Cordoba is, without a doubt, a perfect destination for a getaway on any occasion and that will surprise you, no matter how you look at it, you will fall in love with Cordoba! I leave you with a list of the best things to see and do so you don't miss anything and make the most of this charming city.
1. Discover the Cathedral - Mosque of Cordoba
To think of Cordoba is to inevitably imagine its famous Mosque. It is possibly the first monument that all travelers agree on when asking what to see in Cordoba during a visit.
The great protagonist and the queen of all eyes. It radiates a unique beauty that does not leave indifferent any traveler who has the opportunity to contemplate it in person.
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 by Unesco, it is considered the largest monument in the Islamic West, but at the same time it is a Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary since the time of the Reconquest. All this makes this temple one of the most enigmatic monuments in Spain and one of its twelve treasures along with the Alhambra in Granada, the Basilica del Pilar in Zaragoza or the Roman Theater in Merida, among others.
Observing it inside is like taking a trip back in time to the heyday of the Caliphate of Cordoba. It summarizes the evolution of Umayyad art in Spain mixed with elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style of the Christian temple, resulting in a true work of art at the service of God and human spirituality.
There are so many details to see in this temple and so many stories within its walls that in my opinion, the best way to explore it is to take a guided tour to make sure you don't miss anything. In my experience, it is well worth it.
In the post Tickets for the Mosque of Cordoba I tell you how to visit this icon of Hispano-Muslim Umayyad art and how to complete the experience with other essential sites in the city.
- Where?: Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1.
- Hours?: Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM / Sundays and holidays: 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 3 PM to 6 PM.
2. Enjoy the sunset at the Roman Bridge in Cordoba.
Very close to the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba is located the Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River as it passes through the city, which you will reach by taking a pleasant walk. It currently serves as a link between the city of the Cathedral district with the Campo de la Verdad.
Considering that it has thousands of years of history, it is worth admiring the good state of preservation in which it is and it seems to me a privilege to be able to walk on this perfect work of Roman engineering.
However, over time it has undergone some reconstructions that have modified the original structure as the Tower of Calahorra dating from the Reconquest, the Arch of Triumph built in the sixteenth century or the image of the archangel St. Raphael located in the seventeenth century.
The Roman Bridge of Cordoba was built in the first century A.D. under the rule of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, and was part of the Via Augusta that crossed half of Europe to communicate Rome with Cadiz.
Take advantage of your visit to Cordoba to watch the sunset from the Roman Bridge as there are wonderful views of the river, the cathedral-mosque and the natural reserve of the Sotos de la Albolafia, where several species of birds nest.
- Where?: Avenida del Alcázar, s/n.
- Timetable?: You can visit whenever you want, but the best time of the day, for me, is at sunset.
3. Enter the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs of Cordoba.
The old part of the city is one of the largest in Europe, which houses an inexhaustible wealth of monuments. Near the cathedral-mosque of Cordoba is also located the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a medieval palace-fortress built by King Alfonso XI in 1328 on the remains of the old Muslim Caliphate palace.
This is another of the most visited monuments by tourists, not only because it is a landmark of the military architecture of the Christian Reconquest in Cordoba, but also because this palace was the scene of important episodes in the history of Spain, such as the strategic planning of the capture of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs or the visit that Christopher Columbus made here to these monarchs to present his project to reach Asia across the Atlantic, which would lead to the discovery of America.
As you pass through the gates of the Alcazar of the Christian Kings of Cordoba I recommend that you climb the Tower of the Lions, one of the four that outline the complex. From here there are stunning panoramic views of the Alcazar, its gardens and surroundings such as the cathedral-mosque, the Roman bridge or the Guadalquivir River.
Inside, my favorite spaces are the pools, fountains and gardens decorated with lush trees and exotic flowers. On a sunny day it is a fantastic place to see in Cordoba to take pictures.
But in the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos there are many other surprising spaces such as the Museum of Roman Mosaics, the wall or the Royal Baths. It is a very beautiful place!
- Where?: Plaza Campo Santo de los Mártires, s/n.
- Hours?: Tuesday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 8:15 PM / Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM / Sundays and holidays from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM.
Get to know the Royal Stables of Cordoba
You can complete your visit to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos de Córdoba by visiting the Caballerizas Reales, which are located next to the palace. Declared a National Historic Monument in 1929, King Philip II founded them in the sixteenth century in order to create the purebred Spanish horse.
Nowadays you can visit the main stable, the stallion stables and a riding arena, but its main attraction is the collection of carriages from the 19th century. In addition, here takes place the fantastic equestrian show "Pasión y duende del Caballo Andaluz", one of the most beloved of Cordoba.
- Where?: Caballerizas Reales Street, 1.
- Hours?: Monday from 10 AM to 1:30 PM / Tuesday to Saturday from 10 AM to 1 PM and from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM / Sundays and holidays: 10 AM to 1:30 PM.
4. Tour the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba
One of the essential visits to make in the old town of Cordoba is undoubtedly the Jewish Quarter.
Strolling through the narrow cobblestone streets of the Jewish quarter of Cordoba is an experience that I enjoyed very much because we are in front of the best preserved medieval Jewish quarter in Europe.
During the tour you can contemplate the living legacy of the history of this community in Spain through its whitewashed buildings, courtyards decorated with flowers and squares. The Jewish quarter of Cordoba shows the typical layout of Muslim cities and stretches from the Puerta de Almodovar to the Cathedral-Mezquita.
What to see along the route?
The best place to start unraveling the secrets of Cordoba's Jewish Quarter is the Casa de Sefarad, a cultural institution that preserves the Spanish-Jewish heritage. A must-see for those who want to learn about the history of this community in Spain and are looking for more than just postcard photos in this itinerary.
Next to it is the synagogue, a small treasure of Mudejar style and one of the very few historic synagogues still remaining in the country. A few meters from the temple we find Maimonides Square dedicated to the famous Jewish philosopher whose statue can be seen in the nearby Tiberias Square.
Other places of great interest to visit during a tour of the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba are the Andalusi House, the Calleja de las Flores or the souk, one of the most visited courtyards in Cordoba.
- Where?: in the center of Cordoba, northwest of the Mosque.
- Timetable?: Ideally, you should walk around this area in the morning or in the afternoon, when the neighborhood is at its most lively. You can also do it with a guided tour.
Isabel's Traveller Tip
Remember to take your picture in the popular Calleja del Pañuelo, one of the narrowest streets in Cordoba and Europe, the width is as wide as a stretched handkerchief!
5. Be amazed by the Roman Temple
One of the places to see in Cordoba that impressed me the most during my trip is the Roman Temple. It is amazing to contemplate the good state of preservation of this structure dating from the first century A.D. and which was discovered by chance during the extension works of the city hall in 1950.
Dedicated to the imperial cult, it is a building of great dimensions formed by six Corinthian style exempt columns at its entrance. In front of them was the altar and the temple was raised on a podium. It is believed that it was part of the provincial forum together with the circus.
You will find it in Capitulares street and you will not get tired of taking pictures of it. It is a sample of the grandeur and importance that Cordoba had in Roman times. In fact, in its day the Roman Temple was one of the most imposing buildings of the empire because of its immense size could be seen from the Via Augusta, the entrance road to the town.
- Where?: Calle Capitulares, 1.
- Timetable?: You can see it whenever you want, but the best photos will be taken in mid-afternoon, with a softer light illuminating its façade.
6. Climb the Calahorra Tower and contemplate the views of the city.
Throughout this route through the old town you will surely have noticed the vast historical and cultural heritage of the city. The truth is that it is a delight to explore all the ancient monuments to see in Cordoba.
But behind each of them there is a story that contributed to create the city we know today and that is worth knowing.
In the Living Museum of Al-Andalus you can delve into this important chapter in the history of Spain and take a trip back in time to the Middle Ages to discover what the Caliphate capital was like and how the values of the West and the East were mixed in the streets of the largest city in Europe.
This museum is located at the southern end of the Roman Bridge, in what is known as Torre de Calahorra and it was a visit that I found most interesting. Not only for the exhibits inside the Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus but also for the history of the structure itself that houses it.
What to see in the museum?
Visiting this museum is a good opportunity to know, through its exhibitions and projections, the Cordoba of the three cultures (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) in the Middle Ages, its architecture, its scientific knowledge, its music and great personalities such as Alfonso X "The Wise", Maimonides or Averroes.
I also recommend entering the museum for the unique panoramic view from the top floor of the Calahorra Tower, from where you can see the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, the Roman Bridge and the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba. It is an excellent opportunity to take some of the best photos of the city.
- Where?: At the south end of the Roman Bridge in the Tower of Calahorra.
- Hours?: Monday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM in winter (from October 1 to April 30) / Monday to Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM and from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM in summer (from May 1 to September 30).
7. Marvel at the art and patios of the Palacio de Viana
Another of the most beautiful places to see in Cordoba is the Palacio de Viana located in the neighborhood of Santa Marina.
Many tourists come to this luxurious 14th century residence attracted by the beauty of its twelve open-air Cordoban patios, which concentrate the essence of the Islamic and Roman architecture so characteristic of the city.
These patios are a true marvel, a tribute to the light of Andalusia and a haven of peace with a great variety of plants, trees and fountains that are a joy to walk through.
However, the Palacio de Viana is much more. It is also a beautiful museum spread over two floors with collections of great artistic and historical value.
I was very surprised by all the pieces that can be seen here: from Flemish tapestries, porcelain and seventeenth century furniture to antique books, period firearms and several works of Goya. Without a doubt, one of my favorite visits in Cordoba.
- Where?: Plaza de Don Gome, 2.
- Hours?: September to June. Tuesday to Saturday from 10 AM to 7 PM. Sundays and holidays from 10 AM to 3 PM / July to August. Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 3 PM. Fridays and Saturdays from 9 AM to 3 PM.
8. Relax with a hammam ritual in the Arab baths of Cordoba.
Cordoba is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Its old town has an inexhaustible wealth of monuments and on every corner there is something amazing to see to soak up culture, history and tradition.
Now, if after so much walking around the city center you need to take a break and relax for a while, I recommend you to go to the Arab baths of Cordoba to enjoy a unique hammam experience in a magical place with the essence and aesthetics of the traditional baths of Al-Andalus.
If you have never visited the hammam before, this getaway to the ancient Umayyad capital can be your great opportunity to do something different and original in Cordoba.
What are the Arab baths of Cordoba?
The hammam is a type of steam bath used by the ancient Arabs to cleanse the body and relax the mind.
During a getaway to Cordoba is a fantastic plan to do to feel in your own skin how was the hammam ritual that the ancient inhabitants of Al-Andalus carried out and that has come to our days for our enjoyment, fortunately.
The secret of the Arab baths of Cordoba lies in combining cold and heat with steam. This contrast of temperatures achieves many benefits for the body such as relaxing the muscles, reducing stress, improving circulation and breathing and eliminating toxins from the skin, among others.
What to do in the Arab baths of Cordoba?
Once you enter the Arab baths of Cordoba you will see that it is not a typical spa but the interior decoration is designed to stimulate your senses and make the visitor believe that he has made a trip back in time to the splendor of the ancient Al-Andalus.
If there was one thing that fascinated me about the hammam, it was the relaxed atmosphere inside, where time seems to stand still. The rooms are characterized by their Arabian style decoration with Islamic arches and beautiful starry ceilings that allow the access of natural light.
In addition, the sound of the water, the aroma of the essences that permeate the air, the Andalusian music and the soft light of the candles, transport you to a wonderful state of calm. And if you accompany your massage with a delicious Arabic herbal tea, you will feel like a real sultan or sultana.
9. Excursion to Medina Azahara from Cordoba
Finally, a trip to Cordoba should not miss a trip to discover Medina Azahara, one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe and an essential visit to learn about the history of the Umayyad capital.
The remains of the palatine city that the caliph Abderramán III ordered to be built in the IX century at the foot of Sierra Morena as a symbol of his power after the establishment of the independent caliphate of Córdoba are located about eight kilometers from Córdoba capital.
However, Medina Azahara had an ephemeral life because it was razed to the ground during the civil war that ended the Umayyad caliphate.
Although the archaeological remains are not complete because of neglect, plundering and the passage of time, thanks to the restoration work that has been done at the site it is possible to get an idea of the extraordinary beauty that this caliphate city had in its origins and for those who like art and history, it is a luxury to walk through the ruins of Medina Azahara imagining how it was during its heyday and the importance it had against the surrounding kingdoms.
What to see in Medina Azahara?
Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2018, I recommend you to make this visit to Medina Azahara because it is the ideal complement to the visit of the cathedral-mosque to understand the splendor of the city in the tenth century and one of the most beautiful sites to see in Cordoba.
Here you can see the royal residence of the caliph and the magnificent Rico Hall, where political receptions were held in the city and which was characterized by its careful decoration. Also the Aljama Mosque and the house of Yafar, the home of the first minister of the caliph Alhaken II, who built the maqsura of the mosque of Cordoba.
In the vicinity of the archaeological ruins of Medina Azahara is the Interpretation Center, which aims to promote the study and dissemination of this site and to be a bridge between the Western and Eastern worlds.
All the historical objects found in the archaeological excavations are preserved here and an audiovisual documentary is shown, which is worth watching to learn more about Medina Azahara and the life there, since more than 20,000 people lived there.
How to get to Medina Azahara?
Bus: from Avenida del Alcázar there is a tourist bus to the Interpretation Center of Medina Azahara. To get a ticket for this bus you must reserve a seat at the tourist office in Cordoba at least one day in advance.
By car: from the center of Cordoba you can take the A-431 road to Palma del Rio until you reach the sign indicating Madinat al-Zahra. Once you arrive at the Interpretation Center of Medina Azahara you will have to park the car and buy a ticket to take the shuttle bus that goes up to the archaeological site. It leaves every 20 minutes.
Guided tour: normally includes transportation from the center of Cordoba, entrance to the site and tour guide. It is the most comfortable way to visit Medina Azahara.
Isabel's Traveller Tip
To better understand the importance of Medina Azahara in Spain, my advice is to first visit the palatine city and then this museum.
10. Go for tapas in Cordoba!
In addition to the legendary cathedral-mosque of Cordoba, if this city is known for something it is for its gastronomy where you eat great. Tapas are the order of the day in Cordoba and, in my opinion, one of the best ways to get to know the culture of a place is through its gastronomy.
With a Mediterranean base, Cordoba's cuisine is one of the most complete in Andalusia thanks to its wide variety of ingredients where meat and vegetables abound.
What are the typical dishes of Córdoba?
There are so many and they are all very tasty! There are so many local specialties that it will be difficult to choose. Some of them are salmorejo, berenjenas fritas con miel, flamenquines, caracoles, rabo de toro, pastel cordobés, japuta en adobo or jamón ibérico.
All this accompanied by a good glass of wine, of course. What are the most famous wines of Cordoba? There is also a lot of variety, for example Montilla-Morilles, Pedro Ximénez, Casa Villa-Zeballos or Fino Cordobés, although the drink par excellence throughout Andalusia and also Cordoba is the mythical rebujito. Be careful, it goes up quickly!
Where to eat in Córdoba?
In Cordoba you can find good restaurants where to eat in practically all the points of the city.
The ideal is to go to eat in a tavern in the center, for example in the Judería and the Tendillas square, considered the gastronomic epicenter of Cordoba.
Another option that I recommend to try a bit of everything in the form of rations is to go to Mercado Victoria, a few meters from the wall of Cordoba. Here you will be able to take the best of the Spanish and Cordovan cuisine as well as rich Iberian, cheeses, salted meats or wines.
A similar site to the previous one is the Mercado Los Patios de la Marquesa where you can taste typical Cordovan food with flamenco shows, show cooking or photographic exhibitions in the middle of the Jewish quarter, a few meters from the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba.
To finish, how about a drink on one of the terraces on the banks of the Guadalquivir to toast your trip to Cordoba under the stars and enjoy the beautiful views of the river, the Roman bridge and a little further on, the historic center? Sounds great, doesn't it?