Toledo was the former capital of medieval Spain until 1560 and to this day remains one of the country’s greatest cities where the Jewish, Moorish and Christian cultures once lived together in relative harmony. It lies just 70km southwest of Madrid and is well served by public transport as well as tourist buses. Nowadays Toledo is a living museum of synagogues, mosques and churches which provide outstanding architectural diversity throughout the city. Among the most famous sights of this UNESCO World Heritage City is the quite spectacular Gothic cathedral which, having taken over 250 years to complete, displays magnificent architecture from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods.
The imposing Alcazár (fortress) has played an active part in the city’s history and has been destroyed on a number of occasions, the most recent being in 1936 during the Republican siege of Franco’s forces. Artistically, Toledo is famous for the paintings of El Greco who settled there in 1577 and whose works are scattered around the city. His masterpiece El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz (The Burial of Count Orgaz) can be seen in the Iglesia de Santo Tomé.
Getting to Toledo from Madrid
Driving – It’s a very straightforward drive to get there, just head out of Madrid to the southwest on the A-42 and you should be approaching Toledo within 50 minutes provided you aren’t held up in the city traffic. Having said that we wouldn’t recommend hiring a car solely to do this journey as you’re unlikely to use it at all in the city and parking can be extortionately priced. It’s far more practical to take public transport or a tour bus as explained below.
By Train – The best way to get there is on the excellent high-speed AVE train service which connects Madrid’s Atocha station with Toledo in just 30 minutes. There are several departures per day. Regular train services also serve Toledo from Atocha and are a cheaper option but they take 1½ hours each way. On arrival you’ll come into one of the prettiest train stations you’re ever likely to see on Paseo de la Rosa. Buses wait outside Toledo station to transport arrivals up to Plaza de Zocodover in the heart of the old town near the Alcazar and the Cathedral. You can check timetables and fares on the RENFE in English website.
By Public Bus – If you prefer to travel by bus there are frequent services departing from Plaza Elíptica which is a major transport hub in the south of the city. You can get to the bus station by taking Metro line number 6 or 11 to the Plaza Elíptica stop. As you’re walking out of the metro look out for signs that point you to the bus station. Frequent services are available throughout the day operated by Alsa which is a nationwide operator. The journey takes 1½ hours on their regular service and just an hour on the express. On arrival in Toledo you’re about 1km from the tourist centre up a steep hill so be prepared or take a bus or taxi up to La Plaza de Zocodover.
By Tour Bus – The number one day excursion from Madrid is not surprisingly the one to Toledo. As a result the city’s tour operators got in on the act many years ago providing a selection of excellent trips. Such tours are a good budget option for visting Toledo if you prefer not to rely on public transport. Alternatively, you could book a private excursion which provides door to door transport for your group with a chauffeur and English-speaking guide. Some options appear below:
Escorted Tours to Toledo
Coach Trips: This excursion departs from the centre of Madrid at 8.45am. Transport is by luxury, air-conditioned coach and includes the services of a local tour guide. On this half or full day trip from Madrid you will discover the city’s many beautiful sites including the amazing 13th century Cathedral, the medieval Alcazar, the stunning Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue and the artistic masterpieces of El Greco.
Book Madrid to Toledo Group Excursion
Toledo is the most popular day excursion from Madrid. Your driver will drop you off in the heart of this historical city and your tour guide will then take over. He/She will introduce you to the history and art of Toledo including visits to the Cathedral, the ‘Alcázar de Toledo’ (medieval castle), the Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue and the Church of Santo Tomé where you can see El Greco’s masterpiece, ‘El Entierro del Señor de Orgaz’ (The Burial of the Count of Orgaz).