anything fun for at least a few hours. My cousin Heather ventured out on her own, and offered to put together her thoughts on visiting Toledo, a smallish city just outside of Madrid.

While I love traveling with Tiffany, I have to remember that it’s not all fun and games because (obviously) she has a job to do. Constant reminders of this include breezing past her while navigating a foreign airport as she abruptly stops to collect information for readers along our path, anxiously ogling the food and cocktail spread in a lounge while she walks around snapping photos before I am permitted to pounce, patiently waiting outside in the hotel hallway while she documents our pending experience, and answering a dozen or more of my questions along the way.

Often times Tiffany will get busy, especially on certain days of the week and in specific time zones, so I am free to spend the day exploring the cities we travel together on my own. We have traveled to several foreign cities together, but Madrid has been the safest and most comfortable for an independent female traveler.

I felt so comfortable, in fact, that I decided I was feeling brave enough to take a day trip on my own. After some discussion with the concierge team at the Westin Palace, I chose to head to Toledo, a monumental ancient city known as the “city of three cultures.”

It was the highlight of my visit to Spain.

Booking train tickets to Toledo

Toledo is easiest reached from Madrid by bus (1 hour) or train (1/2 hour). Our hotel concierge recommended pre-booking the train in advance as it is also a commuter train and can sell out.

Pre-booking a train ticket was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. And I say that as a mom of three.

Tiffany and I eventually figured out how to use Renfe to book a ticket. So that no one else has to go through the trial and error process:

Do not use the translate feature in Google Chrome, instead select “Welcome” at the top of the page. If you translate using Chrome the buttons stop working halfway through the booking process.

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The first step is to create an account on renfe.com. This isn’t technically necessary, but the website is extremely glitchy, and creating an account means your information will auto-populate later on.

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Once you’ve done that, return to the home page (and select “Welcome” again to get back to English), to choose your desired times.

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All trains should be ~€10 each way, and I’d recommend spending 7-9 hours in Toledo. I took the 10AM train and returned at 5PM, which was perfect as a solo traveler, but might have been a bit rushed if I’d had my kids in tow.

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Renfe allows you to pay via PayPal, and after trying several credit cards I’m convinced this is the best option. You can add a credit card to PayPal ahead of time, and it will still lead to a better result than trying to have Renfe process the payment directly.

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You can have the purchased tickets sent to your email, and can then print them off or choose a mobile boarding pass. I added the Renfe app to my phone and was able to easily store my tickets in Passbook (just make sure you do this for the tickets in both directions, which I forgot to do).

Getting to Toledo

The train station in Madrid is just a few blocks from the Westin.

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It is massive, but easy to navigate.

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Check for the departures board for your platform and head downstairs to board.

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Exploring Toledo

While the train station in Madrid was grand and impressive, the station in Toledo was simply charming.

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Once you arrive in Toledo you can take a taxi or walk less than a mile up the hill to the old town. Taxis are lined up outside the train station next to the local vendors selling maps. Feel free to purchase a map at the train station (or at a local shop for slightly less) because almost everyone walking the streets of Toledo will be donning a map. It will be easy to see why once you are walking the beautiful, twisty streets of Toledo.

I recommend taking the short walk simply because it is beautiful.

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When you cross the San Martin Bridge you will be at the base of the hill. You can take the steps or the escalators to the top.

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Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo
Admission: €8, includes a well-done audio tour

Your first stop should be the Cathedral Santa Maria, or just “the Cathedral.” It will require the most time to see (and has great bathrooms you can then use throughout the day).

The Cathedral is ranked among the greatest Gothic structures in Europe and is truly spectacular. Pictures don’t even begin to convey the grandeur:

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The Cathedral also hosts art and treasures from Spanish history, so there’s more to see than the building itself:

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Including an incredible piece (The Disrobing of Christ) by El Greco:

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After you purchase your ticket, you must give a drivers license or a room key to collect your audio tour. Luckily I had my hotel key with me!

There is also a cute cafe with plenty of seating inside the cathedral gift shop where the restroom is located. The audio tour is self guided which gives you the flexibility to tour the cathedral at your leisure.

Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
Admission: €2,50, includes access to an audio tour on your smart phone

A 15th century Franciscan monastery founded by the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando.

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I enjoyed my time here, and felt the admission price was reasonable for a short visit.

Del Greco Museum (Closed on Mondays)
Admission: €3, or free Saturday after 4PM and all day Sunday

Sadly I was here on a Monday, when the museum is closed. It was tricky to find, and as it’s in a residential area is poorly signed. The only indicator is the large “G” on the street:

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Mirador del Valle

Recommended at sunset, but still a spectacular view without it:

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I visited several other attractions throughout the day including a tapestry museum that was tucked into a side street off the beaten path. I was the only guest in the museum and quite enjoyed seeing something so different.

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I loved Toledo

Toledo is a tiny city with maps of interest erected throughout the streets. Directions to its famous attractions are well marked.

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I also had Tiffany’s WiFi hotspot with me, which made it even easier to find specific sights. The best part of the day though was simply meandering through the ancient streets.

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“This has to be the cutest street I’ve ever seen in my life!” I’d think to myself.

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And then I’d wind around a corner, and be stunned by the quaint beauty.

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“This, this, is the most adorable door I’ve ever seen.”

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“Or maybe it’s this one…”

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And on and on, discovering one charming row of buildings after another.

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Until I literally had to stop and free up more memory on my phone.

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Overall

Toledo made a perfect day trip from Madrid, and I’m so glad I went. Having Ben and Tiffany with me would have been nice, but even on my own the trip was highly enjoyable.

It is worth mentioning  that unlike what we saw in Madrid, several businesses (mainly cafés and shops) closed their doors mid-afternoon for siesta.

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If you’re in Madrid I’d absolutely recommend making time to visit Toledo.

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Comments

  1. Toledo is such a great place. I did a semester abroad there in high school and did a day trip when I was in Madrid a few years ago. Still loved it and it’s the perfect place to spend time outside Madrid.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Toledo is the day trip to take from Madrid if you can only do one. Just some notes – there are 2 major train stations in Madrid. Atocha is used mostly for southern journeys like Toledo (this is also where you can catch the high-speed Ave to destinations such as Sevilla or Cordoba, as well as Barcelona). Chamartin is north of Plaza Castilla and is used for northern trips. Back to Toledo, the walk from the Toledo train station into town can be very difficult at the wrong time of year – it gets very, very, very hot in Toledo in the summer in which case you can catch a local bus into Toledo to Plaza Zocodover for a euro or two, or a taxi for a bit more. Plaza Zocodover is a good starting point as this is where the main tourist info is located. There is also a McD’s that is good for a bathroom break and they used to have simple city maps there for free, but not sure if they still do or not. Lastly, if you are driving you should head over to the Parador across the river. It sits high up on the hill opposite town and provides the best views of the city. I do not know of any way to get there except by car (tour buses go there as well). There is a huge terrace where anyone can enjoy a coffee or vino or cerveza while gazing out on this incredible little town.

  3. Thank you Heather! What a fantastic trip report on Toledo! I felt like I was there with you! I have just added this to my places to visit list. @Tiffany please be sure to tell her thank you!

  4. Your pictures make it quite clear you were there off season. We were there in late June, and the crowds in the streets were comparable to what you’d find at Disneyland…..

    Good tip about reserving the train. On our first attempt we naively just went to the station, only to find all of the trains sold out until late afternoon. Luckily we had another day in Madrid, so we bought tickets at the station for the following day.

    And yes, it’s well worth a Euro for the bus ride up to the Plaza, which leaves you that much more time and energy for exploring the upper town. Even if you aren’t there in the mid-Summer heat.

  5. This was such a great post! And a most welcomed addition to the blog. In the past I have defended the absence of sightseeing posts on OMAAT. Now, I think it would be enjoyable to have more posts such as this.

  6. The next time that you need to purchase point to point train tix in Spain, just pop in to any nearby travel agency office.

    We did it several times in a few cities. It was very easy. If they charged a service fee it wasn’t enough make me take notice.

    Have Fun!

  7. Toledo is really great and the Cathedral is probably the most beautiful church in the world. It’s impossible to understand its beauty from the pictures. You also forgot to take one picture of “El Transparente”, a stunning example of baroque art. ( https://lightslant.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/dpp_1439-1-2_filtereda.jpg )

    I can’t believe that Ben and Tiffany didn’t go with you to Toledo, hours of flights to get to Madrid and then they stayed in the hotel?

  8. Great perspective from Heather. We the reader often forgot you guys travel for ‘work’, and your need to document each product you review may it be hotel/airline/lounge, as well as the time pressure in putting up these information on daily basis. That been said, it’s also refreshing to see a post purely based on sightseeing without tied into a particular product. Probably not profitable for you guys as it doesn’t generate SEM traffic to the sponsor sites, but nice to see once in a while.

  9. >>>At first I thought, “Wait, what on earth is going on in Toledo, Ohio?”<<<

    That is what I thought too, until I saw the first photo and thought "I've been there." I've never been to Toledo, Ohio.

    Very good photos Tiffany.

  10. @ Joan — I think the fee is 5 Euros, or at least that’s what the concierge said the cost would be to book through an agency. We wanted to try the website “for science” though.

  11. We went to Segovia for our day trip from Madrid. The Roman aqueduct still standing over the town is pretty amazing and I had the same “everything is so picturesque” feeling.

  12. I really enjoyed this post! I might not have ever thought of going to Toledo. I love the airline, lounge, and hotel reviews but seeing a few more of these reviews would be really valuable.

  13. Wonderful post!
    I know it’s easy to do it on my own; however, would it be a lot better and able to get more out of it with a guided tour? Is half day or a full day is recommended?
    thanks

  14. @ Emma — I asked Heather, who has been to Toledo twice now, and she responded Truly no guided tour is needed. Visit the tourist center in the main plaza next to the Cathedral for a self tour guided map. There is also a city tour guide app that we found helpful. And go to Segovia!

  15. Hello! Thank you for the great article. How much time would you recommend for a day trip to Toledo from Madrid? What time did you leave and return Madrid?

  16. @ Leah — I’d recommend spending 7-9 hours in Toledo. I took the 10AM train and returned at 5PM, which was perfect as a solo traveler, but might have been a bit rushed if I’d had my kids in tow

  17. RE: Toleldo

    Hi,

    My husband and I are going to Spain for the 1st time for our 40th anniversary. I have looked at a great many sites and yours is the very best!!! You have fabulous photos and practical advice.
    I am so glad I came across your site.

    What is the name of the charming little curvy street? It is where I must sit and sketch.

    Thank you again.

    Happy Traveling

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