After my family’s stay in Madrid, we were so excited to make the short hour-drive south to the enchanting little town of Toledo. This fortified city looks like something out of the Middle Ages with its imposing city gate and curving city walls. The houses dotting the hillside and the turquoise river hugging one side of the city only increase its charm. As we soaked in the views, the thought of spending the night here made us giddy!
Once in the city, we passed sleepy plazas tucked away by buildings that grew closer and closer together. Our steady climb upwards slowly became a crawl. The streets became narrower and narrower. We kept on and kept on until somehow, we had made it halfway down a little passage that left about three inches of free space on either side of the van. We were not giving up. We could make it. Just a little farther… And nope. We could not make it. The lane was continuing to shrink (I’m getting claustrophobic just thinking about it), and we knew we had to turn back. And by turn back, I mean reverse out of the constrictingly small passage we had miraculously shimmied through in the first place. It was basically like a life-size game of Operation, but instead of pulling out a wishbone from Sam’s chest with a cute pair of child-size tweezers, we had to finesse a nine-passenger van out of a two meter wide street with a car alarm that sounded like a flat line on an EKG machine beeping the whole time… to say it was stressful is an understatement.
After about an hour of reversing, pulling up, straightening out, screaming, crying, being judged by passerby, having friendly locals direct us, and a thousand images in my mind of our van being towed down the street, we actually made it back down the hill and up to the wider main roads.
Thankfully, as much as our first few hours in Toledo were a nightmare, the remainder of our stay there was the complete opposite! After we managed to park the van and get a taxi over to our airbnb, we still had the last few hours of sunlight to explore this charming town.
Reasons to Visit Toledo, Spain
Things to Do in Toledo, Spain
Let’s cut to the chase- if you are looking for an adrenaline-packed adventure in Toledo, the Fly Toledo urban zipline should be your first stop. When we approached the zipline, I was damp with sweat either because of the earlier stress from the car incident, the trek of walking Toledo’s steep inclines and cobblestone streets, or the sight of the zipline itself, dangling hundreds of feet in the air (at least in my mind) . After seeing it in person, I secretly prayed my little sister would chicken out, giving me an excuse not to go after being the one to put ziplining on our itinerary. Sadly, my sister not only agreed to zipline… she wanted to go first. So I had no out and a body suddenly pumping with adrenaline. I tried to focus on the fact that hundreds of people had ridden this zipline and apparently survived, but that thought wasn’t that helpful. Instead, I let my whole group go before me, and after each person came out on the other side alive with smiles on their faces, I was a little more ready to face the zipline.
I found myself on the ledge, helmet strapped, harness in place, GoPro in one hand, the handle bar in the other, and heard the instructor direct me, “OK, bend your knees. Step a little forward. And GO.” My body followed and I took the leap. In that first moment of hesitant trust when I still thought dying was a small possibility, all I wanted was to drop the GoPro and hold onto that handle bar with both hands. But the zipline worked! Really well!! Zooming across it was so secure and smooth, it was almost anticlimactic. By the time I got to the other side, I was whooping and smiling, enjoying the ride and the gorgeous view. Want proof? Check out the clip below (and try to ignore my chicken-wing-looking arm):
For the non-adrenaline-seekers, a stay in Toledo would not be complete without some leisure souvenir shopping along Calle Comercio. They have everything here! Small dagger-like swords, gold figurines of sewing machines, mosaic tiles in whatever combination of letters or numbers you like, stained glass lanterns, and even some live music while you shop. There are a hundred ways to bring back a little piece of Spain, but we chose something practical- our home address in mosaic tiles. Oh, and a tiny manual fan from an Ale-Hop shop.
Where to Eat in Toledo
La Alacena Manchega
Marzipan is a must! It’s a traditional almond-flavored, Spanish cookie that is shaped into the cutest bite-size loaf shapes. It has an almost butter-y smoothness and a rich almond flavor. The little shop we stumbled across doesn’t have a website, but I included the address below for reference. The owner was very friendly and offered us free samples of marzipan. I think he knew we’d be hooked after that 😉 !
Calle de los Reyes Católicos, 14, 45002 Toledo, Spain
For our only dinner in Toledo, we decided on the upscale Alfileritos 24 restaurant. Along with some much needed sangria, we enjoyed one of the boujee-est meals I have ever eaten here. Everything they served us was super rich and uniquely modern. Our appetizer was a strange, but delightful chilled melon soup. Entrees included a platter of impressively light, thinly-sliced venison, and a completely contradictory dish of pork tenderloin drowning in Gouda cheese. And of course, we topped off the night with a decadent chocolate mousse… I can feel my taste buds watering at the memory.
Walking back to our airbnb, we got to experience the magic of this city at night. Now that all the daytime tourists had left, it felt like we had the little town all to ourselves. We laughed and walked under the moon. My two brothers played imaginary football in the streets, “going long” for each other. I followed their game, tracing the path of the invisible football through the night air and wondering to myself if they had gotten into the sangria when I wasn’t looking.
What to See in Toledo, Spain
We had to see Toledo’s picturesque, 15th century monastery (the cathedral was incredible too, but the monastery was a nice change of scenery). It opened into a beautiful courtyard, speckled with orange trees and framed by graceful arches. The daylight poured in to reveal the eight-pointed star pattern carved into the wood-paneled ceilings of the passageways (see above). All this beauty was impressive, but then we found a tiny door… and of course we had fun with some optical illusions 😉 .
Where to Stay in Toledo, Spain
During our 1-night stay in Toledo, we stayed at a super comfortable airbnb. This airbnb is perfect for big groups (we slept 6 people in this apartment easily), people who would like to do their own cooking (it is equipped with a full kitchen), and people who don’t do well with the summer heat (almost every room had its own thermostat or fan). Other amenities include WiFi, washer/dryer, and a spacious table/workspace.
Location: This airbnb is located on the less tourist-y side of Toledo so by late afternoon it felt like we had the whole town to ourselves. The Monastery and Fly Toledo zipline were a short 5-10 minute walk away.
Be Aware: You can NOT drive right up to this airbnb. The streets are very tight and even taxis can only get you within a block or so of the airbnb. The best thing to do if you are driving is to park somewhere very accessible (don’t worry too much about distance since Toledo is a very small town) and then take a taxi over to the airbnb.
Well, Toledo turned out to be quite the adventure! We definitely won’t be forgetting our stay here anytime soon. Up next on our Spain itinerary? Córdoba and Granada! I can’t wait to share all about our amazing time in southern Spain’s Andalucia.
All photos edited by Caitlyn Cuello