For anyone staying in Madrid for at least three days, I would highly recommend a day trip out to Toledo. It is only about 30 miutes away by train, and is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Europe so far (it is currently tied with Venice for the top spot). This is an old city, still maintains a medievel feel, and offers a perfect mix of Western and Muslim influences in its art, history, and architecture. We were also quite fortunate that–though much of our Madrid trip was plagued by rain–our day in Toledo was sunny and (comparatively) warm.
Warning to the elderly, infirm, or desperately out of shape: This city is on a hill, and there is a bit of a hike to get to it from where you are dropped at the train station. But it is so worth it.
While I normally frown upon bus tours as being a waste of time and energy, I will advise not to miss this one. Unless you have a car. But then why would you be interested in a bus? Anyway. The tour bus circumnavigates the entire city and gives you some breathtaking views all the way around it. It would be a much longer, more athletic journey to circle the entire city on foot (and you would waste time that could be spent walking around the city and visiting museums), so this is a time when a tourist bus is acceptable. Of course–as is typical with these tour buses–you are welcome to jump on and off at the various points of interest.
Here are some views of and in the city:
Here are some photos of the Toledo Jesus Castle. Because why not? I am pretty sure I was not supposed to be snapping photos in here, so these shitty ones are all that is currently available.
We had missed an opportunity to tour the Alcazar Fortress, and decided to check out a museum instead. Though El Greco Museum is probably the most popular, we had seen a lot of El Greco at the Prado and wanted some variety. Museo de Santa Cruz is a nice alternative. Yes, it is–again–a lot of Jesus and portraits, but there is a nice mix of historical artifacts as well. Best of all, this museum is free of charge, so there is nothing to lose. Even the creepy Jesus paintings are more fun when they’re free.
In spite of my sarcastic nature–especially with regard to an overload on religious imagery in art from the Middle Ages–I adored this city. I will definitely want to return and check out more of the museums we didn’t have time for. It would be absolutely perfect in Spring (though Summer would likely be unbearably hot).
I will close with this photo of a cat at the train station.