We all know how important first impressions are. That’s why I knew immediately that a planned two-and-a-half day exploration of Toledo, Spain was a good idea as soon as we stepped into its beautifully ornate century-old railway station.
“Wow,” Danijela said, stopping briefly in her tracks as she directed her gaze into the long narrow room.
“Wow,” was all I could manage in response.
I’m an avid train traveler; given a choice and the time, it would be my sole mode of transport. So I’ve been in and through dozens of European stations, large and small, spectacular and plain. Each has its unique charm. Walls that tell, sometimes even bleed, stories. But none quite grabbed me the way Toledo’s did.
Just a quick 33 minute ride from Madrid’s Atocha station via non-stop high speed train, Toledo’s is figuratively a century away.
The train line reached the city in 1858 but this station didn’t come about until a half century later to replace the initial utilitarian structure. Designed by the architect Narciso Clavería y de Palacios, its design incorporates elements of uniquely Spanish Moorish elements, the neo-Mudéjar style that came into fashion in the country in the second half of the 1800s. By the way, if you didn’t recognize Mudéjar architecture prior to your arrival in the former Spanish capital, fear not. You’ll leave the city with a fairly solid introduction to the style.
The intricate Arabesque woodwork on the ceilings and original ticket window (no longer in use) is stunning, of the drop dead gorgeous variety. With late afternoon light streaming through, the stained glass was almost dreamy. It was entirely renovated in 2005 to help inaugurate high-speed service between Toledo and Madrid.
It’s small so it’s impossible to get lost. There are only three platforms, so don’t worry too much about finding the right train. The only thing it’s missing is a tourism office or even just a small booth where info or maps can be easily distributed.
Upon arrival, you’ll find a taxi stand just outside. If there aren’t any there, again, fear not. One or more are on the way. Expect to pay from 6-10 EUR to get to the city’s historical center. Unless you’re feeling particularly energetic, don’t consider hoofing it. It’s a fairly long way, uphill.
These were taken just prior to the return to Madrid. I had just a few minutes under a bright and harsh midday sun, so only managed these interior shots.
Arriving from Madrid
It’s wise to arrive at Madrid’s Atocha station an hour prior to departure. Atocha was the site of the March 2004 terrorist bombing that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800 more, one of the deadliest terror attacks Europe has ever witnessed. There is a security checkpoint where all of your luggage will be scanned; that could cause some delays during particularly busy times. Boarding begins a half hour prior to departure.
As crowds go, the station is Atocha’s polar opposite, but a half hour cushion prior to departure is advisable. There’s security here as well; I’m assuming it’s nationwide.
Several departures from Madrid and back from Toledo daily. For the most up-to-date and accurate info, check the timetables via Spanish national rail operator Renfe. At the moment (10 June 2015) the fare is €10.30 /US$11.60 one-way.
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