So, due to a variety of factors (stupid covid, Spanish holidays, etc.), we ended up spending something like twelve days in Madrid during our seven or so weeks in Spain. Which is a lot of time in Madrid. A lot.
Most of that time was spent eating. Did you know you can get amazing Indonesian food in Madrid? And Chinese? And Japanese? And pizza? Well, you can.
But, one can’t spend twelve days in the same city without doing anything other than eating. Even we can’t do that. So, we looked for day trips. And, everywhere we looked said Toledo was a must do. And, as a bonus, the entire old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. And we love UNESCO World Heritage sites. So, off we went.
Toledo is a really easy train trip from Madrid — it only takes about 30 minutes on the high speed train. And, the touristy parts of Toledo are right near the train station. I would say they are an easy walk from the train station. But, what nobody tells you is that a day trip to Toledo means walking up hill and down hill and up hill and down hill and up hill and down hill. I kid you not, I don’t think there is a flat street anywhere in town. And, while there are a couple of escalators (and you should definitely take advantage of them), you will still spend your day walking up and down hills.
That said, other than the hills, Toledo is a beautiful city. It is known as the City of Three Cultures, due to the influence of Christians, Jews and Muslims. And, at over 2000 years old, you just know there is a ton to see.
We started by walking up hill (of course) and passing the Puerta de Bisagra, which is the only remaining part of the Moorish town walls. It was originally constructed back in the 10th or 11th century (depends on who you believe) and was the primary entrance to the city (and, thus, the place where the tax collectors gathered). It is one of the more impressive city gates we have seen.
But, we didn’t enter the city through the Puerta de Bisagra. Nope, we walked right by it to make our way to the Circo Romano. The Circus was built in the 1st century and used until the 4th or 5th century after which it was abandoned. Truth be told, there isn’t much left of it. Apparently, over the years the Circus was used as a quarry and many of the stones are long gone. But, if you enjoy old Roman ruins, it is fun to see.
After the Circus, we walked uphill until we came to one of the many escalators. Up we went, feeling oh so very proud of ourselves for finding an escalator. Only to find out that the top of the escalator was not the top of the city. And to realize we were a bit lost. And to stupidly walk uphill only to promptly walk down hill. Dumb, dumb. dumb. (Word to the wise . . . don’t follow our route if you visit Toledo as we walked in circles . . . .)
Our first stop inside the old city was the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz. The Mezquita was built in 999 (nope, not a typo) and is shockingly small. By 1085 or so, it had been converted to a church. Honestly, there wasn’t much to see there, but the building is pretty.
The Puerta del Sol can be seen from the gardens of the Mezquita. But, you are better off walking down the stairs to get a better view. But, if you walk down, you are going to have to walk back up . . . .
Next, we walked to the Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes. Which meant walking back uphill and right past the escalator we had ridden up just a short time go. Ugh. The monastery was built by Ferdinand and Isabella (well, I’m sure they didn’t actually lift a hammer or anything) back between 1477 and 1504 to commemorate both the birth of their son and the Battle of Toro (nope, I had never heard of that but it was apparently a battle against Portugal). It is in the heart of the Jewish Quarter and at least some people think it was placed there intentionally to show the (supposed) supremacy of Catholicism. Probably a thought that is not that far off from reality given that Ferdinand and Isabella started the Inquisition in 1478.
Then, we walked to the Santa Maria La Blanca synagogue. Thankfully, the synagogue was only slightly uphill from the monastery. The synagogue was built back in 1180, and some people believe it is the oldest synagogue that is still standing in Europe. Believe it or not, it was built by Islamic architects. In the 15th century, it was converted to a church (with its current name, of course it was — it was originally known as Ibn Shushan synagogue). Today, it is jut an empty monument run by the Catholic Church. Although the Jewish community has asked that the synagogue be returned to them, it appears the Catholic Church is refusing to return the building (because, of course it is).
Our next stop was the cathedral. The cathedral was impressive from the outside and is apparently the second largest cathedral in Spain (the cathedral is Seville is the largest). It took nearly 300 years to build. We didn’t go inside though — they wanted an unbelievable ten Euros per person to visit the cathedral and we just weren’t willing to pay that much to go inside a church. Rumor is that it is quite nice inside.
Our last stop sightseeing stop was the Alcazar. The Alcazar is at the highest part of the city. It was originally built during Roman times and restored in the 1500’s. Today, it is home to an army museum.
If you are looking for a day trip from Madrid, you can’t go wrong with Toledo. But, it wasn’t our favorite day trip. Stay tuned to see what was our our favorite . . . .