With its romantic name and rich history, Córdoba is a must-visit destination in Andalusia. Córdoba has much to offer the discerning traveler: amazing art and architectural sights, great gastronomic experiences, and the opportunity to soak in its quaint medieval atmosphere. So, are you ready for my list of the eight best things to do in Córdoba?
Córdoba’s historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is much to see and do! We spent two active days here, which I felt was the perfect amount of time to cover the top sights and experiences.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN CóRDOBA!
Seville and Granada get a lot of love from travelers to southern Spain, and they are both stunning cities with famous monuments. But Córdoba should be on your list too, and you’ll see why as you continue reading!
Here is my list of the best things to do in Córdoba:
#1 Be Awed by the Mezquita de Córdoba!
Córdoba’s spectacular mosque-cathedral is easily its top attraction, the one sight you just cannot miss. Place a visit to the Mezquita at the top of your list of the best things to do in Córdoba! Its interior is gorgeous and its history fascinating.
The Mezquita was originally a Roman temple, and then became a Visigothic church. Then, in a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together amicably in Córdoba, one half of the church was bought by the Muslims for their Friday prayers. Later, the Muslims purchased the rest of the site, and built a mosque here.
Over the next several decades, additions and embellishments were made to the original mosque, to make it a grand structure. Córdoba was taken by the Christians in the Reconquista, and in the early sixteenth century, construction began on the insertion of a cathedral into the heart of the mosque, culminating in the mosque cathedral you see today.
EXPLORE THE MAGNIFICENT INTERIOR of the MEZQUITA
The interior of the Mezquita is simply stunning. The main prayer hall has row upon row of double horseshoe arches on top of columns. The striking alternating red and white stripes at the tops of the arches will stop you in your tracks and make you go “Wow!”
Stone, marble and wood have been used lavishly in the construction of the Córdoba mosque. Lots of gold, silver and copper adorn the interior. Beautiful mosaics and tiles complete the picture.
The minaret of the mosque was remodeled into the bell tower of the cathedral. And the courtyard, with its orange trees, palms, olives and cypresses, is a delight.
Allow at least two hours, to explore inside and outside. Admission is free between 8.30 and 10.00 in the morning (excluding Sundays and Feast Days), but you cannot get into the main cathedral during this time.
It’s still worth going early to be able to take photos in peace, and then returning with a paid ticket to just enjoy the magnificence of the place. Exploring the Mezquita is just one of the things you can do in Cordoba without breaking the bank.
If you go: Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba
Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Spain
#2 Walk the Roman Bridge to the Calahorra Tower
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll be excited to learn that the Roman Bridge of Córdoba is the real-life bridge behind the Long Bridge of Volantis! Much enhanced with computer graphics, of course.
You can walk the bridge, which spans the Guadalquivir River, from either end. If you walk north to south, you’ll start from the Puerta del Puente just outside the compound of the Mezquita, and end at the Calahorra Tower.
The bridge has been reconstructed multiple times, so not much of the original Roman bridge remains. Don’t miss the huge water wheel on the northern bank of the river.
The Puerta del Puente, the bridge itself, and the Calahorra Tower are all lovely photo locations. They are also popular places, so if you want your photos free of people, you’ll have to visit early in the day. The bridge looks stunning lit up at night as well.
If you go: Puente Romano
Av. del Alcázar, s/n, 14003 Córdoba
#3 Explore the ruins at Medina Azahara
You’ll need transport to get to Medina Azahara, which is located just a few miles outside the city. The ruins of a large palace-city built in the tenth century, Medina Azahara makes for a fascinating history lesson if you splurge on a guided visit. Medina Azahara definitely deserves a spot in any list of the top things to see and do in Córdoba!
Even if you choose to wander the ruins on your own, you will marvel at the thought and labor that must have gone into the construction of the complex, from its location on the side of a hill to its many buildings and gardens. You can see the remains of arches with red-and-white tops, just like the ones in the Mezquita.
Sadly, just a few years after it was completed, the magnificent complex was abandoned by a new ruler, and in succeeding years it was looted again and again for the materials used in its construction.
There’s a tourist bus that will take you to the site and back to the city. You can book online here. Allow several hours for the visit, and bring a hat, water, and sunscreen.
If you go: Medina Azahara
Ctra. Palma del Río, km 5.5, 14005 Córdoba
#4 Peek into some patios!
In May, Córdoba hosts the Fiesta de los Patios, the famous Festival of the Patios. For two weeks, patios of Córdoba are opened for viewing by the public. It’s a treat to visit Córdoba during this period, to see the fabulous displays, some in a tiny space. But even in the couple of weeks leading up to the festival and the two after, if you’re lucky, you can catch glimpses of some of these amazing patios in bloom as you walk around the old city.
Homes and buildings in Córdoba have been built with an enclosed patio since way back when, because of its hot, dry climate. The patio, with lots of greenery, bright blooms, sculpture, and water features formed a cool retreat for residents. Over time, many of the patios evolved into beautiful works of art, as owners used their creativity and ingenuity to elevate the designs. And the Fiesta de los Patios was born!
You’ll love the patios of Córdoba, not just for the bright colors, but also the tasteful combination of plant material with tile and stone. Many patios have scented plants, and the heady fragrance of jasmine and citrus will waft about you as you walk around.
#5 See more patios at the Courtyards of Viana!
If your visit to Córdoba doesn’t coincide with the annual Fiesta de los Patios, don’t despair! At the Palacio de Viana, twelve carefully-crafted courtyards are open year-round for viewing. The patios may not be in peak bloom when you visit, but it’s still interesting to learn about patio design and view the different elements that go into a beautiful courtyard.
From the Reception Courtyard, which formed the main entrance to the palace, to the Courtyard of the Columns with its multiple arches, each patio vignette is lovely. If you love gardens, you will love the Courtyards of Viana!
There’s an admission fee to view the courtyards (or the palace). You can walk around the patios on your own, consulting the information leaflet you get with your tickets, or opt for a guided tour of the palace interior and the courtyards. We bought our tickets for the courtyards when we visited, but you can buy them online in advance as well.
If you go: Palacio de Viana
Plaza de Don Gome, 2, 14001 Córdoba
#6 Wander the streets of Juderia
You’ll love wandering the labyrinthine streets of the Jewish Quarter in Córdoba. Jews lived in harmony with Muslims and Christians in Córdoba for centuries. The Jewish community in Córdoba thrived under its Muslim rulers, reaching an apex of prosperity when Córdoba became the star city of western Europe.
Pop into the synagogue, one of only three medieval synagogues remaining in Spain today. Built in the Mudéjar style like so many other structures in Andalusia, the synagogue was converted to a church in the sixteenth century and later housed the Guild of Shoemakers, before being restored.
See the statue of Maimonides, the famous philosopher who lived in Córdoba for many years until he fled to Egypt. Visit the Casa de Sefarad to learn more about his life and the fate of the Jews during the Inquisition. If you wander long enough, you’ll come to the Puerta de Almodóvar, where you can still see a section of the old walls of the city.
While the Juderia contains points of historical significance, its charm lies in its winding lanes (you’ll get lost, for sure!), the cute little houses and shops, and colorful flower pots that grace the white walls. Don’t miss the popular photo op at the Calleja de las Flores, the famous little alley with flower pots and a view of the tower of the Mezquita at the end.
#7 Do a Tapas Crawl
Córdoba is a burgeoning gastronomic destination, and you’ll find some seriously wonderful places to eat. A tapas crawl is a must! Try salmorejo, a concoction of tomatoes, bread, garlic, and olive oil, which originated here in Córdoba. It’s an amped-up version of gazpacho, very refreshing. Or fried eggplant sticks drizzled with honey…yum. Or anything with the local manchego cheese!
For great tapas in Córdoba, try Garum 2.1 Bistronomic Tapas Bar (what a cool name!). We loved the modern interpretation of traditional tapas. Cervezas Califa is famous not only for its quality tapas, but also for its craft beer. The eggplant with honey at Casa Pepe de la Juderia is awesome.
#8 Visit the Alcazar, by day and by night!
The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is a palace-fortress that was built over the remnants of a Moorish structure. Here is where Christopher Columbus came to meet Ferdinand and Isabella, the rulers of Spain, before his historic voyage that led to the discovery of the New World. Here also are the former headquarters of the infamous Spanish Inquisition.
Don’t miss the display of Roman mosaics from the second and third centuries. The mosaics were discovered in the Plaza de la Corredera in the 1950s.
The stars here are the Moorish courtyards and the gardens and terraces. You’ll love the fountains, ponds and reflection pools that grace the gardens, as well as the formal design of beds in hedges.
Don’t forget to return at night for the light and sound show in the Alcazar gardens…it’s magical! The show lasts about 45 minutes. We bought tickets for the show when we visited the Alcazar earlier the same day.
If you go: Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
Plaza Campo Santo de los Mártires, s/n, 14004 Córdoba
More Things to Do in Córdoba
If you have more time, here are some other things you can do in Córdoba:
Do a walking tour of other parts of the city. Streets lined with citrus trees lead to plazas with sculptures and fountains. There are churches and other buildings to admire and more patios to see. Look for the Roman Temple, discovered as recently as during the 1950s!
Relax in the waters of the Hammam Al Andalus, Arabian baths that will transport you into another era! The baths are located in rooms underground, and you can spoil yourself with a variety of spa treatments.
Visit the Mercado Victoria, billed as Córdoba’s first gastronomic market. Along with local food, the market offers a range of international cuisines as well. Stop for a quick lunch, or browse and taste!
Most people make Córdoba a quick stop en route from Madrid to Seville or vice versa, or do Córdoba as a day trip. While a day trip makes perfect sense if you are short on time, this magnificent city deserves at least two full days!
Getting to Córdoba
Getting to Córdoba is quick and easy with Spain’s efficient rail network. High speed trains connect Córdoba with Madrid, Malaga or Seville. Buy tickets here.
Where to Stay in Córdoba
Top choice: Hospes Palacio del Bailio
Calle Ramírez de las Casas Deza, 10-12, 14001 Córdoba
A remodeled palace, absolutely gorgeous. We stayed here. We were upgraded to the beautiful Don Quixote suite upon arrival! The breakfast is a repast fit for a queen. I recommend you splurge!
Great alternative: Eurostars Palace
Paseo de la Victoria, s/n, 14004 Córdoba, Spain
Contemporary decor, great location. Double showers!
Where to Eat in Córdoba
C/ Compositor Serrano Lucena, 14, 14010 Córdoba
A taste of modern Andalusian cuisine by Chef Kisko Garcia. Michelin-starred!
Ronda de Isasa, 10, 14003 Córdoba
Mediterranean offerings, lots of vegetarian options
Taberna San Miguel (Casa el Pisto)
Plaza de San Miguel, 1, 14001 Córdoba
A small menu of classics, very popular with locals
The Best Time to Visit Córdoba
Córdoba, like most other places in Andalusia, gets really hot in the summer. Without question, the best time to visit is the spring, when the streets are soaked in the sweet scent of citrus blossom and daytime temperatures are pleasant. The month of May brings the famous Fiesta de los Patios.
What’s Your Next Destination in Spain?
If you are traveling south from Córdoba, Seville is less than an hour away by high speed train. You’ll love Seville’s magnificent architecture and great food!
Another option is Malaga, which makes for a great base from where to see some of the pretty pueblo blancos of Andalusia. Malaga is just a little over an hour away by train! Visit Ronda, with its great gorge, or Nerja, famous for its Balcón de Europa. From Malaga, you can also visit Granada, home of the famous Alhambra.
If you have just 3 days to spend in Andalusia, click here to see the top 5 monuments you must see!
If you are traveling north, Madrid, Spain’s gorgeous capital city, is just under two hours away by high speed train.
MORE WONDERFUL DESTINATIONS IN EUROPE
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POLAND: A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Old Town Gdansk
NORWAY: One Perfect Day in Bergen
FINLAND: The Best Things to Do in Helsinki in One Day
GERMANY: One Day in Rostock and Warnamunde
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