Toledo: Spain’s must-see city of marzipan and swords

Only half an hour from Madrid by train, Toledo is a favourite for day-trips from the Spanish capital. But this is one of Europe’s prettiest walled cities – it deserves so much more than a quick rush around the sights. Our two-night stay was nowhere near long enough, but gave us time to fall in love with the city famed for marzipan and swords.

Located 71km south of Madrid, you can get to Toledo easily from Madrid’s immense Atocha station. High-speed trains take just 33-minutes, and stop at Toledo’s gorgeous railway station which has surely won an architectural award or two over the years. Once the capital of Spain itself, Toledo is now firmly a tourist town in the same vein as the likes of Venice and Bruges. If you haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for?

The old city is dramatically sited high on a hill in a meander of the River Tagus. To get there from the station, you can either take a short taxi ride (about €5), or go the quirky way by using the free escalator. As we were arriving quite late after a long day’s travelling, we got straight in a taxi which rattled through the cobbled streets and dropped us at our hotel in five minutes. I imagine the narrow, windy streets of Toledo would make a good car-chase scene for a future Bourne film – I was certainly glad I wasn’t driving out here. Some streets are not much wider than a small car, and drivers frequently had to do three point turns to get around tight corners.

One of Toledo’s most popular sights is its huge gothic cathedral (above), which we had the perfect view of from our hotel’s rooftop terrace. We checked-in and wandered up Calle de Comercio in search of a bar showing the Euro 2016 semi-final between Wales and Portugal. After sampling pinchos and the locally brewed Domus lager at Lizarran while Ronaldo ran riot, we moved on.

I was glad I had a map with me, and was fully expecting to get lost a few times in the coming 48 hours. This main street is lined with souvenir shops selling swords, knives and shields. Toledo is famous for its manufacture of steel swords, and any warrior worth his salt would have chosen a sword made of Toledo steel. I didn’t fancy my chances of bringing one back into the UK with Ryanair, so I saved my money for the city’s second claim to fame.

According to legend, nuns in the city’s convents invented marzipan when they mixed sugar with almonds during a famine. Every shop in Toledo sells either swords or marzipan, and we headed to the city’s main square, the majestically named Plaza de Zocodover, to enjoy plates of the latter at El Foro.

The next morning, we returned to Plaza de Zocodover, and boarded the 10.30 tourist train for a 45-minute loop around the old city before heading back down the hill and alongside the river. This is a great way to see the city from down below, and we were grateful when the driver pulled in to allow us to take photos of Toledo from the other side of the river. Clearly visible from outside, and dominating the city is the impressive hilltop fortress, the Alcázar, which now houses a military museum. Although it may look a bit grey and grim from my photos, the temperature didn’t drop below 38C – it was just our luck to get rare cloudy days.

After our train ride, we walked to the Puente de San Martin bridge for more photos of the old city, and thought it must have narrowly missed out to Dubrovnik as the setting for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Alongside the bridge is Fly Toledo, which claims to be “Europe’s longest urban zip-line” across the river. It’s only €10, and I regret not having a go now.


We then took a stroll from the bridge through the old city, marvelling at the different architectural styles and thinking a week wouldn’t be long enough to see everything Toledo has to offer. Known as the city of three cultures because of the historical co-existence of Christians, Jews and Muslims you will find churches, synagogues and mosques, and the whole old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also the Spanish home of the Greek painter, El Greco – there is an El Greco museum and walking trail if you want more culture.


By day, Toledo is packed with day-trippers, but after dusk there’s a more relaxed feel and you can pick and choose from the many bars and restaurants. Annoyingly, the prime spots in Plaza de Zocodover are taken up by McDonalds and Burger King, but we found another pretty little square, Plaza San Justo, and enjoyed a jug of sangria sitting outside a bar called Virtudes amongst trees and stray cats. The bar has an outdoor stage for live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Unfortunately, we left Toledo on a Friday morning but if we are lucky enough to return one weekend, we will be heading back here (after the zip-line, that is).



Categories: France and SpainTags: , ,


  1. Hi. I discovered your site a couple of months ago and really enjoy it, especially as you seem to like Italy as much as we do. We also like Spain and are heading to Toledo in September (although sadly, only as a day trip from Madrid) and this was a nice taster! I could only fit in one over-nighter this trip and its going to be Salamanca. We are really looking forward to the whole trip. Thanks again for the report – Iain.

    • Thanks for the kind words. September should be a lovely time to visit, July was stupidly hot. On a day-trip, I’d definitely recommend that tourist train from the main square. I didn’t mention Toledo is also this year’s Spanish ‘City of Gastronomy’ so you should eat well. If you’ve got time for another day trip, Segovia sounds gorgeous. I can’t comment on Salamanca as I’ve not been, but am jealous – enjoy! Fellow blogger Andrew has a good page on Spain here:

  2. I was looking forward to this one, richard. Just got time to squeeze you in before Sunday lunch 🙂 You liked the city then? Lady of the Cakes is a little disenchanted with it but then she’s lived and worked there for a number of years. Different outlook. 🙂 I would think the cloud cover would be good with those temps, if not so good for your shots. the place reminds me a little of Cordoba.

    • Loved it Jo, wish we could go back. I can imagine people who live there could get a little pee’d off with the tourists and prices. Kat desperately needed a hairdryer out there, but when we asked where the best place was to buy one we were laughed at and told ‘Toledo’s not that kind of town’! Great for swords and marzipan, less so for anything practical!

  3. I studied in Spain for three months in uni, and it’s where I fell in love with Spain. If you go back, try to eat at Palacios, the restaurant where my study abroad group ate at every night with the program 🙂 I’m so grateful for those three months as Toledo is amazing.

  4. One of my favorite cities in Spain, although I didn’t get enough time there. Your post was a nice reminder!

  5. Toledo looks nice, didn’t know it was walled – I like walled cities. I’m in Pamplona for the summer and hope to get some good shots of the walls here too.

  6. Nice to hear about Toledo! I studied in Spain for four months and admittedly never got there (or knew anyone who had!). There are so many places in Spain I still need to return to. Adding Toledo to the list!

  7. I’d love to visit it!:)

  8. Looks lovely – I was in Madrid last weekend (nice and warm!) but didn’t make it out of the city as we only had a couple of days. This seems to have turned into my year of Spain trips and I’m getting more and more places I’d like to visit – one more for the list!

    • It was far too hot when I was there in early July. We had two nights in Madrid too – I saw your request for suggestions, but you seemed to have it covered in your responses! Looking forward to your posts…

  9. I had never heard of Toledo. It looks really pretty. The first photo with the river is just stunning. I will have to remember this when visiting Madrid as it is so easy to do as a day trip, but staying the night sounds a better option. I always assumed that marzipan was German, but there you go!

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