A day trip to Toledo from Madrid is one of the best things you can do while visiting the Spanish capital. Perched on a hill, the city of Toledo boasts an undeniable beauty and interesting history that has made it a popular destination for Madrid visitors.
Toledo is known as the “City of Three Cultures” for how Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived harmoniously. The evidence can be found in the streets lined with synagogues, churches, and mosques in close proximity.
But, Toledo is more than just a melting pot of cultures and religions. In addition to the religious landmarks, the city is full of fun activities for all travelers. Here’s how to spend a day in Toledo and how to get there.
How Far is Toledo from Madrid?
Toledo is approximately 74 km (46 miles) away from Madrid. This translates to around an hour-long drive from the capital. This proximity has helped in making the City of Three Cultures one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Madrid.
How to Get to Toledo from Madrid
If you’re set on taking a day trip to Toledo from Madrid, you’ve got several options for getting there.
Getting to Toledo by Train
Getting to Toledo by train is possibly the most convenient way (and fastest) to travel. High-speed AVE trains depart all day from Atocha Station and will take around half an hour to get to Toledo.
You can purchase a ticket online or at the train station, with tickets costing as low as €10 ($10.24).
Getting to Toledo by Bus
Taking a bus is the cheapest way to begin your day trip from Madrid to Toledo. A single ticket costs around €5 ($5.12), and buses depart from Plaza Eliptica during the day. However, the bus will take around one hour and a half to reach Toledo.
The bus has an advantage over the train, though, per its arrival destination. Buses arrive much closer to central Toledo than trains, saving you minutes of walking or hailing a cab.
Getting to Toledo by Car
If you’ve chosen to rent a car or drive your own vehicle for the journey, that’s also an available option. In Toledo, you’ll find many parking spaces to station your car while you explore the town. With a vehicle, you also have the most flexibility and freedom to see attractions outside the city.
The journey will take approximately one hour along the A-42, with fuel costs being the only thing you’ll have to worry about paying for.
Getting to Toledo by Tour
As a first-time Toledo visitor, it’s only natural that you may want to have a tour guide accompany you from attraction to attraction. Therefore, we recommend joining in on a tour to Toledo from Madrid as a transport alternative. These always include transportation in addition to the guide, and you’ll be hopping from one attraction to another.
Getting Around in Toledo
Toledo is a relatively small city, with its points of interest situated close to each other in northern Toledo. Therefore, it’s walkable, but some parts may be harder to navigate than others.
If you aren’t okay with walking, you can drive your way around the city or use public transportation. A Toledo tourist trolley will take visitors from one attraction to the other. There’s also a hop-on hop-off bus doing the same. The bus pass lasts for 24 hours, and we recommend getting it for a convenient transport option.
What to Do in Toledo
As soon as you land in Toledo, you’ll have a maze of streets and landmarks to navigate. And without a guide or tips for traveling in Toledo, you can easily get lost — but locals are always ready to help in any case.
So, here’s a list of what to do to see Toledo in a day.
Visit the Cathedral of Toledo
The Cathedral of Toledo is one of the best cathedrals in Spain. It was initially Toledo’s central mosque before becoming a church, which was destroyed in 1220.
Today, it is a landmark that boasts a mixture of architectural styles inside and outside. It’s often considered by many to be one of the greatest Gothic-style buildings in Spain.
While posing for pictures with the cathedral in the background is a must-do, the true beauty lies inside. The cathedral’s walls are draped in art made by artists like Francesco Goya, El Greco, and more.
Climb the flight of stairs to get rewarded with even more beauty. Once you reach the bell tower, you’ll enjoy picturesque views of the Toledo landscape.
This all comes at a price, though, with admission tickets costing €8 ($8.19). You can also book a skip-the-line tour for guided visits.
Alcázar of Toledo
The Alcázar of Toledo was originally built in the 3rd century as a Roman palace and served as a royal residence. It’s a stone fortification located in the city’s highest part and thus overlooks Toledo’s streets and can be seen from many places.
The Alcázar has seen a lot during its time, including a civil war in 1936 that saw commander Moscardo refuse to relinquish it in exchange for his son’s life.
Today, it’s open to the public, as it houses the Army Museum and its many war memorabilia. Visit here to view military artifacts, including a sword collection of the finest blades. There are also displays of the ruined state of the castle and recreation of Moscardo’s office covered in bullet holes.
Above that, it houses a library at the top, which is worth visiting for more than just books. Make your way here, and you’ll be rewarded with a vista offering a bird’s eye view of the city.
Admission isn’t free here either, with entry costing €5 ($5.12) per person.
Synagogue of El Transito
In addition to Christian buildings, there are former Jewish and Muslim structures waiting to be explored in Toledo. The Synagogue of El Transito is one such landmark, although it’s no longer used for the original purpose it was built for in 1356.
Today, it houses the Museo Sefardí, which contains a history of the Jewish people in Spain. Walk through the restored main prayer hall, and you’ll find elements of Mudéjar and stucco decorations draped on the walls.
Inside the building, you’ll find archaeological artifacts, traditional costumes, ceremonial objects, and a memorial garden to pay your respects.
Admission to the synagogue costs €3 ($3.07) per person.
Santa Cruz Museum
Museo de Santa Cruz is another interesting building to visit in Toledo, although it doesn’t have much religious significance. The museum is the perfect stop for lovers of all sorts of art. Here, you’ll find a wide range of beautiful art pieces and ceramics.
It was originally a hospital built in the 16th century before being converted into a museum and art gallery. On display are artworks by El Greco and other Spanish artists.
Upon entry, you’ll be amazed by the cross-shaped layout of the museum. Walk around and you’ll see art that is accompanied by explanatory boards. This helps put some much-needed context to the art.
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
While one of the smallest mosques in Spain, its historical significance more than makes up for its size. The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz was later converted into a church, which it still is today. It dates back to Spain’s Moorish period and has retained the same charm it had when it was still in use for its original purpose.
While short on attractions, you’re bound to still enjoy a visit here, especially if you’re a fan of architecture. An intricate bare-brick exterior welcomes you before you encounter white horseshoe arches, Kufic inscriptions on the wall, and some original paintings.
Look up, and you’ll see a white geometric ceiling basking in the light. Head outside, and you’ll find gardens offering scenic views of Toledo and a Roman road featuring Roman relics.
Admission here costs €3 ($3.07) per person.
Castle of San Servando
Originally built as a monastery, this castle was eventually used as a fortress by the Knights Templar. It enjoys an elevated position and is a marvel to look at. The castle is likely the first landmark you’ll see upon landing here since it’s close to the Toledo train station.
Unfortunately, it’s a private property today, and you can’t enter inside. But you can take a ton of pictures from outside. You can also enjoy town views as it’s perched on top of a hill that overlooks the Tagus River.
Puente de San Martin and Puente de Alcántara
To enjoy more scenic views of the Tagus River, head to these two footbridges. Puente de San Martin and Puente de Alcántara have been around for centuries and have undergone restorative efforts several times.
Puente de San Martin is a medieval bridge that has the Tagus River passing under its arches and is surrounded by greenery. Puente de Alcantara is a Roman arch bridge just by the Castle of San Servando, with views of Toledo architectural buildings in the background.
Head to either one and take a picture of the idyllic scenery.
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes
This Franciscan monastery was built in the 15th century and sits in Toledo’s Jewish quarter. Monarchs built the building to celebrate their victory in the Battle of Toro and commemorate the birth of their son. The monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, had also intended this to be their last resting place but changed course and chose Granada for that purpose.
While it features awe-inspiring architecture throughout, the monastery is most famous for its two-level cloister. Here, you’ll see vaulted ceilings, arches, small statues on the walls, and more. There’s also a garden featuring verdant flora surrounded by the cloister.
Entry into the monastery costs €3 ($3.07) per person.
Mirador del Valle
While Toledo has viewpoints by the dozens, there aren’t many that compare to Mirador del Valle. This spot is consistently called the best viewpoint in Toledo — and we’re inclined to agree.
You’ll find Mirador del Valle located across the Tejo River, offering a scenic view of the whole city. Gaze in awe as the river mirrors its surrounding greenery and views of Toledo from east to west all at once.
This vista is best visited in the morning during sunrise or later in the day during sunset. However, it’s still a good option at any time during the day. If you’re an art buff, you’ll quickly realize the similarities between your view and El Greco’s “Vista of Toledo” painting. How cool, right?
You can reach this spot by bus or by driving up here for around 10 minutes, but you can also walk up for 30 minutes from the Toledo train station.
Plaza de Zocodover
Plaza de Zocodover may not rival the many Madrid plazas, but it’s still worth visiting as it has its own allure. It has been through a lot in its history, having been a place where markets thrived, bullfighting took place, and public executions were carried out.
Today, it’s the social center of Toledo and has a bustling atmosphere of restaurants, cafes, and a buzzing social life. It also plays host to a weekly market that’s held every Tuesday.
This plaza is the best place to stop and fill up with some good Spanish food, although there are also eateries selling international delicacies.
Head to La Otra Boveda for Spanish dishes, La Casa de Damasco for vegetarian goodies, and Comes Pizzería for Italian delights. Il Cappuccino is available for hot beverages, while La Tabernita is a great spot to wet your whistle.
Additional Tips for a Toledo Day Trip from Madrid
Here are a few more tips to ensure you have a pleasant experience on your day trips to Toledo:
- Wear appropriate shoes that can handle some of Toledo’s hilly terrains.
- While it may be tempting to buy your train or bus tickets in person, we recommend getting them online to avoid potentially long lines.
- Most attractions open at 10 am, so be sure to head to Toledo a little later than usual. Also, be sure to check the operating hours so you don’t get disappointed.
Final Thoughts on a Madrid to Toledo Day Trip
There it is, a comprehensive guide on how to enjoy the Madrid-Toledo day trip. With this guide, you should know how to get here and some of the best things to do in Toledo, Spain.
You can explore this small Spanish city on a day trip or choose to spend a night seeing everything it has to offer. And there’s quite a lot, from architectural wonders and artwork to panoramic vistas and historically significant buildings.
So, begin your preparations right now and see for yourself the charm of Toledo—consider booking a Toledo Airbnb if you’ll sleep in the small city.