TOLEDO, SPAIN. Toledo is a beautiful, absolutely breathtaking city. The Tagus river runs through it, creating a stunning view of the water from almost anywhere in the city. What makes Toledo different is its rich history as a tri-cultural city, serving as the former home to many Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Much of this history still remains, boasting a Jewish quarter along with a Jewish museum and an old synagogue. Additionally, there is rich Islamic architecture and an old mosque that has since been converted into a Christian church. The Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo is one of the most beautiful buildings in Toledo as well. The influence of these three cultures is certainly felt in the sights, the artifacts, and the food.
As for food, we can start with the marzipan. Marzipan is an ancient treat with Arab origins, making Toledo a destination for marzipan lovers around the world. An almond paste mixed with sugar and molded into various shapes, the taste of this treat is hard to describe other than to say it is delicious. Skeptical at first, I was given a free sample of this treat in Santo Tomé and instantly decided I needed to buy some. Santo Tomé is one of the most famous places to buy marzipan in Toledo, and with its prime location just next to the Plaza de Zocodover, you can’t miss it. Additionally, this would make a great gift because the presentation is magnificent, the shapes are cute, and they even wrap it for you with a nice bow. The price is typical of a dessert food, ranging from 4-20 euros depending on how much you want. I purchased a box for 5.60 euros and was quite satisfied with how much I received. It is so sweet that you won’t want to eat more than two or three pieces at a time.
As for more substantial food, Toledo specializes in hunting, so at most restaurants one can find meat ranging from seafood to venison to Toledo’s delicacy, red partridge. Toledo is unique because one can experience authentic Middle Eastern cuisine here. Alqahira Rincon de Oriente comes highly recommended as a means of eating culturally-specific food. Also, the servers explain how the food ought to be enjoyed, so this would be a great place for one to go hoping to learn as well as eat. It is moderately priced but well worth the price assuming one has an appetite. If one does not have much time, there are plenty of places to grab a quick sandwich or snack around the Plaza de Zocodover. I ate a Panini for 2 euros, and it was delicious, but I regret that I didn’t have more time to check out the local foods.
Toledo is located just 70 km south of Madrid, slightly over an hour by bus. If one is looking to get there, there are buses for under 5 euros, so it is a very cheap trip. For this reason, no one should miss out on Toledo, especially if living in Madrid. All you need is one day, half a day at that. If one is looking to spend the night, there are plenty of reasonably-priced hostels and hotels. Ranging from 10-20 euros, these look very nice and are centrally located and affordable. Additionally, there are a few hotels listed for just a few euros more if one is looking for more privacy than what a hostel offers. As for the nightlife, Toledo is in Spain, which means there is no shortage of bars and clubs. A few are listed here and look like a lot of fun, something one would not expect from visiting this city during the day. I personally would opt for Circulo del Arte, a club located in the old church of San Vicente. Partying in an old church would be a unique experience, and it offers concerts, art exhibitions, and other events as well, making it a bit more well-rounded and classier than your typical nightclub. Located close to Madrid, filled with history, and filled with food, do not miss Toledo.