6 reasons to visit Córdoba, Spain
Interesting Moorish and Roman heritage and architecture, great weather and delicious food in the south of Spain.
If you’re thinking Sevilla or Granada, think again. Córdoba – normally bypassed by tourists in favour of these other cities – has a lot for the curious traveller.
The Puente Romano in Cordoba, Spain
Many wanderers make a beeline for the grandeur of Sevilla and the stunning architecture and tapas of Granada. But far fewer tourists give much attention to Córdoba’s unique mix of Andalucían architecture, grand monuments and stunning food.
Here’s 6 reasons to visit Córdoba.
1. The Mezquita
The courtyard of the Mezquita
Reading the history of Córdoba’s Mezquita (‘mosque’), you would be forgiven for getting just a little confused. At its foundation is a Visigothic church, but little remains of their influence in the current building. Following the Moorish conquest in 711 and until 1284, the Mezquita underwent a complete transformation while the site served as the Caliph (or Muslim ruler in the south of Spain ) Abd ar Rahman I’s example of his grandeur to the rest of the world.
Later, and not to be outdone of course, some upstart Spanish Christian ruler named Ferdinand III comes along in 1284 and takes it back in the name of the Catholic faith. Then to add another layer, a medieval nave is installed inside the Islamic mosque-turned-cathedral in the 16th century. Game of Thrones is like child’s play to this story…
In all seriousness though, the round arches painted in candy red and white are some of the most unique, iconic architecture I’ve ever seen, in or out of Spain, and simply walking through the cathedral you can see and feel the mixing of the different cultures across more than 2,000 years.
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2. Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Palace of the Christian Kings)
The gardens of the Alcazar are filled with beautiful flowers
Another marvel of Córdoba within a short walking distance of the Mezquita is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. Like the Mezquita, the Alacazar has Visigothic origins but its glory comes from its use as the Islamic Caliph’s personal residence. Just think, if you were a Caliph (or King or Queen), how would you live? Well, that’s how this place is built.
The Alcazar has vast gardens, flowing fountains and some of the best views of the city to be found anywhere.
3. Juderia and patios
My favourite part of the city is the casco antiguo (literally ‘old helmet’, but the term is used to refer to the old part of town). This area is typical Andalucía but the observant tourist will notice some nice touches here and there to make it a little more exotic. For example, you can walk through the twisting, jumbled streets of the Judería, or Jewish quarter, peruse amongst the small shops for local Córdoban products and stumble upon beautiful private patios with colourful flowers and intricately crafted tiling.
4. Hammams (Arabic baths)
Similar to its larger sister cities, Córdoba has a strong Hammam tradition, or Arabic baths. The baths generally have three pools: hot, medium and a cool bath which you go between at your leisure. And you can throw in an hour long massage as well for 38 euros total! These are so good they are not to missed. Our pick is the Banos Arabs de Córdoba (you can see pictures and information, in Spanish, on their website) located in the Judería and only a short walk from the Mezquita and many hotels in the area.
5. Tea houses and Food
Córdoba has these really great Arabic tea houses serving exotic concoctions and Turkish/Lebanese sweets such as almond baklava and others. I love the Salon de Té in the Juderia and their many exotic concoctions.
When you get to eating something more substantial, Córdoba has three specialties to try: salmarejo (a chilled, creamy tomate soup), flamenquín (pork meat, crumbed and fried) and rabo de toro (bull’s tail, usually served in a stew or with fries). If you’re after something a little more casual and modern, head to the Mercado Victoria and sample everything from sushi to Argentinian steak.
6. Córdoba’s festivals and weather/outdoor lifestyle
Arrive in May in Córdoba and you won’t find a day which doesn’t have a festival or some type of celebration. There’s the Las Cruces festival, the Patio festival and of course, our favourite, the Feria de Córdoba.
The Córdoba Feria attracts thousand of the locals and only a small number of tourists.
Many tourists will head to Sevilla for its famed Feria. What many don’t realise is almost all of the casetas (marquees) in Sevilla are private and, unless you are invited as a guest, entry is forbidden. In contrast, the Córdoban casetas are free and open to everyone, tourists and locals alike. There are large open air concerts, plenty of food to be eaten and of course a drink or two to help wash it down while chatting with friends.
Speaking of socialising, you’ll probably want to socialise in the sun and enjoy Spain’s beautiful weather from April to October (even though August and September are excruciatingly hot!). So make sure you keep your fluids up by having a drink down by the Guadalquivir river at one of the many cervezerias and do some people watching.
So there you have it, six of the best reasons to include Córdoba on your next visit to Spain. Do you have any other favourite places to stay, eat, or things to do in Córdoba? Share it with us in the comments below!
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