With more than 2000 years of history, wandering the streets of Toledo will keep you fascinated for days, weeks or even years. For starters, Toledo is all history. Other cities in Spain have their “old quarters” but the other parts of their cities are swallowed up by contemporary life—apartments and industries. Toledo has survived centuries with very little change. After Toledo was rejected as a capital and the court moved to Madrid, it lost importance and had 100’s of years with no growth. It was relatively recently recognized for its historic and touristic importance, but all the years in between saw very little advancement. Now its Cathedrals, Churches, Synagogs, historic buildings and mosques are all protected and are an impressive example of living history.
Toledo was in its time a Roman outpost, a Visigoth capital, an important Moorish centre, the capital of the Christian conquest (which included a part in the Spanish Inquisition), and became the Imperial city under the rule of Alfonso VI.
Top 5 things to do in Toledo
Really headline should be “What isn’t there to see and do in Toledo”? I will try to touch on the highlights, but you will find a lot more than can possibly be mentioned in one blog post. Actually, each of the things I am going to mention could have articles if not books written on them.
See the cultures and history through the architecture
Visit the impressive collection of architectural genius on display. Any of the Cathedrals, Mosques, Synagogues, palaces, churches, monasteries or hospitals that dot Toledo’s landscape would individually be toted as exceptional places to visit in their own right anywhere else. But as we are talking about Toledo which has a collection of all of the above and more I am lumping them all together. It is noteworthy to remember the intertwining of cultures and religions existed for most of their time together peacefully. Each building has a stamp from its original culture, although many have been changed over time by another.
You can buy a Tourist bracelet at the tourist office that lets you enter 8 of the most important monuments in Toledo. The cost is 9Euros/adult (children 11 and under are free). You can enter each monument as many times as you want as long as you have the bracelet on your wrist. So if you are visiting one place, but need to take a break for lunch or a coffee, you can re-enter and pick up the visit where you left off.
Take a guided walking tour of Toledo
Take a guided walking tour of Toledo. There are many layers of history in Toledo and many hidden corners and fascinating legends that you will miss if you wander the streets on your own. If you love history, a guided tour will help you take in as much as you can, and you will get to see places that are off limits to other tourists. There are a huge variety of walking tours available, some are tours that leave from Madrid, some start in Toledo. I have seen them range in price from 20 some Euros/ per person including lunch, to over 220 Euros/ per person. You will have to check the web and see what fits your price range and schedule.
Take a night tour of Toledo
Take a night tour of Toledo. I haven’t had the opportunity to do this yet, but have been told that if Toledo by day is remarkable, at night it is extraordinary. One visitor said that after the tourist buses leave, Toledo becomes another town. All the monuments are lit up at night and give a new perspective of the city. Throughout most of the historic centre, it is pedestrian only, so you can walk around in the narrow cobblestone streets surrounded by the centuries-old buildings and get the feel of how the thriving Toledo may have been in the past. Many tour companies offer after dark tours that specialize in the mysteries and local legends of Toledo.
Take a walk along the river
Take the time to walk along the river. Toledo has a path, called the Green Walk, that meanders along the river just below the walls of Toledo. It is a peaceful walk that many tourists miss in their rush to see all the monuments of Toledo. You will get a new perspective of the city from the Green walk.
Browse the unique shops
Even if you aren't usually much of a shopper, Toledo has a lure with its unique handcraft items. Toledo was famous throughout history for its swords and knives and it prides itself on continuing the tradition of producing some of the best quality of knives (and swords if you should need one of those) in the world.
The craft that fascinates me the most is damasquinados. Dama what???? Damasquinado or damascene handcrafting is the Moorish art of inlaying gold or silver threads into black steel in a decorative pattern. The crafters 1st scratch a design into a plate, earring, bracelet or whatever they are working on, then with a small hammer and a hand as steady as a surgeon's they pound a small thread of gold into the scratch to make an inlaid gold design. The results are exquisite. Talking to the craftsmen who are often working on sight, not only heightens your appreciation for their art but also gives you a peek into the Moorish history of Toledo.
Toledo’s art skills extend to leather goods as well. Shops are full of bags, purses, backpacks, belts and anything else leather you could imagine.
Shopping on Toledo is not your usual tourist experience.
Restaurants to try in Toledo
Toledo held the Gastronomic 2016 title so you can be sure there is no shortage of excellent restaurants in Toledo. After all, eating is a huge part of the culture.
This is a Medeteranian fusion restaurant with leanings to an Asian twist. Tobiko has a diverse menu selection and excellent service. Tobiko has received numerous rave reviews from guests such as: “If I could rate it 6 stars, I would definitely do so.” “The food quality was excellent, and the waiter recommended a really good wine pairing with our food. It is rare to find a restaurant that serves amazing starters, mains and desserts.”
Hours: Tuesday - Sunday open for lunch from 12:00-4:00 p.m. Thursday-Saturday open for dinner from 8:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m
Address: Ronda de Buenavista 27
Reservations: (34) 925 210 589 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is actually a cooking school. The students put their heart and soul into what they are learning and are anxious to try out their new skills. You can expect quality, unique dishes at a very reasonable price.
Hours: Open from Monday - Friday 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Reservations: Telephone (34) 925 257 729 or email: email@example.com
Address: Avda. De Castilla-La Mancha, 30
This multi-award winning restaurant takes your dining experience to the next level. Aldolfo, the owner and chef, creates dishes that are “Extensive and varied. Balanced and healthy. The integration of the most creative cuisine and the most amazing flavours.”
Hours: Lunch—open from 1:00 p.m-4:00 p.m. Dinner—open from 8:00 p.m.-12:00 p.m. Closed Sunday evening.
Reservations: Telephone (34) 925 227 321 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: c/Hombre de Palo, 7
Top Places to stay in Toledo
Hacienda del Cardenal:
At the entrance of one of the main city gates, the Cardenal is close to everything you want to see in Toledo. It is in a beautiful tranquil setting, with the bedrooms overlooking the courtyard and garden below. The garden is an oasis of bubbling fountains, flowering bushes and cobblestone walkways.
Web: Hotel Cardenal
Reservations: Telephone: (34)925 22 49 00) email: email@example.com
Address: Paseo de Recaredo, 24
Price Range: 85-120/night depending on the room and time of year
Hotel Santa Isabel:
Hotel Santa Isabel is in a historic 15th-century building in the heart of Toledo. It boasts a roof terrace and cathedral views. The rooms are basic, clean and welcoming.
Web: Hotel Santa Isabel
Reservations: email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (34) 925 25 31 20)
Address: c/Santa Isabel, 24
Price Range: 50-85 Euros/night depending on room and time of year
Hotel Carlos V:
Immersed in the centre of Toledo with easy access to all the sights, Hotel Carlos V offers quality rooms for excellent value, excellent service and a buffet breakfast. I have never stayed at the Hotel Carlos V, but all the comments I could find sing its praises. They all remark on the cleanliness, quality of rooms and of the service as well as how much they enjoyed the terrace restaurant that overlooks Toledo.
Web: Hotel Carlos V
Reservations: Telephone: (34) 925 222 100, email: email@example.com
Address: Plaza Horno Magdalena s/n
Price Range: Prices start at 85/night for a double room and go up to 130/night depending on the room (some have jacuzzi) Check their special offers on the web, they often post deals.