Boasting a fascinating history, in the 10th century Cordoba was the largest capital city in Europe, surpassing Paris and Rome in its academic, architectural, and artistic achievements. It was the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba, which for several hundred years controlled much of the Iberian peninsula.
Córdoba is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain not only for its iconic Mosque-Cathedral, but also its beautiful flower-adorned patios, this is a city with something for everyone. Read on for the 1 best things to see and do in Córdoba.
La Mezquita - The Great Mosque
The Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral is Cordoba’s greatest monument. It was created for the Caliphate of Córdoba, an important Moorish kingdom of Andalusia. Built in the eighth century, the Mezquita is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and is considered one of the most striking monuments of Moorish Spain.
The Moors captured Córdoba in 711, and what had previously been a Visigoth Christian church was originally divided in use between both Christians and Muslims. By 782 the Muslim population had grown and so it was used solely as a Mosque. The Catholic Monarchs converted the mosque to a cathedral in 1523. Today the building is a Roman Catholic Church and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
You enter through the Puerta del Perdón gateway that leads into to the Patio de los Naranjos or Patio of Oranges that is planted with fragrant orange trees and palms. This patio is where the ablutions prescribed by Islamic law were performed. From the Patio de los Naranjos, visitors reach the Mudéjar-style Puerta de las Palmas, which opens into the prayer hall of the mosque. This impressive hall is an endless forest of 856 columns made from marble and jasper linked by red and white horseshoe arches.
In the hall, the mihrabs or prayer niches mark the direction of Mecca with the highlight being the Mihrab Nuevo which is made from a single block of marble covered with floral and geometric patterns and verses from the Koran in Arabic script. The cathedral’s sanctuary, with its Gothic choir, was placed in the center of the mosque, while keeping the basic framework of the Islamic architecture around it.Read more about the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba
Judería - Old Jewish Quarter
The Judería or old Jewish quarter is a delightful areas with its narrow lanes, whitewashed houses, flower-filled patios, and quiet little squares, this area has a very distinctive atmosphere.
Jews have lived in Cordoba since Roman times, and they really flourished after the Moors conquered the city in the 8th century. The historic area has two important Jewish monuments: the 15th-century Mudéjar-style Sinagoga de Córdoba at the center of the quarter and the Casa de Sefarad or House of Spanish Jews museum. The Casa de Sefarad has been restored to its 14th-century glory and features five themed rooms that illustrate the history and culture of the Sephardi or Spanish Jews. There is also a tribute to the Arab philosopher Maimonides in the quaint Plaza Maimónides.Read more about the Judería de Córdoba
Castle of the Christian Monarchs
The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos or Fortress of the Christian Monarchs sits on a site that includes Roman and Visigoth ruins. This former 8th century Caliphal Palace was home to the Moorish rulers until the city was conquered by Catholic Monarch King Fernando III and Queen Isabella in 1236. When Alfonso XI decided to build his own royal palace on the same site in the early 14th century, although he only used a small part of the original he built the palace in a Mudéjar style.
The Alcázar is the site that the Catholic Monarchs were petitioned by Christopher Columbus about finding a westbound sea route to India. Later, from 1499 up to 1812 the palace was used by the inquisition and was used as civil and military jail.
The entire fortress is encircled by massive walls with four towers: Lion’s Tower, River Tower, Homenaje Tower and Vela Tower. The major attraction of the Royal Fortress is its beautiful Arabian-style gardens featuring ornamental pools, well-cut hedges, and decorative fountains. From spring through autumn, colorful flowers bloom throughout the grounds and in the summer the fountains are illuminated.Read more about the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba
The beauty of Córdoba is in full bloom every year in May during the Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba. This popular festival, which began in 1918 is a competition among Córdoba residents for the prize of most beautiful patio or courtyard of potted plants and colorful flowers. Many house owners in Cordoba’s traditional neighborhoods join the contest and open their doors to locals and tourists alike. This lively event, which also includes singing, flamenco dancing, and delicious tapas.
The best patios are around the Alcázar Viejo district, between the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and the Iglesia de San Basilio; around the Santa Marina district; around the Iglesia de San Lorenzo; and near the Iglesia de la Magdalena. Many exquisite patios as well as the Calleja de las Flores or Alley of the Flowers are found in the Judería de Córdoba, the area surrounding the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba. The most elegantly decorated historic patios of Córdoba can be seen in the Palacio de los Marqueses de Viana which features 12 different courtyards.Read more about the Feria de los Patios de Córdoba
Palacio de Viana
The Palacio de los Marqueses de Viana is a stunning Renaissance palace renowned for its 12 plant-filled patios designed in the Andalusian style with decorative fountains and lush landscaping. You can just walk round the lovely patios and garden with a self-guiding leaflet, and see wander among the date palms, vibrant bougainvillea, sweet jasmine, and fragrant citrus trees are planted throughout the garden. you can also take a guided tour of the palace which was occupied by the aristocratic Marqueses de Viana until 1980, has an extensive collection of antique furniture, leather work, and a vast library.Read more about the Palacio de los Marqueses de Viana
Originally this impressive Puente Romano or Roman Bridge was built in the early 1st century BC by the Roman emperor Augustus and was extensively rebuilt in the 10th century during the Moorish occupation of the city. The bridge we see today is a 16-arched bridge, which spans the Río Guadalquivir.
At the one end of the bridge is the Torre de la Calahorra or Calahorra Tower, a historic monument that now houses the Alive Museum of Al-Andalus. At the other end you have the Puerta del Puente, an old Renaissance gate which looks like a triumphal arch.
In the middle of the bridge is one of the many statues to Archangel San Rafael, who helped save the city from plague. There is another larger statue, Triunfo de San Rafael de la Puerta del Puente just beyond the Puerta del Puente .Read more about the Puente Romano de Córdoba
Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
The Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba is a great museum to learn about the history of Cordoba from pre-Roman to early Reconquista times. It has with some fine sculpture, an impressive coin collection from the 8th century onwards, prehistoric artifacts, ancient Iberian items including sculptures and reliefs, Moorish art and gravestones, Roman antiquities, and archaeological finds from Medina Azahara, with explanations in English and Spanish.
In the basement, you will find the city’s original Roman amphitheater, as well as homes and workshops dating back to the Middle Ages, all of which were discovered long after the museum found its home here.
An impressive and enjoyable place which is Free to EU citizens with a nice cafe in the shady square outside.Read more about the Museo Arqueológico y Etnológico de Córdoba
Museo de Bellas Artes de Córdoba
The Museo de Bellas Artes de Córdoba or Museum of Fine Arts of Córdoba is housed in the former Hospital de la Caridad which is shares with the Julio Romero de Torres Museum. The museum has an excellent collection of Spanish paintings from the 15th to the 19th centuries including works by Zurbarán, Alejo Fernandez, Antonio del Castillo, Valdés Leal, and Julio Romero de Torres. There are also an assortment of 17th-century and 19th-century sculptures displayed throughout the museum.
Museo Julio Romero de Torres
The Julio Romero de Torres Museum, is housed with the Museo de Bellas Artes de Córdoba in the former Hospital de la Caridad. It is notable for containing the largest collection of the famous Cordoban painter Julio Romero de Torres who was a renowned symbolist painter and talented portrait artist.
The collection represents the entire span of the his career, from his early paintings to his more accomplished portraits and almost allows us to make a tour of his life, from its talented beginnings to its most well-known works: La Chiquita Piconera, Oranges and Lemons, Cante Hondo, Poem to Córdoba, etc.Read more about the Museo Julio Romero de Torres
The Royal Stables of Cordoba
The Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba or The Royal Stables of Cordoba lie alongside the Alcazar. They were founded in 1570 by Philip II, a great lover of horses, who wanted to create a pure Spanish breed warhorse, which lead to today’s Andalusian horses. The current building dates from the 18 century. You can see the horse stalls and stables with lovely cross vaults supported on sandstone columns.
The stables can be visited and you can also permanent equestrian and flamenco display, held every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and is suitable for the whole family.Read more about the Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba
Plaza de las Tendillas
Cordoba’s Plaza de las Tendillas sits in the very heart of Cordoba and at the crossroads between the older part of town and the relatively newer modern one and is a very pleasant square for a break. Its water fountains makes it an ideal stop in the hot weather -especially if you are travelling with children! There are many bars and restaurant terraces siturated around the square.
Its current configuration back to the 1920s, when it was built to be used as a central meeting place in the big southern city. it houses an impressive statue of the Great Captain and also the Tendillas Clock, whose chimes are of a guitar!Read more about the Plaza de las Tendillas
Roman Temple of Cordoba
The Roman Temple of Cordoba is near to the Plaza de las Tendillas located in front of the town hall, this temple impresses with its dimensions.
From the street you can see Corinthian style columns which are the remains of a Roman temple built in the first century AD. The temple was probably dedicated to the Imperial cult, in other words to the emperor who was worshiped as a god. The architectural remains and foundation were only discovered in the 1950s.Read more about the Templo Romano de Córdoba
Plaza de la Corredera
Corredera Square is a grand 17th-century plaza or square covering about 67,000 square feet, similar in style to a Castilian Plaza Mayor. Similar to the plaza de las Tendillas it is a great place in Cordoba to enjoy a drink or a lunch on a terrace.
The square has an elaborate history as a site of public spectacles, parties, bullfights and Inquisition executions. Nowadays it’s ringed by apartments with balconies and is home to an assortment of popular bars and restaurants. The Mercado de la Corredera is a busy morning food market selling all kinds of fresh produce.Read more about the Plaza de la Corredera
Calleja de las Flores
The Caliphate city of Medina Azahara is situated just a few kilometres from Cordoba. Medina Azahara, which meaning beautiful town in Arabic, was built in the 10th century as the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba, by the Umayyad dynasty.
After prospering for several years, it was looted and laid to waste during the civil war that put an end to the Caliphate in 1009-1010. The city stood deserted for centuries until their rediscovery in the early 20th century. Although only 10% of the original city has been recovered, you get a good idea of just how magnificent Medina Azahara must have been. The city features infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, decorative elements and everyday objects. It provides in-depth knowledge of the now vanished Western Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus, at the height of its splendor.Read more about the Medina Azahara
Castillo de Almodóvar del Río
Castillo de Almodóvar del Río or Almodovar Castle is a castle that sits of the banks of the Guadalquivir above the town of Almodovar and dates back to the 8th century, when the Moors ruled this Al-Andulas. The castle is 22 kilometers from the city of Córdoba and is truly worth visiting!
The castle’s origins date back to Roman times. The actual construction, however, was built by the Arabs in 760. Under the rule of Fernando III it came to the Christians in 1240, and under Pedro I and Enrique II it even served as royal residence. Later the fortress was handed to the knightly order of Calatrava and then to the order of Santiago. Finally, in 1903 the Earl of Torralva, then the owner, began restoring the castle. These efforts lasted until 1936. Therefore, the historic structure is amazingly well-preserved even today.
Recently it played its part as Highgarden, the ancestral home of House Tyrell, and there is a small Game of Thrones exhibit there.
“If the great cities of Andalusia were a flamenco troupe, Córdoba would play the cameo, the mysterious beauty appearing all too briefly before showy Seville and Granada take over again,” explains Robert Mayes. “That is something of an injustice for a city that was the centre of medieval Europe and which has at its heart the astounding Mezquita (cathedral-mosque). Yet that gives the city on the river Guadalquivir a more intimate feel. Most of the sights are within a walk – surely the best way to take in the scent of orange blossom, strains of Spanish guitar and tempting tapas bars.”Read more about the Castillo de Almodóvar del Río
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