Toledo, Spain is the place to be for art, history and architecture lovers. As it’s situated just an hour’s drive from Madrid, it’s a popular day trip — but there’s so much to explore you’ll want to spend more time here.
From the medieval Gothic structures to the famous El Greco’s influence to the strong role the city played during the Spanish Inquisition, Toledo is a captivating city that’s well worth a visit to get a deeper understanding of Spanish history.
Here are 16 of the best things to do in Toledo, Spain!
- Admire the Toledo Cathedral
- Visit the Top of Toledo at the Alcazar
- Cross the Puente de San Martin
- Wander Around the Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes
- Get Lost in the Juderia District
- Traverse La Muralla
- Have a Meal in Plaza de Zocodover
- See Toledo From Europe’s Longest Zip Line
- Gaze at Masterpieces at the El Greco Museum
- Check out the Collections at Museum of Santa Cruz
- Get the Chills in Museo de la Tortura
- Enjoy Panoramic Views from Mirador del Valle
- Take Flight in a Hot Air Balloon
- Explore Toledo Underground
- Eat Your Heart Out in Toledo
- Learn About Toledo from A Local
Admire the Toledo Cathedral
One of the most important buildings in Toledo and all of Spain, Catedral Primada, or the Toledo Cathedral is considered the most impressive Gothic structure in Europe.
Construction began in 1227, and it was actually built atop what was once a mosque during Moorish rule. It took 250 years for the elaborate hall of worship to be completed, showing a fantastic evolution of Gothic architecture over the ages.
Full of hidden corners, secret rooms, and fantastic works of art by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya and Caravaggio, visiting the Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Toledo.
If you’re interested in learning more about the mysteries that lie within these walls, consider taking a tour of the cathedral with a local guide!
Visit the Top of Toledo at the Alcazar
As the highest point in Toledo, you can’t miss the Alcazar, sitting grandly on a 550-meter tall hill.
Once a fortress due to the unbeatable vantage point, the Alcazar was revamped in the 16th century into a Renaissance-style palace and it was meant to serve as the royal residence for Charles V. However, by the time construction finished, Spanish royalty had already made their home base in Madrid, leaving the grand structure to the city.
Royalty or not, the Alcazar is majestic all the same, with soaring Renaissance architecture and different facades on each of the four sides demonstrating different building techniques throughout the construction process.
Today, Toledo’s Alcazar is home to a museum with exhibitions centered mainly around weapons and military strategy over the ages. But if that’s not appealing, it also has one of the best panoramic views of the city, which makes it well worth a visit.
Cross the Puente de San Martin
As one of the main symbols of Toledo, a gander across the Puente de San Martin should not be missed.
This medieval bridge connects the two banks of the Tajo River, providing an incredible view of Old Town as you cross it. There are towers on either side and a stunning reflection in the water, making it a scenic stroll.
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Wander Around the Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes
Commissioned by the most famous Spanish monarchs, Isabella I and Ferdinand II, the Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes was built for multiple reasons. The royal monarchs wished to celebrate their son’s birth by erecting this stunning structure, but they also intended it to be a mausoleum and war memorial to commemorate a battle won to protect their reign.
The building itself is quite remarkable, constructed in an Elizabethan-Gothic style with strong Arab influence. It’s long and narrow, with countless chapels hanging off each side and an ornately etched ceiling. On the outside of the monastery, you’ll see chains carved into the granite facade, depicting the freeing of Christians during the Catholic Monarch’s reign.
The Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes is a beautiful place to spend a few hours exploring, especially for history and architecture buffs.
Get Lost in the Juderia District
While Muslim and Catholic rule dominated Toledo, there was still a strong Jewish community that occupied a quarter of the city.
Today, the Juderia District is the most hauntingly stunning place to visit in the city, with fantastically preserved buildings and Jewish culture hidden around every corner.
The most important landmark in La Juderia is the Synagogue of El Transito, which was built during the 1350s in Mudejar style. Inside, you’ll find Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy, as well as geometric tiles and stucco walls. There’s also a museum on-site which is worth a visit if you’re curious about Spain’s turbulent Jewish history.
Another noteworthy place to visit is Santa Maria la Blanca, a 12th century Mudejar synagogue that was converted to a church after the Christian Reconquest of Toledo in 1405. Inside, you’ll find an exquisite collection of fine white arches and pillars, as well as an artfully designed ceiling (as was common with Mudejar architecture).
Traverse La Muralla
Surrounding Toledo are impressive walls, designed to protect the medieval city from intruders. They were originally constructed by the Romans but underwent several expansions throughout Visigoth, Moorish, and Christian rule.
The walls stand tall over the city and are open to visitors who want to walk along them and take in views of the land below.
Around the walls are numerous gates, providing entry into the center of Toledo, all constructed in different styles to reflect the evolution the walls have undergone.
La Puerta de Bisagra is the most well-known city gate of Toledo and the only remains of the Moorish part of the wall. Constructed in the 9th century, the gate features an arched entrance flanked by two massive circular towers. Through the gate is a passageway to Old Town.
Another notable gate along the wall is Puerta del Sol, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the 14th century. It sits in the northern part of the wall and is in classic Mudejar design that’s common throughout Toledo. Walk through the scalloped arches and admire the small details along the battlements.
Have a Meal in Plaza de Zocodover
As the central meeting place in Toledo, Plaza de Zocodover is positively electric. There are people here day and night, congregating for a meal, beer or one of the many public ceremonies held throughout the year.
Plaza de Zocodover has always been the center for hustle and bustle in Toledo. In Moorish times, it was the location of a large horse market, then the site of a massive weekly market until the mid-20th century. It was also the place where heretics were condemned during the Spanish Inquisition, showing how deep the history of this particular plaza runs.
Today, there are loads of restaurants and outdoor terraces, shops and street performers — creating a much more pleasant atmosphere than when the area was used for burning people at the stake, if you ask me.
See Toledo From Europe’s Longest Zip Line
The most fun thing to do in Toledo is riding Europe’s longest zip line which spans 180 meters through the city!
On this thrilling adventure, you’ll race along the San Martin bridge and travel from one side of the Tajo River to the other, taking in city sights the entire time.
You don’t need any experience for this activity and as you’re completely strapped in, it’s perfect for anyone – even those who aren’t thrilled about heights. When you arrive at the meeting point, you’ll have a safety briefing and have help getting all your gear to fit just right. Only then will you be ready to hit the cable!
There’s nothing quite as special as seeing Toledo speed past you on this wild zip line. And what’s more, the awesome zip line company even takes photos for you to take home!
Gaze at Masterpieces at the El Greco Museum
One of the most influential Spanish artists who ever lived, El Greco holds a special place in Toledo. He not only lived here during the 17th century but painted stunning cityscapes of the area, showcasing the rolling green hills and the pointed, stone architecture which led Toledo to great fame.
The El Greco Museum pays homage to the long-time resident by displaying his works of art and educating visitors on his life.
You can see his cityscapes on display at Museo El Greco, alongside more than 20 masterpieces by the artist himself. The museum also has works by Zubaran and Miranda, two other important Spanish artists.
Attached to the museum you’ll find Casa El Greco where the artist was known to have lived. It was renovated in the early 1900s, decorated with his furniture and sculptures, and then opened to visitors. There’s a garden connecting the two buildings, perfect for enjoying some sunshine before popping back inside.
The El Greco Museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30am to 7:30pm (closing at 6.00pm in the winter months), and from 10.00am to 3.00m on Sundays, with tickets costing €3. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Check out the Collections at Museum of Santa Cruz
Another fabulous museum in Toledo is Museo de Santa Cruz, located in a 16th century hospital. The facade is beyond elegant, with life-like plasterwork depicting religious scenes framed by twists of decorative plaster vines.
It’s set up so the museum is centered around a large courtyard surrounded by columns and arches, and filled with blooming plants. Galleries are off the courtyard, organized to form a large cross.
Inside the exhibition halls, you’ll find three different collections:
- Fine Arts, where you’ll find 16th and 17th century art, the most famous being El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin;
- Decorative Arts, filled with 15th century Flemish tapestries and local craftsmanship; and
- Archaeology, filled with artifacts from Roman, Visigothic, Moorish and Mudejar rule of Toledo.
Museo de Santa Cruz is open Monday to Saturday from 10.00am to 5:45pm, and on Sundays from 9.00am to 2:45pm. Tickets are just €4!
Get the Chills in Museo de la Tortura
For a museum that’s anything but orthodox, head to Museo de la Tortura to explore a huge range of Spanish torture instruments.
The museum consists of five rooms and displays methods of torture and execution with vivid descriptions for historical background and context.
You’ll find classic torture devices like the iron maiden and the rack, and more obscure pieces like the thumb vice, choke pear, and spike crusted interrogation chairs… spooky. Most of the devices on display here were used during the Spanish Inquisition and other turbulent times in medieval Europe, giving visitors a chilling feeling as they wander through the halls.
Entry to the museum costs €5 and it isn’t for the fainthearted. That being said, this is certainly one of the top things to do off the beaten path in Toledo!
Enjoy Panoramic Views from Mirador del Valle
One of the best things to do in Toledo is to make your way to the top of Mirador del Valle for insane views of the city.
Mirador del Valle dangles just above the Tajo River; from here you can take in sights of the Cathedral, Alcazar, city walls, and the stone architecture so common in Toledo. Lined by the curve of a river, it’s a picture perfect spot to watch the sunset and enjoy the view.
You can reach Mirador del Valle by either walking from Puente Nuevo de Alcantara or catching the hop-on-hop-off bus from Plaza de Zocodover.
Take Flight in a Hot Air Balloon
A more special way to get in some panoramic views of Toledo is by taking a hot air balloon tour over the city!
This unique experience is perfect for anyone hoping to get an unparalleled aerial view of Toledo’s scenery and surrounding areas. Departing at sunrise, you’ll watch the land below you light up with a fiery glow and admire the sun bouncing off the landscape and city buildings.
Before taking off, the staff will provide you with a complete safety briefing, and then you’ll set sail in the air over Toledo.
When you land after your flight, you’ll be treated to a delicious lunch and a glass of wine, with a certificate and a recording of the trip. Talk about a morning well-spent!
Explore Toledo Underground
To get off the tourist track in Toledo and explore a less known part of the city, take an underground tour of the maze that lies below the city streets.
On this excursion, you’ll make your way through hidden underground passageways, squeeze through tunnels leading to secret spas and baths, and learn about the mysteries of Toledo from a local guide. You’ll visit the Old City hammam from the 11th century, the Roman baths, Salvador’s Well, Church of the Savior, and the “House of the Jew,” with your guide sharing stories about these areas the entire time.
This is a great opportunity to discover a less well-known history of Toledo and walk paths that have been around since early civilization!
Eat Your Heart Out in Toledo
Let’s face it, half of the reason you’re probably in Spain is to stuff yourself full of local delicacies. Luckily, Toledo has a killer food scene and it’s home to special dishes that are sure to make your tummy grumble with joy!
You’ll find a huge variety of places to eat, ranging from little hole-in-the-wall eateries to five-star restaurants, and everything in between. Tapas are common and you can find all of your favorite classics in Toledo, but they have a few local dishes that are definitely worth trying.
Be sure to snack on carcamusas, a stew made of pork, tomatoes and veggies, and mazapan, a mouthwatering Toledo pastry. For dinner, don’t miss out on stewed partridge, one of the most common dishes in Toledo, as well as arroz a la Toledana, a rice dish made with garlic, saffron and pepper, filled with chicken, mushrooms and other yummy bites.
In terms of interesting restaurants in the city, make a beeline for Restaurante Adolfo which offers a fine dining experience in a 12th century Jewish house. It’s located just next to the Cathedral and you can choose from the a la carte menu, or go for the chef’s degustation menu to try a little bit of everything.
Another unbeatable pick when it comes to the Toledo dining scene is Patata y Ole, a restaurant specializing in… you guessed it, potatoes! It’s perfect for a quick bite when you’re after something hearty and local. And I mean, potatoes, what’s not to love?
For one last unmissable treat, head to El Carmen de Montesion, Toledo’s sole Michelin-starred restaurant where you’re guaranteed a mind-blowing meal from a famous Spanish chef. Choose from a variety of set menus or simply order a heaping plate of paella. You can’t go wrong here!
Learn About Toledo from A Local
Finally, one last awesome thing to do in Toledo is taking a private tour with a local who can show you a more intimate side of the city.
With your family, friends or a small group of people, you’re able to have a customized tour with an eager guide willing to share tips and tidbits of history that will make for an engaging day of exploring the city.
Whether you’re interested in learning about the neighborhood surrounding your accommodation, the large Toledo monuments or just want a general walking tour of the city to get the highlights, your guide will be sure to customize the tour to your specific interests.
Toledo really is like stepping into a history book. With such a well-maintained medieval feel to the city, it’s no wonder Toledo draws people in from far and wide — it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Spain!
There’s so much to learn about Spain from Toledo, it’s truly remarkable. Whether you’re an art lover interested in El Greco’s roots or a budding architect curious to learn about a blend of styles, Toledo is simply overflowing with history, culture and a deep past that makes this a destination worth visiting.
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