While the bigger cities like Barcelona and Madrid are the face of Spain, smaller cities like Córdoba are Spain’s sole. Rich in culture and steeped in history, Córdoba was once an important Roman city and then an Moorish stronghold in the middle ages. Today, this Andalucian town in the South of Spain, with its well intact remnants of the past, attracts tourists from all over the world.
The city is small enough that you can explore it in a day or two. I stayed one night in Córdoba as a part of a larger Spain itinerary and really enjoyed my time there.
Here are some highlights in Córdoba.
This church since the 16th century was once a former mosque and the center of Western Islam. Relatively well preserved, the Mezquita will give you a glimpse into Islamic worship in the 10th century, Córdoba and is easily its most famous attraction.
Inside the Mezquita
Walking around it’s easy to be transposed to the olden times where worshippers gathered here to pray. The mezquita used to be an early christian church in the 6th century before it was turned into a mosque and back into a church again.
The 800 plus columns topped with double arches made from alternating red and white stone give an illusion of infinity and vastness, perhaps alluding to the qualities of the divine creator.
Remains of the Mosque
This was the first time I had seen Islamic art and I was spellbound. True to its traditional art form, the decorations contain flowers and quotes from the Quran.
The church was built in the 16th century after the Christians took over the town. Instead of demolishing the mosque, they built the church into it.
With a highly decorated ceiling rising 130 feet up, the church was completed in the gothic style with a bit of baroque added on later (As seen in the choir area. See below)
The courtyard of this monument is called Patio de los Naranjos and is aptly named considering that the entire garden is full of orange trees. This was where the muslim faithful performed ablution when this place was once a mosque.
Looking up through the trees, you will see the magnificent bell tower of the complex. This bell tower was once the minaret of the mosque where the faithful were called to prayer five times a day.
While the garden is free to roam about, the bell tower can be climbed for a fee. This is separate from the entrance ticket to the monument. There’s a 20 person limit where visitors are taken every half an hour.
Mezquita from the Outside
The well preserved exterior walls of the Mezquita are as impressive as the inside of this monument and will be the first thing you see as you approach this place.
Cost – €10. There’s a ticket machine inside so don’t stand in line unless you are getting the audioguide.
Hours – The church and altar maybe closed for walking around during service. Best to go first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. Check here for hours.
Calleja de las Flores
Calleja de las Flores a.k.a “blossom lane” is a narrow street near the Mezquita that has made its way into the cover photo of guide and travel books about Córdoba. This little street lined with flowers in bright blue pots with the bell tower of the Mezquita appearing in the backdrop (see the first picture of this post), is perhaps one of the most photographed locations in all of Córdoba.
This place is always crowded so go early if you want to take that cover shot yourself!
This ancent Roman bridge was first established in the 1st century AD. While the foundation of this bridge is from this time, its arches are from the 16th century.
Walk through the arch entrance towards the tower on the other side. The Calahorra Tower houses a museum below it which walks you through life in Córdoba. However, it’s really the panoramic view from the tower that’s worth the trip.
Cost – €4.50 and includes audio guide.
Alcázar of the Christian Kings
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos or Alcázar of the Christian Kings is a fortress that served as one of the primary residences of Isabella and Ferdinand and was donated by them to the Inquisition efforts in 1482.
While the building is nothing compared to the Real Alcázar of Sevilla, the gardens are definitely worth a look and stroll.
Co st – €4.50
Every year in May, the city hosts a competition to find its most picturesque patio. A couple of these winners have got together and opened their patios and gardens out to the public. Even when I visited in December, these patios were full of life. (I could only imagine how beautiful it must be in May)
Peep into Patios
The Córdobese are proud of their patios and will often leave their gates slightly a jar for visitors to come and see their works of art. Remember to be quiet and respectful though!
Plaza de la Corredera
Back in the 17th century, Plaza de la Corredera used to be the site of public spectacles like bullfights and Inquisition burnings. Today, it’s home to many cafes and restaurants where the only spectacle is watching people take selfies or pose for the perfect instagram shot but it’s still a great place to stop for a break or lunch nonetheless!
Palacio de Viana
This Renaissance palace from the 16th century consists of a house and 12 connecting patios, each decorated in a different theme. I skipped the house tour and bought a ticket for the patios which didn’t disappoint.
Cost – €8 for the house and €5 for the patios.
Hours – Check here
These ruins from a Roman temple from the 1st century AD will give you a glimpse into life in Roman times. The ruins can easily be seen from the road.
From colorful door and window frames to flowers cascading down wrought iron balconies, there is something about Córdoba’s architecture that transports you to its past. Stroll around and see how many of its architectural features you might catch from the list below.
- Narrow, cobblestoned streets
- Colorful doors and windows
- Wrought iron grilles
- Thick white walls
- Water fountains
The Jewish Quarter is a part of the historic centre of Córdoba. Jews lived in Córdoba between the 10th and 15th centuries and were very much a part of this city’s culture. At the center of the Quarter is the synagogue which was built in 1315 AD and was used until the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the 15th century. This synagogue is considered to be one out of the three medieval synagogues that still stand in Spain today.
Córdoba by Night
Córdoba by night is as stunning as it is by day. It’s also quieter by night too letting you take it all in. The sites in and around the Mezquita and Roman bridge area are flood lit and glow in the darkness of the night.
How to get there
Córdoba is about 1.5 hours from Sevilla, 2 hours from Malaga, 2.5 hours from Granada and 4 hours from Madrid and is located on the AVE bullet train line. There are also intercity buses that have great service. These buses are like trains – big, spacious and safe. I usually use Trainline to book trains and buses in Europe.
Once you get to the Córdoba train and bus station, it’s about a 20 minutes walk from the station to the city center or a €7 taxi ride.
Córdoba can also be done as a day trip from Sevilla if you are pressed for time. However, I really think it’s worth to stay in Córdoba for least one night.
Tip – Some attractions might be closed on Mondays. Check before you go!
Where to Stay
I stayed at Hotel Mezquita which was literally cross the street (a very narrow street!) from the Mezquita . I don’t think I have ever stayed in a hotel that was so close to the central attraction of a city. The hotel was also walking distance to all the other places mentioned in this post and has a 8.6 overall score and 9.7 location score on booking.com
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