Difference between revisions of "Toledo (Spain)"
Revision as of 14:46, 30 September 2008
Toledo is in Castilla La Mancha.
An often overlooked gem, Toledo dates back to the middle ages and sits majestically above the the Tagus River. The winding, cobbled streets of the old town are often crowded with locals and tourists, as well as a surprisingly large number of cars and vans. Don't miss the 13th century cathedral or the Alcázar which sits atop the town and dates back to Roman times.
Denoted a UNESCO heritage site in 1986, Toledo represents a very worthwhile day-trip from Madrid. Arm yourself with a map to avoid getting completely lost!
From Madrid, Toledo is about 70 km southwest on the A-42 freeway, which is marked "Toledo" on all road signs. This used to be labelled the N-401, and old maps or signs may still refer to that, although almost all road signage appears to have been updated. There is often spot congestion during peak hours, sometimes as far out as Parla (25 km).
Buses run between Toledo and Madrid's main bus station ("Méndez Alvaro" on the grey, Circular Line) every half hour until 21:30. The company is Alsa (old Continental-Auto). The trip takes about an hour and a return ticket costs €8.15. From the Toledo bus terminal it is a steep but picturesque 20 minute walk up to the town proper. A Local bus service is also available.
The AVE high-speed train takes 30 minutes from Madrid's Atocha station to Toledo and costs €14 for a same day round trip. Urban bus number 22 (departs from the train station door) goes from the Station to the Center.
Toledo was one of the most important centers of the large jewish comunity of Spain, two of the ten synagogues that served the comunity are among the jewels of Toledo: 1. "Sinagoga El Transito", which hosts the Sefardi Museum, 2. "Santa Maria la Blanca."
The gold and black enamel work by local artisans is known throughout Spain. Many shops in Toledo sell decorated plates, sheilds, spoons and key rings.
Sword - Toledo is well known for its swords, so be sure to look for a conquistador sword, which should set you back around US $300. As you can't bring it on a plane, you'll need to send it. Fortunately, many shops will ship it for you for a reasonable price.
Ceramics - Talavera de la Reina (outside of Toledo) has a centuries-old tradition of glazed ceramics. Toledo is filled with handpainted ceramics of varying degrees of quality (upscale shops and boutiques are pricier, but generally carry higher-quality pieces).
Damascene - Another famous handicraft of Toledo is damascene, from the ancient Moorish art of interlacing gold on iron or steel, then firing it so the underlying material oxidizes and becomes black, with the gold in sharp relief. Every shop in Toledo will carry some form of damascene work, most frequently as small decorative plates and jewellery. Damascene also tends to be on the expensive side, so be sure to comparison shop around Toledo. The traditional manufacturing process consists of several steps, as it is shown in MadeInToledo.com.
The region around Toledo and southward in Castilla La Mancha produces typical almond sweets known as Mazapán, which is not to be confused with the tough, white icing used on wedding cakes that we call "marzipan". Mazapán is glazed, and sometimes decorated with pine nuts (piñones).
Avoid paella. Toledo is definitely NOT a seaside town! Try Bar La Boveda, just off Plaza Zocodover, for great, cheap sangria (6€ jarra) and good sandwiches. Enebro in Plaza San Justo serves a plate of free tapas ranging from french fries to croquettes to mini pizzas with every beer or glass of wine -- check it out on Real Madrid game nights, where the place fills up with loyal fans. Meson de la Orza great food, great service, not so cheap, but it is worthy
For good pizza, try Pastucci's. The pasta is good, too. The owner learned the pizza trade in Naples, and has won several international competitions. The place is a magnet for international college students including many from the USA. Not a place for a romantic meal - it is very basic. But if you want good Italian at a decent price, don't be put off by its looks and visit Pastucci's. Open on Sundays (which is rare around Toledo), but closed on Mondays.
Another good Italian place is Mille Grazie, just off Zocodover. Lots of charm with exposed brick walls. Great pasta and pizza, and a very attentive staff. Fills up pretty quickly at dinner. Closed Mondays.
Try Picaro or Circulo de Arte for a hip night scene, Circulo de Arte is in a renovated church and plays good dance music. It also has some of the best batidos (milkshakes) in town! O´Brian's serves good tap beer, and boasts a strong tourist and student crowd most nights.