When you hear the word Toledo, the first place that may come to mind is Toledo, Ohio. But, the northwestern Ohio city isn’t the only one that claims the name. This summer I am studying abroad in Toledo [To-lay-do] Spain for eight weeks. I am already over halfway done with my time here and all I can say is WOW. Toledo is one of the most beautiful and historic places I have ever encountered and every day I feel like I’m dreaming. While I have eight weeks to explore this magnificent city, I know that most people who come to Toledo will not have that luxury. Therefore, I want to share my absolute favorite things from this city, so that people who are visiting here with a much shorter timeline can still bask in the glory that is the “ciudad de las tres culturas” [translated below].
The culture and history of Toledo is the city’s claim to fame, because its nickname is the “city of the three cultures.”
The number one must-see when it comes to culture is La Catedral de Toledo. This 800-year-old cathedral is one of the most jaw-dropping pieces of architecture you will ever see. From the amount of gold to the beautiful stained glass and everything in between, there is no going wrong here. Make sure you allot at least three hours to fully experience this building and its history and don’t forget to stick your hand inside of the “secret” pipe to touch the bones for good luck!
It wouldn’t be fair to mention that Toledo is called the city of the three cultures without talking about at least one of the other cultures. Make your way down to the Jewish Quarter for a street full of cool shops, insane views and access to hiking trails, like La Ruta de Don Quijote. The trail, declared a European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe spans more than 1,500 miles and consists of historic roads and livestock trails.
Spain is very much into the nightlife. Bars open around 10 or 11 p.m. and don’t close until the early morning [some even stay open until 6 or 7 a.m.]. There are so many options for every mood you’re in. In my opinion, however, two bars stand out..
La Taberna de Livingstone is your typical bar; cheap drinks, great company and the owners are SO sweet! 3 euro sangria along with 1 euro shots can make any night one to remember [or … forget?].. When you maybe just want a drink or two before dinner, Terraza Miradero is the place for you. Their drinks are a little bit more expensive, but totally worth it. Each set of drinks comes with two or three tapas [little appetizers of various sorts] and they also serve AMAZING food! There are even a few vegan options! This is definitely my group’s favorite place to go to for the great drinks, great view and, of course, the great company.
When visiting any new place, you’re going to want to make a purchase [or 15]. There are multiple malls in and around Toledo, however, if you want authentic Toledo clothes, shoes, souvenirs, etc. Zocodover is a plaza in the Historic Casco district of Toledo. It’s a very touristy area filled with tons of food, souvenirs and art shops. It’s definitely been my one-stop shop for a quick snack before dinner and for all of my souvenir needs for my friends and family.
If you’re in the mood for some more traditional Spanish goods, a flea market is just what you need. Los Martes [Tuesday’s] is a flea market that occurs every Tuesday right outside of Casco. From shoes, clothes, food and more there’s something for everyone. I’ve already bought two pairs of shoes, a cute dress and a few tasty treats.
I’m not sure if anyone is surprised that both food locations that I recommend are dessert places. Santo Tomé and Jacinta y Maria are my two favorite places in all of Toledo. Santo Tome is a phenomenal marzipan shop with other baked goods as well. Their color is pink and everything you buy is cheap and wrapped up very nicely in pink wrapping paper and a pink bow. This is definitely the location where I will be buying food for my family and friends back home.
Jacinta y Maria is our group’s favorite hangout spot. After our dance and cooking classes every Monday, a group of anywhere from 2 to 10 of us head over to get gelato, sorbet, marzipan, chocolate and more. The couple that works there, Paco and Yolanda, are always willing and able to help us with our Spanish skills, talk for hours, and let us try all of their favorite creations. With a small cup of gelato, at just under 3 euros and served with love and a bottle of water, there really is no better place to go for a sweet fix.
The list of amazing things to do and see in Toledo is endless. This quaint and historic city has stolen my heart as well as all of the places I’ve highlighted and more. While I had never heard of Toledo prior to studying abroad, I would 110% recommend visiting this city and these locations if you’re ever in Spain. It’s only a 25 minute train ride from Madrid! 😉