Cordoba is a Spanish city located in the province of Andalucia. Just over an hour away from Seville, this city played a major role in the Roman and Islamic history of Spain. Due to all this history, the city contains a variety of attractions that merit spending some time here. Below are some of our top tips for visiting what was once one of the most important Islamic cities in the whole world.
Getting to Cordoba
Although Cordoba is a big city, it is not nearly as big as Seville or Granada. For this reason, it is quite easy to get public transport in and out of the city. The bus station and train station are both located right beside each other, just past the Victoria Gardens. A walk into the historic center will take approximately 10/15 minutes.
We arrived from Seville via train. The train took about 1 hour and 15 minutes and we paid €10 per person. We bought the tickets in advance and as such got a promotional price – so book ahead if you can!
Top Things to do in Cordoba
Cordoba has a wide variety of attractions, but it is important to plan ahead! We arrived on a Sunday and most attractions were going to be closed by 3 pm that day. As well as that, on Monday’s a lot of the attractions also close – so if you are coming on a Sunday/Monday – make sure you plan ahead to so you don’t miss out!
La Mezquita is probably THE reason for visiting Cordoba. The Mosque (or Cathedral, in its current form) is visually impressive as well as historically significant. You see, the Mosque was first built in 784 AD and later expanded by other Muslim leaders throughout time. After Cordoba was wrestled back from Islamic rule in 1236 the building was transformed into a Roman Catholic church – hence the name Mosque-Cathedral being used.
La Mezquita’s most famous features are of course the colorful Moorish columns. There are hundreds throughout the Cathedral, and they really are gorgeous. There are some that have been painted recently and of course, these look better, but it’s the ones which haven’t been painted that really leave the greatest impression. They are the ones that make you appreciate the history of the place.
Of course, just being able to appreciate the mix of Christian and Islamic architecture and design is a reason to visit La Mezquita. In one sense you are looking at this Moorish arches, and the next you are staring up at the Chapel.
It is important to note that the outside of the Cathedral is just as important as the inside. There are numerous doors and entranceways with Moorish inspired architecture.
Opening hours for the Mosque-Cathedral are 10 am – 7 pm and the entrance costs €10. If you want to visit the bell tower it is an extra €2 – we didn’t do this but did read that they only let a certain number of people up at a time, so it may be better to book ahead.
Top Tip: The Cathedral opens to the public from 8.30 am – 9.30 am and it is free. Tour groups are not allowed at this time but there is still quite a number of people. We had read beforehand that we would need more than the hour to explore the place but we were quite happy with what we saw in the hour we were there. Ensure you enter at the Puerta de Los Deanes – it is closer to the entrance when they eventually let people in at 8.30 am.
Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos
A medieval palace that is located in the historic center of Cordoba, close to La Mezquita. It used to play host to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand (hence the name) and contains yet more Mudejar inspired architecture both in the interior and exterior of the palace.
Some of the highlights include the Hall of Mosaics (containing Roman mosaics), the gardens (kept well landscaped) and the towers of the palace (which you can climb for views over Cordoba).
This was our least favorite attraction during our whole time in Spain. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t nice, but there were way too many tourists. We visited on a Sunday, and they also happened to be offering free entry for that day (we had no idea until we turned up). These two combined meant that it was actually uncomfortable being there. People who were trying to climb up one of the towers even blocked off the exit so that we couldn’t leave! It was one of those days so we have some negative memories of this place, but if it was less crowded we could have spent more time here.
Normally the entrance costs €5 and it is opened 8.30 am-2.30 pm – it is closed on Mondays.
Visit the Jewish Quarter (Juderia)
The old Jewish quarter of Cordoba contains the streets Deanes, Manríquez, Tomás Conde, Judíos, Almanzor, and Romero. Here the Jewish community lived at the same time as the Muslim and Christian people in a time of peace and harmony starting in the 10th century until the Jews were expelled in the late 15th century.
The Jewish Quarter (similar to Seville) has real narrow, pedestrianized laneways. One of the highlights of the area is the Synagogue. The Synagogue contains a small entranceway and courtyard. It is free to enter and is a pretty cool place to explore. Another site of interest is the statue of Maimónides – who was a great Jewish philosopher from Cordoba.
Stroll along the Roman Bridge of Cordoba
This bridge was originally built when the city was under Roman rule in the 1st Century BC. It is built over the River Guadalquivir and is nearly 250 meters in length. On one side of the bridge you can find the ‘Puerta del Puente’ (a Renaissance gate) and on the other is the Calahorra Tower.
The bridge is a fantastic place to take in some views of the city. If you cross to the other side and go to the right you can see the Cathedral towering over the city. It is also a great place to come at night time, lots of the locals just come down and hang out here.
The aforementioned Calahorra Tower is built on one end of the Roman Bridge. It was built by the Muslim rulers (the Alomahad dynasty) in order to protect the bridge.
The tower now houses a museum on the history of Cordoba. It is open from 10am – 2pm and 4.30pm – 8.30pm and costs €4.50. We decided to skip the museum, so if you go there, let us know how it is!
Calleja de las Flores
If it is one thing I hate about traveling it is areas that become attractions due to the picture you can take there. This is that place for Cordoba. A narrow alleyway, with flowers hanging either side and the Cathedral’s bell tower fitted perfectly in between the rows of houses either side.
We decided to come late, around 8 pm and it was relatively quiet – just a couple of people loitering around. If it was busy we wouldn’t have bothered. You need to walk through the narrow alleyway in order to get to a small square – this is where the famous picture gets taking from. It would be crazy if it was busy! Anyway, we took the picture and you can see it here – was it worth it? You can be the judge on that. We wouldn’t have missed out if we skipped it!
Patios de San Basilio
I say the Patio’s of San Basilio, but really the neighborhood of San Basilio deserves your attention here. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy historic center, this neighborhood houses all the locals – and their gorgeous patios.
Cordoba is known for their patios and their patio competition, which takes place annually in May. All the residents decorate their patios with flowers and take part in the “Battle of the Flowers”. If you aren’t lucky enough to visit in May you can still see some of the patios on display. Tickets are sold by many different companies (or houses) – check online for ones that are open when you are there.
Alternatively, you can do what we did – visit some free Patios. When we were there house 20 and 44 were open for free to visitors. We stuck our heads in, had a look around, and got a feel for the patios!
Located in the Victoria Gardens, this market has everything you could possibly want (to eat). It is very much a gastronomic market – with an Arabic restaurant, pizza, wine, and cheese, traditional Spanish food and more – all available inside. We spent a couple of hours inside here, tasted some food and moved on again – it was great!
Venture outside the Historic Center
The historic center of Cordoba is pretty small and gets packed during the day with tourists on a day trip from Sevilla and elsewhere. With this in mind, it can get a bit overwhelming at times. The goods news is that if you step a few blocks outside of the center there is a new sense of calm and authenticity about the city of Cordoba.
Make your way to Plaza de la Corredera, similar to Plaza Mayor in Madrid, this rectangle shaped square is surrounded on all sides by buildings. It used to serve as a site of public spectacles, including bullfights, but now it houses some nice cafes.
There are also the Roman Temples of Cordoba, which were only discovered in the 1950s. They give a good reminder of how ancient this city really is.
Another nice place to visit is the Plaza del Potro. The square contains a 16th-century Renaissance fountain, and it also houses nice bars and cafes nearby – for escaping the heat!
Other things to do in Cordoba (if you have time)
There are many more things to do in Cordoba besides the ones mentioned above. There are some interesting museums in the city; including the Museo Julio Romero de Torres (art museum for the famous Cordoban artist) and the Museo Taurino (bullfighting museum). Both museums close early on Sundays and don’t open on Monday, which meant we couldn’t visit.
The Banos del Alcazar Califal is located close to the Real Alcazar and was the bathhouses of the caliphs in the 10th century. It formed part of the wider Moorish Alcazar, and the museum gives a history of each of the different types of baths used. We managed to get in here for free, but the entrance is normally €3.
Last but by no means least – the Medina Azahara. These humongous ruins were once the capital of Al-Andalus (with the government and its administration within its walls) and can be found on the outskirts to Cordoba. Although not restored to the levels of some other sites in Andalucia, this former city is supposed to be worth the visit.
It is free for EU visitors to enter, but closes at 3 pm on Sundays, and closed on Mondays. Otherwise, it’s open 9 am – 6 pm. The best way to get there is a bus, which leaves Paseo de la Victoria from 10.15 until 2.15 at irregular times.
Cordoba guide to Tapas
Cordoba, like Seville, has some well known local specialty tapas to try. One you definitely can’t miss is Salmorejo – a cold, tomato-based soup (similar to Gazpacho) with some garlic, bread, olive oil, salt, and sherry vinegar on top. Simple, but tasty!
Rabo de Toro (Ox’s tail) is another local delicacy. Although it sounds quite crude it is actually very tasty – they sure know how to make tender meat in Spain!
Tortilla de Patatas – Potato tortilla is a Cordoban mainstay, and there is an entire stall at Mercardo Victoria dedicated to this simple dish. Try it!
The local drink to try in Cordoba is Montilla-Moriles, which is very similar to sherry, but with a Cordoban twist. Bodega Guzman is the place you need to go to try this – check the opening hours with your accommodation.
Last but not least – dessert! Cordoba’s main dessert dish is the Pastel de Cordobes. Puff pastry filled with Angels Hair (a Spanish jam) and topped with cinnamon! I enjoyed it, Aoife not so much!