While I love the excitement of arriving at the airport, going through security (total sarcasm here) and boarding my flight to some exciting destination, I also love the fun of a simple day trip. There are so many places that we can explore within a 1-3 hour drive of us, wherever we are. I love taking day trips and where I live in Spain, there are so many!
Over Semana Santa, I traveled in Ireland and England for a little bit. On my way back home, I found cheaper airfare into Madrid. Since I’ve already been to Madrid several times, I decided to take a day trip to Toledo. Toledo is a perfect day trip from Madrid as it’s a one-hour away. And it’s also a city that you do not want to miss. It’s full of so much history and things to see. And the architecture is very unique.
How to get there from Madrid
If you do not have a car like me or are just traveling through Spain for a bit, do not worry. It’s very easy to get to Toledo.
- BlaBlaCar. This is a ride-sharing app that is used throughout Europe. It is especially popular in Spain and I use it all the time. Simply put in your to and from locations, and your date of travel, and you will see all the available journeys for that day. Sometimes one fits your schedule and sometimes none do.
- Alsa. This is the big bus company that goes all throughout Spain. They had buses leaving every hour from Madrid. For Toledo, you want to make sure you get a direct bus and not one that stops in all the pueblos along the way. There are two.
- Train. You can get a Renfe train out to Toledo as well. The train ends up being more expensive than both BlaBlaCar and the bus, but it is an option as well.
I have this wonderful application called GoEuro that I use, especially when I’m not as familiar with an area. This app basically compares modes of transportation for you, including airfare. It’s part of the reason I went to Liverpool (16 euro airfare!!), but that’s a story for another blog post.
I ended up taking the bus and it was a very easy process.
A day trip to Toledo
The city of Toledo has many monuments to explore and see. In fact, I was not even able to see every single one. But I made it to as many as I could.
It is known as the city of three cultures as the Christians, Arabs and Jews lived there peacefully for centuries. I think that is so neat, especially considering our world today. Because of some less than pretty things in Spanish history, there are hardly any Jewish people living in Spain. As an American, this is just very odd for me at times. My next door neighbors growing up were Jewish and in general, Jewish people are just a part of American society everywhere. I grew up respecting them and having a base knowledge of their traditions. Then here in Spain I find that most Spanish people while they would not have any prejudice towards a Jewish person, they just have an ignorance of their culture. One of my coworkers, for example, did not know what Hanukkah was. So in short, I’m glad that the synagogues have been preserved so Spanish people can at least learn something about Judaism.
Inside the city, you can explore old churches, synagogues and mosques. I opted to purchase a tourist bracelet for 9 euros that got me entrance inside seven monuments. Each monument alone cost around 2.50-2.80 euros. So you can see where that could add up after a while.
1. Santa Maria la Blanca, Antigua Sinagoga
They are not exactly sure when the synagogue was built, but it was somewhere in the 1200’s. It was thought to be the main synagogue of the Jewish quarter. There was a fire in 1250 and afterwards it was rebuilt. In the 1500’s, before the big expulsion of all the Jewish people (insert large sad face emoji here), it was used as a church.
2. Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
I love exploring old monasteries. Typically, they have beautiful gardens in the center and their architecture is amazing. This monument was built in the year 1476 by the Catholic Monarchs. It housed Franciscan monks for a while. Over the years, the monastery went through troubles and transitions with the French revolution and other orders coming in. In the 1950’s, it was restored back to the Franciscans.
3. Real Colegio de Doncellas Nobles
This place was a bit of a walk, but very worth it. Toledo is full of windy streets and it can be easy to get turned around. I overheard an American guy saying to his group that while he looks stuff up on his GPS, he still gets lost. I feel ya bud.
Anyway, so thanks to my data and Google Maps, I found this place.
The altar in this place is simply amazing. I absolutely loved the gold.
4. The Iglesias
Iglesia de los Jesuitas is where you can get a nice view of the entire city. It’s amazing.
The rest of the church wasn’t bad either …
Next was Iglesia del Salvador or the church with the cool ruins out back. Seriously you go in, turn to your left, go under some stairs, out this back door and there are ruins on the patio! Woah!
Iglesia Santo Tome was not really entirely open for viewing that day. It was also crowded. So I did not really snap any images there that I consider quality. But it was a part of the bracelet, so I went.
5. Mezquita del cristo de la luz
This was a former mosque and it is amazing. The garden is fantastic. Basically, like a lot of former mosques in Spain, it was a mosque when the Moors were in Spain and then the Christians converted it to a cathedral (cough La Mezquita in Cordoba). Crazy and questionable history aside, it was beautiful to tour. I loved the gardens. It was perhaps the best way to end my day trip to Toledo.
What a day
Toledo is a wonderful time. Here is what I would advise:
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. You walk a lot … up hills, down hills, across bridges and everything in between.
- Bring a portable cell phone changer. You will see about a thousand things that you’ll want to post to your Snapchat or Insta story (or both). Your battery will suffer.
- Drink water. Drink so much water. I got so thirsty. I ended up just going to a bar and asking if I could buy a bottle of water to go. Make sure you stay well-hydrated
- Go early and leave late. Give yourself as much time as you can to explore the city.