If you're planning to visit Madrid, Spain, you might want to consider making a trip to the nearby tourist-heavy city of Toledo to take in some additional cultural landmarks and guided tours.
Accessible by public train or bus—as well as rental car and even taxi—Toledo offers visitors a unique look at the ancient civilizations that founded the country in what is now the capital of this province of Spain. Known for its Arab, Christian, and Jewish monuments spread throughout the city, this is the perfect additional tourist stop for those interested in the culture and history of Spain.
Read on to discover how best to plan your trip from Madrid to the nearby city of Toledo and make the most out of your Spanish vacation.
Getting to Toledo by Bus, Train, and Car
The high-speed train from Toledo to Madrid takes about 30 minutes and costs about 10 euros, so if you are staying near Atocha train station, this is the best way to get to the tourist city. However, there is now a bus service that will pick you up from your hotel and take you straight to Toledo. This is the easiest, cheapest, and probably the quickest way to get to Toledo unless your hotel is right next to the Atocha train station.
The high-speed train from Madrid to Toledo departs from Atocha, Madrid's main train station. Trains depart every hour or half hour in the morning and every hour in the evening, with the journey taking about half an hour.
Train times are subject to change, so check the latest train times at Rail Europe before you depart for the day. This is a good option if you are staying close to the train station. But, make sure to check out the guided tours below as they often add great value to your day in the city. The address of the train station is Paseo de la Rosa, s/n, 45006 Toledo.
The bus, which is cheaper than the train, costs just about 5 euros each way and takes an hour and a half to get between Madrid and Toledo. Buses leave every half an hour and depart from Plaza Eliptica to the south of Madrid. It is unlikely you'll have a hotel near here, so this is an inconvenient though cheap way of getting to Toledo.
The address of the bus station is Avenida de Castilla La Mancha s/n, 45003 Toledo (Castile-La Mancha). Perhaps the best way to get to Toledo, though, is the tourist bus that picks passengers up from their hotel with only one morning departure time. Either bus service is cheaper than the train. Whether you take the bus or the train should depend on whether you are close to the train station or one of the hotel pick-ups.
Additionally, travelers can also take a car up the R-5 and AP-41 to drive from Madrid to Toledo. The 89-kilometer journey takes one hour, but the AP roads in Spain are toll roads so it may cost more than just gas to get there. You can better plan out if this option is right for your budget by comparing car rental rates, gauging gas prices, and evaluating the number of tolls you'll have to pay to get between Madrid and Toledo.
What to Do in Toledo on a Day Trip
When you arrive at the bus or train station, you will have a short walk up to the city walls. Entering the city by the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, your main reference point for your day in Toledo will be Plaza Zocodover, which is not far from the Bisagra. But, given the confusion of winding streets, it's recommended to take a map or ask a local if you get lost!
Although you might consider a Budget Toledo Guided Tour or a Luxury Toledo and Wine Guided Tour, there's plenty to do on your own in the city. Once in the Plaza, you'll see an archway to the left through which is a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote. Cervantes wrote a part of his most famous book in the vicinity of this statue.
South from Zocodover is the Alcázar. Turn left from here and you will approach the cathedral, once one of the most important in all of Spain. Walk around it and veer off to the left to get to the old Jewish quarter. Also nearby is the Iglesia de Santo Tomé.
On your way out of the city, don't forget to stop off at the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, not far from Bisagra, which was where you entered the city. You can also take a guided walking tour or even take a balloon ride over the city if you have enough time while in Toledo to truly adventure around and explore.
If you have even more time in Toledo, consider checking out the 13th-century high-gothic The Cathedral; the City Walls and Gates (especially the gate of Bisagra); The Alcazar Stone Fortress; the Jewish Sinagoga del Tránsito and the Sephardic Museum; the Cristo de la Luz Mosque; the Iglesia de Santo Tomé which houses "El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz" by Spanish painter El Greco; and Mirador del Valle, which offers fantastic views of the local landscape.
You can also see Toledo along with other nearby sites. The Toledo, El Escorial, and Valley of the Fallen Tour is highly recommended, but you might also consider taking the Toledo and Aranjuez Royal Palace Tour for a closer look at the history and culture of the region.
Guided Tours of Toledo
Probably the most popular guided tours from Madrid are those to Toledo (though Segovia is preferred). It's the best way to get the most out of a single day in the city, and there are plenty of different tours offered depending on your budget and interests.
If you're planning just a day in Toledo, a guided tour can be a good way to ensure you get the most out of it. Tours like this Guided Tour of Toledo from Madrid are usually less expensive than you'd expect.
You can also explore Toledo in a small group, visit a winery and learn about local wine production, and see the famous La Mancha windmills, as featured in Cervantes' Don Quijote on the Toledo, Wine, and Windmills Tour.
Staying in Toledo and Visiting as Part of a Longer Itinerary
Just because most visitors to Toledo only visit for the day doesn't mean it's not a great place to stay. Apart from allowing you to take your time and see everything you want without feeling rushed, getting accommodations in Toledo and venturing out on a day trip is a great way to experience the region.
The best of these day trips is a journey to see the windmills of Consuegra, similar to the ones made famous by the novel Don Quixote. There are regular buses from Toledo that leave every hour or so and take approximately 90 minutes to complete the journey through these little La Mancha villages.
There are also buses to Cuenca, Aranjuez and, sometimes, to Granada. But, check with bus operators because not all of them, especially the Granada route, will run throughout the year.
- Toledo to Aranjuez—This is a great alternative to going straight back to Madrid (or straight to Toledo from Madrid). This train departs three times a day with service run by Aisa (not ALSA).
- Toledo to Consuegra—Offers several trains per day run by Samar.
- Toledo to Cuenca—There is only one train per day that usually departs in the evenings and is run by Aisa.
- Toledo to Granada—This train runs once per week each way and is operated by ALSA.
You can also travel in your own form of transportation by renting a car or scooter and taking a self-guided tour of Madrid, Toledo, and Segovia instead, which provides a lot more flexibility to your itinerary as well as more room for error in timing.
Unfortunately, public transport from Toledo to the south of Spain is limited and you will usually need to go back to Madrid in order to travel elsewhere. However, if you have your own car, it is easy to go south from Toledo to Cordoba, perhaps stopping by in Consuegra on the way to see the windmills. Alternatively, you could take a guided tour of southern Spain from Madrid or Barcelona.
Tours From Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, and Lisbon
See the best of southern Spain with these tours departing from Madrid. All of them cover the basic four cities of Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada:
- 4-Day Spain Tour: Basic tour
- 5-Day Spain Tour: Adds Ronda to the itinerary.
- 8-Day Spain Tour from Madrid: Adds Ronda and the Costa del Sol for a slightly more leisurely trip.
- 12-Day Morocco and South of Spain Tour from Madrid
The following two tours are an extension of two of the above tours, departing from Barcelona. Note that you don't get much time in Madrid on these tours.
- 6-Night Small-Group Spain Tour from Barcelona: Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada
- 8-Day Spain Tour Including Barcelona, Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, and Toledo
If flying into Malaga, this tour is a good option, though you don't get anywhere near enough time in Madrid.
Portugal is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in Europe—it makes so much sense to visit both Iberian countries on the same trip. These trips from Lisbon allow you to do exactly that: