Like many colonial Mexican cities, Toluca’s development has created a ring of urban sprawl around what remains a very picturesque old town. The traffic problems alone can be enough to dampen the city’s appeal, however those who make time to visit will find Toluca a pleasant, if bustling, small city. It’s an enjoyable place to spend a day or two exploring attractive plazas, lively shopping arcades, art galleries and museums.
Toluca was an indigenous settlement from at least the 13th century. The Spanish founded the modern city in the 16th century after defeating the resident Aztecs and Matlazincas, and it became part of Hernán Cortés’ expansive domain, the Marquesado del Valle de Oaxaca. Since 1830 it’s been the capital of Mexico state, which surrounds the Distrito Federal on three sides, like an upside-down U.
The main road from Mexico City becomes Paseo Tollocan on Toluca’s eastern edge, before bearing southwest and becoming a ring road around the city center’s southern edge. Toluca’s bus station and the huge Mercado Juárez are 2km southeast of the center, off Paseo Tollocan.
The vast Plaza de los Mártires, with the cathedral and Palacio de Gobierno, marks the town center. Most of the action, however, is concentrated a block south in the pedestrian precinct. Shady Parque Alameda is three blocks west along Hidalgo.