Are you planning a trip to Spain? You may have heard about stunning Toledo, and it deserves its popularity. But you must plan your visit, especially if you take a one-day trip because the historical and artistic value of this Spanish gem is immense. To help you make the most of your time, I have prepared this list of the top things to see in Toledo.
The Best Things To See and Do in Toledo, Spain
Known as the city of the three cultures, Toledo is one of the most fascinating cities in Spain. Here, Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted for centuries, practising their religions and leaving a priceless heritage in architecture.
There are plenty of things to see in Toledo, but you can easily visit the main attractions in one day trip—with comfortable shoes! But if you have the opportunity to spend the night, you must. Toledo’s Old Town is amazing when the sun goes down and the streets light up. There are plenty of charming little hotels and restaurants to have dinner.
How To Get to Toledo from Madrid:
Going from Madrid to Toledo by car takes around 50 minutes on the A42 highway. I suggest parking outside the old town or opposite the Tagus river and visiting the center on foot. Free and paid parking is available crossing the Alcántara bridge and next to the escalator—you will also find a tourist information office here.
Public transportation is also a good option. A direct train from the Atocha station will get you to Toledo in half an hour. Alternatively, take the bus from the Plaza Elíptica and get to Toledo in about one hour.
Pro Tip: Most of the monuments in Toledo have a €3 entrance fee. You can get the Tourist Wristband (€10) that includes seven buildings—excluding the cathedral (€10) and the Alcázar (€5).
12. Cobertizos and City Gates
The Old Town’s narrow streets make you feel like a knight or a damsel of ancient times, especially after sunset. Experience the magic and discover the cobertizos. They are covered walkways that connect two opposite buildings, and their function was to facilitate passage between two parts of the same property without crossing the street.
They could be as small as hallways or large enough to host rooms. In 1509, there were so many that they were eventually declared illegal because they were depriving the streets of natural light, as documented by professor Félix Pillet Capdepón in his book El espacio geográfico del Quijote en Castilla-La Mancha.
Another thing to appreciate is the fantastic city gates leaning against the ancient city walls. Puerta del Sol and Bisagra are among my favorites to visit here.
11. Toledo Steel Forges
I am not suggesting that you travel with a sword in your luggage—even if you are a passionate medievalist, it can get you in trouble. But a visit to the steel forges is something you shouldn’t miss out on in Toledo.
The swords forged in the city have been famous among kings and knights for centuries, thanks to the iron and steel mix that makes them resistant. They are also beautifully decorated.
Nowadays, the forges create reproductions for movies and collectors. If you want a more discrete souvenir, go for the beautiful damascene silver and gold works. You can buy jewelry and precious objects decorated with this technique.
10. Toledo’s Alcázar
Perched on the highest part of the city, the Alcázar has watched over Toledo since the Roman era. However, it has undergone many changes and restorations from the Visigoth period to the 16th century, not to mention the damage it suffered from fires and accidents. The latest one was the catastrophic siege of the 1936 civil war, which led to its reconstruction.
The Spanish press documented the damages suffered by the Alcázar during the conflict, and the photos are now collected on Toledo’s town hall website. The event is also mentioned in many local newspapers and by the Ministry of Defense website.
For those passionate about military history, don’t miss a visit to this impressive museum. Just be sure to go with enough time because the collection of battle and war paraphernalia is immense. The building also houses the regional library.
Pro Tip: Just a few steps away from the Alcázar is The Zocoverder square, where all the action happens. It is superb during festivities in Toledo, especially Christmas and Easter.
Address: Calle de la Union
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9. Santa Cruz Museum
This museum may not be the most visited in the city (it’s usually part of a two-day trip itinerary), but it deserves to be listed among the best things to see in Toledo. The collection is diverse, including paintings and sculptures from important artists like El Greco and Berruguete. In addition, it has a priceless collection of archaeological finds from the Roman, Visigoth, Arabic, and Mudéjar eras.
The building is also part of the attraction. The richly decorated palace was the Santa Cruz Hospital, an innovative building for the medical assistance of orphans and the homeless.
Address: Calle Miguel de Cervantes, 3
8. Mirador del Valle and Ermita Virgen del Valle Viewpoints
With this tip, you will get the best postcard view of Toledo. On the opposite side of the Tagus river, a small chapel from the 17th century has terrific views of the Old Town. Many tourists go there on foot. However, the route can be challenging, as it is entirely uphill.
If you want to get there by car, there are free parking spots after the chapel, in front of Mirador del Valle’s viewpoint. Also, if you can’t get enough of this beauty or would like to see Toledo by night, there is a restaurant beside the chapel where you can enjoy dinner with a view.
Address: Carretera Circunvalación, 19
7. El Greco Museum
The next stop is a must-see for all the art lovers visiting Toledo. El Greco Museum is the only museum dedicated to the Renaissance painter Domḗnikos Theotokópoulos. The Ministry of Culture reports that the artist lived in the city from 1577 to his death in 1614. This bond with Toledo embellishes many buildings in the town, leading to the most recognized artworks of his career, such as the Caballero de la mano en el pecho (now in the Prado Museum).
The collection includes over 200 pieces; El Greco paintings, artworks of other relevant artists, and temporary exhibitions. The entrance is €3 or €5, including the Sefardí Museum in the same street. And it’s free on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Address: Paseo Del Tránsito
6. Santo Tomé Church and The Burial of The Count of Orgaz (El Greco)
In addition to the museum and Cathedral, El Greco left his mark on the Santo Tomé Church (pictured above). Legend has it that Saint Stephen and Saint Augustine descended from the heavens to honor the burial of the Count of Orgaz, a primary benefactor of the church.
As a testimony of the miracle, El Greco painted The Burial Of The Count Of Orgaz, one of the highest expressions of his technique and style. The painting found inside this church sums up El Greco’s influences, like Christian Orthodox iconography, the Flemish paintings, and the Venetian school.
What impresses me the most is the use of color and light to catch the sensibility of his era. As you step inside and view the painting, notice the contrast between the bright and chromatic upper area (which represents the heavens) and the darker terrestrial world where the only color is on the golden robes of the saints. The crowd’s facial expressions also show feelings and reactions of humanity in front of the dead—it is an authentic masterpiece.
Address: Plaza del Conde, 4
5. Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca
You always discover new charming spots while walking in the Jewish quarter. You can find most of the things to see in Toledo here, and it is also great for a coffee al fresco.
Start your visit with the Synagogue of Saint Mary the White. The date of construction is uncertain, but the traces of Nazarí art shows it is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. The Department of Culture website says that the synagogue was converted into a church after the dramatic pogroms of 1391, years before the Jewish expulsion decree signed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1942.
Despite the conversion, it still keeps most of the original decoration. And it is one of the only two synagogues still standing in Toledo, out of the ten that used to be in the city, according to the website of the Archbishopric of Toledo.
Address: Calle de los Reyes Católicos, 4
4. Synagogue of El Tránsito
One of the best-preserved medieval synagogues, the austerity and simplicity of this building in the Jewish quarter may fool you. However, its interior decoration is breathtaking. The synagogue of Samuel ha-Leví dates back to the 14th century and, as per the information provided by the official tourist website, it was part of a palace that has now disappeared. Today, it hosts the Sefardí Museum, which is a walk through the Sephardi Jewish community’s history.
It was named El Tránsito after being converted into a church due to its painting called El Tránsito De La Virgen (The Death Of The Virgin) that is now found in the Prado Museum. The internal plaster decoration is a unique and intricate mix of calligraphy and heraldry, with evident technical influences from Islamic art.
Address: Calle Samuel Levi
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3. Mosque of Cristo De La Luz
The oldest building in Toledo is a tiny precious mosque close to the Valmardón city gate. The Archbishopric of Toledo was able to date it back to 999, thanks to an inscription found on the façade. A discovery that makes it the last standing mosque of the Al-Ándalus era. Like many Islamic temples in the country, it was turned into a church with the addition of the apse.
Time hasn’t been kind to it; the tower has collapsed, and the frescos are now significantly deteriorated. However, the 2006 restoration has brought to light the original inscriptions and the paved road from the Roman era that you can now see beside the building.
Address: Calle Cristo de la Luz, 22
2. Monastery of San Juan De Los Reyes
According to the Castille-La Mancha tourist website, San Juan De Los Reyes was built between 1477 and 1496, and it is one of the most beautiful examples of Hispanic-Flemish Gothic architecture. It is one of the best things to see in Toledo by far, but I will not give too much away because it is a tour that will leave you speechless. Here are some details to pique your curiosity.
It was meant to be the burial place of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, which explains its monumentality and richness. There are also plenty of gospel inscriptions and engravings on the facades.
You may also notice the chains hanging from the stones. Those are donations from the Christian prisoners liberated during the Reconquista in Andalusia. Lastly, visit the cloisters. It is an oasis of peace created to represent the Garden of Eden, and it is idyllic.
Address: Calle de los Reyes Católicos, 17
1. Primatial Cathedral of Toledo
Did you know that Toledo’s cathedral took 266 years to complete? The cathedral’s official website states that the work to transform it from a mosque into a church started in 1227 and ended in 1493. However, changes continued for centuries after that date. The result is a mix of French Gothic, Spanish, and Moorish styles, which is also a testimony to the city’s extraordinary history.
You cannot miss the collection of El Greco, Goya, Titian, and Caravaggio’s artworks in the vestry—it’s priceless. Another interesting spot is the Mozarabic Chapel from 1504. It was the only place in Spain to celebrate the Mozarabs rite after the Reconquista. Although I haven’t yet been there during the modern celebrations, their official website states that the rite continues to be celebrated to this day. So you can catch it if you are lucky enough to be there!
Address: Calle Cardenal Cisneros, 1