At the end of our road trip across Northern Spain, we decided to dip our toes slightly into the South by heading to Toledo in La Mancha. It was a memorable last stop before heading home and one I can definitely recommend. Toledo has a fabulous Casco Viejo (Old Town) perched on a top of a hill, picturesque bridges to access the Casco Viejo, the most amazing little postres de salchicha (sausage pastries), is the home of the painter El Greco, and it can all be seen in a day.
Tip: See also What to Wear in Spain to Look Like a Local.
The Casco Viejo de Toledo
The Casco Viejo de Toledo (Old Town) has all the beautifully winding, cobbled streets that you can stand. Fortunately, it also has encased in a wonderful wall to keep you from wandering to far and getting lost. I adore just taking an interesting side street and seeing where it leads.
In my opinion, Toledo had one of the most interesting and remarkable features inside the main cathedral. El Transparente is a breathtaking skylight that was cut into the cathedral to highlight the baroque altar piece. Before the controversial skylight, the intricacies of the altar piece where hidden in shadow.
In addition to El Transparente, there are fabulous works by Goya and El Greco as well as another wonderfully intricate, golden altar piece.
As Toledo is located in La Mancha, be on the lookout for homages to Cervantes sprinkled throughout the Old Town like the one below.
I wish I could provide a recommendation on way or the other on the Alcazar of Toledo; however, our day in Toledo was a Wednesday and they happened to be closed that day. Weird, right? However, we had just left Segovia the day before before with it’s awe inspiring Alcazar so I fear it would have suffered in comparison anyway. (See Travel Tips for a Day in Segovia, Spain.)
The Picturesque Bridges of Toledo
Although the Old Town was remarkable, I believe that the picturesque bridges (puentes) to get to Old Town outshone it. As the Old Town of Toledo is surrounded on three sides but the Rio Tajo, you will most likely be taking one of these ancient bridges to get there. There is just something about crossing an ancient bridge that reminds you of the hundreds of years of history and the millions(?) of feet that have crossed it. I swear when I think of it I hear the imaginary clack of hooves.
Where to Eat in Toledo
I am not going to lie. My first thought when thinking of Toledo is not the Old Town, the skylight, or even the bridges. It is the postres de salchicha. We had just arrived in the Old Town of Toledo and where wondering around drinking cafe con leches when . . . we smelled it. Oh god, the smell that wafted to us was a combination of buttery, flaky crust and sausages. We looked at each other and immediately headed down the winding street from where the scent emanated.
At the end of the winding street, we discovered the tiny bakery Benipan. There we watched the panadera (baker) pull out sheet upon sheet of tiny pastries from the oven. While trying to keep our salivation to a minimum, we happily ordered a dozen to go (para llevar). I do not remember what the other flavors were just that we fought over the last sausage ones. They were savory, juicy sausages (salchichas) wrapped up in the crustiest, flakiest, butteriest dough. I wish I could show you a picture but we gobbled them down before that could happen and she was all out when we went back for some more an hour later.
I wish I could recommend another restaurant but I broke one of my cardinal rules for selecting a great restaurant: I only checked one review source. The guidebook raved about this restaurant on a picturesque square. We didn’t even finish the meal. Maybe when the guidebook was published, it was great. But now, yuck. When I checked Foursquare (my go to app for local reviews in foreign countries), I found that I was not the only person to feel that way. Why didn’t I check you first, Foursquare! Luckily it wasn’t terribly expensive and the square was picturesque.
Where to Stay in Toledo
We chose to stay at the AC Hotel Cuidad de Toledo as it was within walking distance of Toledo Old Town and is part of the Marriott group. This hotel was great. It over-looked the Casco Viejo of Toledo, had an old school ambiance (real keys for the rooms and such), and was super cheap at 15,000 points a night, technically free. (You can use my referral link to get a jump start on your own free nights with up to 10,000 points.)