If you are traveling in Andelucia, Spain, the UNESCO city of Córdoba is well worth a visit. The famous Mosque-Cathedral and surrounding old town can be explored in a day, and most significant monuments are within walking distance. If you can stay at least one night, there will be fewer tourists and at sunset it looks especially magical.
Visit the Great Cathedral and Mosque (Mezquita de Córdoba)
The Mezquita Cathedral is a significant place for Muslims as well as Christians. The amazing mosque is remarkably well-preserved, and dominates the old town that surrounds it. The interior prayer hall, made up of red and white arches, is so vast that it can take a while to even find the cathedral, which was built inside the mosque.
- The original Mosque was built over the 6th century Visigothic Basilica. In the 1940s parts of this original Basilica, mainly mosaics and pillars, were discovered in the subfloor of the Cathedral when building work was carried out.
- The construction of the Mosque began in 786 A.D.
- Since its beginnings, the Mosque has been the biggest building of its kind in the western Muslim world.
- The first Eucharistic ceremony of the Dedication of the Cathedral was celebrated in 1236.
- The construction of Renaissance style Chapel was initiated in 1523.
- In its heyday, a pilgrimage to the Great Mezquita in Córdoba by a Muslim was said to have equaled a journey to Mecca.
Fee: 8 € Adult
* From Monday to Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., it’s possible to visit the Cathedral free, but individually and in silence.
Visit the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Palace)
The 13th century Alcázar (castle) of Cordoba is not comparable to the the Alhambra at Granada or Seville’s Alcazar, but it is still worth a visit. The wonderful gardens are the highlight, with ponds and statues providing an oasis of calm in the city. Climb to the top for impressive views of both the city and gardens. Don’t miss the Hall of the Mosaics, a small Baroque chapel, where Roman mosaics are displayed on the walls. The exterior of the Alcázar is especially photogenic at sunset.
3Explore the cobblestoned streets of Cordoba’s old town.
Cordoba is very walkable, with the major sights all within close proximity of the Mezquita. The streets immediately off the Mezquita, while pleasant, are very touristy. But if you venture a couple blocks further you can enjoy a more peaceful walk through the old town, with shady narrow streets, whitewashed walls, colourful doors and flower-filled patios.
4Puerta del Puente (“Gate of the Bridge”)
The 16th century Puerta del Puente is located on the site of previous Roman and Moorish gates, and leads from the city to the Roman Bridge. The square next to gate is a nice place to sit and listen to street musicians.
5Cross the Roman Bridge
This bridge crosses the Guadalquivir River, and was built in the early 1st century BC, during the period of Roman rule, although all of its 16 arches have since been replaced.
Visit the Calahorra Tower and Museo Vivo de al-Andalus (“Museum of Andalucia”)
The 14th century Calahorra Tower is located at the south end of the Roman Bridge, and stands on the foundations of an earlier Islamic building. The museum features the Moorish history of Córdoba from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when the city was the cultural and intellectual center of Europe, and with emphasis on this period of peaceful co-existence between the Jewish, Christian and Moslem cultures. The top of the tower has a great view of the city and the river.
Fee: 4,50 € Adult
Experience the Arabic baths – Baños Árabes de Córdoba
After a day of exploring, what better way to unwind than to experience a traditional Arab bath and massage. The Cordoba Hammam has recreated these traditional baths with Caliphate architecture-style mosaics, arches, plinths, lattices and columns. In between your bath and massage, you can relax with a green tea with mint. The Hammam is located about a block east of the Cathedral/Mosque.
Prices from 24 €
Reservations required. 15% discount with Cathedral ticket.
- Prior to the arrival of the Arabs, Cordoba was a prosperous city in Roman times.
- After the fall of the Romans, the city was taken over by the Visigoths.
- In about 600 AD it was taken over by the Arabs, who brought scientists, scholars, and philosophers, and generated great prosperity from trade.
- From the 8th to 11th centuries, Cordoba was an opulent society and center of great learning and culture, while most of Europe stalled in the Dark Ages. With double today’s population of 320,000, Córdoba was the capital of Iberia, and home to Europe’s first university.
- In 1236, Muslim Andalusia was recaptured by the Christians (The Reconquista). Under various Catholic monarchs, Cordoba went into a decline that lasted for centuries.
- The historical importance of Córdoba was recognized by UNESCO, and the title of World Heritage Site was given to not only to the Mosque-Cathedral, but also to all the streets and buildings around it.
There is no shortage of great pastry shops, tapas bars, and restaurants in Cordoba. Try wandering a bit from the Mezquita for less tourists and better prices. We tried the local specialty, salmorejo, which is a creamy version of gazpacho – yum!
Hospederia De El Churrasco
We loved this hotel, with lots of historical charm and a great location in the old town, on a narrow street near the Mezquita. We received a warm welcome with a glass of wine, and the room was beautiful. The excellent breakfast was included and served in our room.
This is a budget choice hotel, recommended for its excellent location directly opposite the entrance of the Mesquita. The rooms are small and simple, but clean and comfortable.