Toledo#15 in Best Things To Do in Madrid
- 4.0Food Scene
Once you've soaked up Madrid's sights, consider escaping the bustling city with a daytrip to nearby Toledo. It takes just 30 minutes to reach the "city of three cultures" from downtown Madrid, and it's a worthwhile visit for anyone looking for history, world-renowned architecture or just a photo op in front of the picturesque city.
An ancient Roman city once thought to be the holiest place in Spain, Toledo has been ruled by Christians, Muslims and Jews. The city was always known as a place of tolerance, and its diversity is showcased through buildings like the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which was built by Islamic architects for Jewish use under a Christian ruler.
While you could probably spend all day admiring the hilltop city from the banks of the Tagus River below, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has plenty of activities awaiting inside. Your first stop should be Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo, as it's one of the most famous Gothic structures in Europe. Other popular sights include the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, the Mosque of the Christ of Light and the El Greco Museum.
You'll want to stay in Toledo for at least one meal because the city is full of culinary delights. Influenced by its mountainous surroundings, some popular dishes include partridge stew, sheep's milk cheese, carcamusa – a traditional Spanish stew – and lots of saffron for flavor. Leave room for dessert as Toldeo's sweet mazapán pastries are considered the best in Spain.
You can drive from Madrid to Toledo or take one of the many buses, but most previous travelers agreed the high-speed train is the best option. Train tickets cost $16 for a one-way fare and trains depart several times a day from Madrid's Atocha station, located near Buen Retiro Park. The 30-minute ride will bring you to Toledo's charming train station across the river from the city. You'll have to walk a little less than a mile to the city gate, or take a taxi if you're on a time crunch. It's important to note Toledo may prove difficult for people with mobility issues as cars aren't allowed inside the city limits, and the streets tend to be steep, narrow and winding. Visitors say a map is necessary to help navigate the complex web of roads, and eight hours is enough time to spend exploring its many restaurants and sights. Visit Toledo's tourism website before embarking on your trip.
More Best Things To Do in Madrid
#1 Plaza Mayor
This square, located in the heart of Madrid, is more a must-experience attraction than a must-see one. Surrounded by cafes and bars, Plaza Mayor practically begs passersby to take a seat, order a coffee or glass of wine (depending on the time of day) and people-watch. Not only do throngs of tourists pass through, but multiple street performers plant their feet here to entertain. The square starts getting busy around 2 p.m. and will grow increasingly busy as night falls. If you find yourself in Madrid during the holidays, locals recommend visiting the holiday markets held in the plaza.
Recent travelers acknowledge the touristy nature of Plaza Mayor – the souvenir shops, the less-than-gourmet yet overpriced restaurants, for instance – but for most travelers, Plaza Mayor still affords a lovely ambience. If you want to learn more about the history behind Plaza Mayor, which dates back to 1617, reviewers suggest you sign up for a walking tour. One of the city's most emblematic pieces of public art, the statue of Philip III on horseback, can also be found here.
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