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Visiting the Alcazar of Toledo, Spain

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Toledo's Impressive Alcazar

Toledo's Impressive Alcazar

Located just an hour from Madrid, Toledo makes for a great day-trip if you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Spain’s capital. As you approach Toledo from any direction, your attention will immediately be drawn to the giant stone fortress that looms prominently on the highest point in the city. This is the impressive Alcazar of Toledo.

A View of the Alcazar From Below

A View of the Alcazar From Below

History of the Alcazar

Built in the 3rd century and initially used as a Roman Palace, the Alcazar has played an important role in the history of Spain. Over the centuries, the building has served many purposes, including being used as a castle, a fortress, a prison, a military headquarters, and the King’s residence. The building has been restored and modified during its life and the current design was constructed in the 16th century by King Carlos V.

During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, the building was severely damaged but was rebuilt in the years that followed. Today, it houses the Museum of the Army as well as a regional library. If you are visiting Toledo and have an interest in Spanish military history then you will enjoy visiting the Alcazar of Toledo.

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Getting to Toledo From Madrid

Toledo is located about 72 kilometers to the south of Madrid and is very easy to get to. You will have multiple options for getting there, including by train, bus or car. Direct trains leave Madrid hourly, and the journey takes just 32 minutes. The train station in Toledo is located just outside the city and is a short walk across the Bridge of Azarquiel.

If driving the trip will take a little longer, but it is still straightforward, with free parking located at the Toledo bus station. From the parking lot, it’s just a 5-minute walk to the very convenient elevator that takes you right to the heart of Toledo, saving you the uphill trek. Once you depart the elevator, you are just a few minutes’ walk from the Alcazar. It’s hard to miss with its four towers anchoring the corners of the building.

The Alcazar dominates Toledo's skyline.

The Alcazar dominates Toledo's skyline.

I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!

— George Orwell

Visitor Information

As you approach the Alcazar and look for the entrance you may be somewhat confused as the only visible entrance is to the Military Museum. Fear not, as you are in the right place. The Alcazar is home to the Museum of the Army, and the entrance area is new and modern, not exactly what you might expect.

Museums Hours: ​

  • 10 am to 5 pm daily, closed on Mondays.
  • Closed on January 1st & 6th, May 1st, and December 24th, 25th and 31st.

Ticket Prices:​

  • General Admission Ticket is 5 euros.
  • Under age 18 is free.
  • Tickets are free on Sundays.
  • An audio guide is available for 8 euros, which includes your entry ticket​.
The Inner Courtyard of the Alcazar

The Inner Courtyard of the Alcazar

What to See

As you enter the museum you are in the new section that contains the temporary exhibits, classrooms, the library, and the cafeteria. As you make your way toward the Alcazar, you will notice the archaeological excavations that have revealed the original footings and walls of the building that dates to Roman times. I like how you can actually walk over a portion of the area with the glass floor allowing a peek below.

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The Alcazar contains the permanent exhibits, which are nicely structured into 13 themed rooms. Touring the military museum can take at least a few hours and will prove interesting if military history and artifacts appeal to you. The layout of the different rooms can seem a little confusing, and the sheer size of the building means it’s easy to get disoriented.

As you make your way from room to room, you will see a vast display of military items ranging from medieval weapons to knightly armor to everything one can imagine related to Spanish military history. You’ll see military uniforms, flags, cannons, swords, guns, the colorful Imperial Chapel (Tent of Charles V), the old stables, and the crypt.

When you have sufficiently toured the military rooms, it’s time to move on to my favorite portion of the Alcazar.

Inside the Alcazar's Military Museum

Inside the Alcazar's Military Museum

Tent of Charles V at the Alcazar

Tent of Charles V at the Alcazar

I can understand how some visitors to the Alcazar may be disappointed that much of what there is to see is the various artifact collections of the military museum. Visiting the Alcazar of other Andalusian communities is a somewhat different experience. However, before you leave, you need to visit the Charles V’s Courtyard and then the vast terrace on the north side of the building.

The courtyard is in the center of the building and includes the stunning Imperial Staircase. It rises two stories and is surrounded by beautiful arched columns that give this part of the building its royal look.

The Charles V Courtyard

The Charles V Courtyard

The Imperial Staircase

The Imperial Staircase

From the courtyard, make your way to the terrace for a breathtaking view of Toledo and the surrounding countryside. The terrace is massive and allows visitors an unobstructed view in three directions. From here it is clear why this location was selected for a fortress, as it commands an imposing position over the surrounding landscape. I’ve always been a sucker for stunning views, and this one certainly does not disappoint.

View of Toledo From the Alcazar's Terrace

View of Toledo From the Alcazar's Terrace

Interesting Facts About Toledo

  • Toledo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 for its cultural heritage and substantial collection of historical sites.
  • Toledo is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” for its Muslim, Jewish, and Christian influences.
  • Toledo was the capital of Spain until 1560 when King Philip II moved it to Madrid.
  • The Cathedral of Toledo contains the largest bell in Spain, weighing close to 20 tons.
  • Toledo is world-famous for its swords due to its high quality and extremely durable steel.
  • Toledo is one of the oldest cities in Spain dating back to at least 192 BC, a time when the Romans captured the city due to its superior geographic location in the heart of Spain.
On the Terrace In Front of the Alcazar

On the Terrace In Front of the Alcazar

If your travels are taking you to Spain—and in particular to Madrid—you are just a short journey away from historic Toledo. The Alcazar is worth seeing, especially if you have an interest in military history and artifacts.

Personally, the Charles V Courtyard, the terrace with its picturesque views, and the archaeological ruins from the early days of the Alcazar were more than enough for me to make this a fascinating visit. While in Toledo there is much more to see and the impressive Cathedral of Toledo is just a short walk from the Alcazar.

View of the cathedral from the terrace of the Alcazar

View of the cathedral from the terrace of the Alcazar

© 2019 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 03, 2019:

Thank you Flourish. Yes, there was quite a bit for the military enthusiast to enjoy. Interesting place with stunning views from the terrace. Have a great weekend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 02, 2019:

Especially since the only Toledo I heard of was in Ohio, I learned quite a bit! I try to keep my husband and father away from military museums because they read every last word in the place, but this seems like a museum they would both enjoy. The courtyard and views were beautiful.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 30, 2019:

Hi Linda. Toledo was indeed another interesting place to explore. So much history there. I think it's a place you would probably enjoy. Have a great day.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 29, 2019:

Toledo sounds and looks like an interesting place to explore. Once again, you've shared interesting information about a place that I'd very much like to visit. Thank you, Bill.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 29, 2019:

Thank you Heidi. Toledo in a interesting place. Wish we had more time there, but seeing the Alcazar and the cathedral was fascinating. Have a great day.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on July 29, 2019:

Oh my goodness! This looks like a fascinating place. If I ever get there, this would be on my list. Thanks for sharing, as always!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 29, 2019:

Thank you Liz. Unfortunately the Spanish Civil War caused a lot of damage to the Alcazar, but they did a wonderful job of repairing it. And yes, the train system in Spain is top-notch.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 29, 2019:

This is an excellent article. It gives a lot of useful information. You have encouraged me to put Toledo on my 'to visit' list.

Because the Second World War was such a major historical event, it's easy to forget how much destruction, suffering and disruption the Spanish Civil War caused.

We have been impressed by the quality and punctuality of train services when moving around Spain.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 28, 2019:

Thanks, Bill. We do enjoy the architecture and history of these magnificent buildings. Have an enjoyable day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 28, 2019:

Thank you, Pam. It is an impressive building, and the views from the terrace were stunning. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 28, 2019:

Thank you, Brandy. Glad you enjoyed the your. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 28, 2019:

Thank you, Peggy. We wish we had more time to explore Toledo also. Perhaps next visit. Have a great day.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2019:

It's good to see you writing on a more regular basis. You are good at it. That is one formidable building. I am dumbstruck by the architecture.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 28, 2019:

I agree that the view is stunning. This looks like an interesting place to visit. Your pictures of the unique architecture and your descriptions really make Alcazar a worthwhile visit.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 28, 2019:

Thanks for showcasing this historic building in Toledo. My husband and I took a one day guided tour of Toledo from Madrid. While the Alcazar was not one of the places we explored on the inside, it certainly looms over the city and is a prominent landmark. I agree with you that visiting Toledo should be a must if ever in that part of Spain. Looking back, I wish that we had spent days in that city.

Brandy McGhee Nelson from Arkansas on July 28, 2019:

This made me want to visit! Well done! Great information and pictures.