Escape the busy streets of Madrid for the quiet walkways of Toledo. Forty-five miles away from Madrid, Toledo makes a great day trip for just about any traveler. Transportation is easy, with high-speed trains that can deliver you at the base of the city in 30 minutes or buses in about an hour. Arrive early in the morning to beat the tour buses.
Located on top of a hill, Toledo overlooks the Spanish countryside. It is compacted with history, with origins dating back over 2,500 years to the Romans.
Visitors flock to the city’s old cathedral. If you think every cathedral in Europe is the same, this one is not. It took over 250 years to complete and was finished in 1495. The Gothic altar is remarkable, with gilded Biblical scenes. Inside the cathedral’s sacristy is a mini art museum that houses eighteen El Grecos and other Spanish paintings.
The next must-stop is the Alcázar of Toledo, located in what was once a 3rd-century fortress. The Alcázar contains many historical army artifacts, from uniforms to firearms and swords.
A visit to Toledo isn’t complete without the sampling of Mazapán. Purchase a few almond desserts from one of the many shops and enjoy them while strolling the town. They also make great gifts to bring back to friends and family.
Consider staying at Castillo de San Servando Hostel. Dating back to the 14th century, the hostel was once a castle that was used to defend the walled-off city. Unlike youth hostels of the past, rooms have recently been renovated with private facilities. Room rates are reasonable, starting at 15 Euros ($21 USD) a night per person.