Madrid is fabulous, but if you’re itching to get away from city life for a day, Toledo is a great option. Toledo was the old capital of Spain, a beautiful ancient city that is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Center. The historic quarter is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, cathedrals, and shops surrounded by the Río Tajo and a giant stone fortress wall that was built during the Roman occupation.
Getting there from Madrid is very easy (and free for students)! From Sol you take the 3 down to Legazpi and change tracks and catch the 6 to Plaza Eliptica. From there you can take the ALSA bus to Toledo. The ride is about 45-50 minutes. Tickets are normally around 10€ but with the student metro cards (abono) you go for free.
The main plaza is called Zodocover, so from there we just started exploring. We walked around and went to the El Greco Museum to see the site of El Greco’s house and some of his lesser-known paintings. Toledo is known for its handmade crafts and goods, so we got to see a ton of medieval shops with silver swords and jewelry and bakeries with treats from the convents. The nuns are famous for making “the best marzipan cookies”…. and after having tried one I can attest to that!
The main cathedral in Toledo is breathtaking, along with the view of the city from across the Río Tajo (get there on Bus 71 from Zodocover). Strolling through the narrow streets all was quiet but the chorus of church chimes. It felt like such a breath of fresh air after being used to the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Because Toledo is such a small city it is very easy to see the whole city in a matter of hours. And because it is much more traditional than Madrid, be careful of siesta hours. Restaurants and shops may be closed midday which can be tricky to plan around if you’re out looking for something specific.
We got a late lunch at a small cafe called “La Flor de La Esquina” and sat outside in a little plaza in front of a church watching people and feeding the birds our leftover bread. After wandering around a bit more we headed back to the bus station. Overall, Toledo is a cheap and easy way to escape the modernity of Madrid for a couple of hours. It almost feels as if you get to go back in time and enjoy a more authentic Spanish lifestyle right in Madrid’s own backyard. While yes it is a small city, there are plenty restaurants, museums and plazas to explore. I will definitely be going back soon!