24 best sights of Cordoba – descriptions and photos
Serving as the residence of the rulers of Cordoba for more than two millennia, the Alcázar Castle has absorbed ancient Roman, Visigothic, Arab and Andalusian features. The palace of the Christian rulers (that was its second name) Alcazar became at the turn of the 13th-14th centuries.
The medieval capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba, now 8 km from Cordoba in the picturesque foothills of the Sierra Morena, is called in Arabic “The Shining City”. Today you can wander here among the “ruins of the empire”, which, by the way, are quite well preserved.
Even if Cordoba had nothing but Mesquita, this city would still be at the top of the Andalusian tourist rankings. The cathedral-museum, the second largest mosque in the Islamic world during the time of the Caliphate of Cordoba, is incredibly beautiful.
Fosforito Flamenco Museum
The Fosforito Flamenco Museum, housed in the medieval Posada del Potro Hotel, is perhaps the best exhibit devoted to this traditional art in all of Andalusia.
The Roman Bridge in Cordoba
Straddling the Guadalquivir, soaring from one side to the other, the Roman Bridge in Cordoba is one of the most eloquent testaments of the city’s long history, which goes back long before Christ.
The majestic and massive Calahorra Tower, a heritage of times when the citizens of Cordoba were in need of early warnings of impending dangers, guarded the peace and quiet of the medieval inhabitants.
Almodóvar del Río Castle
The hill overlooking the town of Almodóvar del Río attracted castle-builders back in Roman times – today’s castle stands just on the foundations of those structures. The multi-kilometer perspective allowed the
The heart of Cordoba’s medieval Jewish quarter, the synagogue is one of three original buildings of the Jewish religion in all of Spain and an eloquent testimony to the long and rich history of this city, which for centuries has absorbed Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions.
As clichéd as it sounds, Cordoba is a city of contrasts, where Roman, Muslim, Christian and Jewish elements have blended together to create a uniquely wholesome landscape. There are a lot of sights in Cordoba – because the history of the city starts long before our era, in Phoenician times. Incredibly, any monument in the city will almost certainly have several components: each people who came to Cordoba tried not to destroy what was built by their predecessors, but to ennoble it in their own way. For example, in the Palace of the Christian rulers you will find ancient Roman mosaics and Visigothic moldings, in the middle of the Roman bridge rises a sculpture of the Archangel Raphael, and in the medieval caravanserai opened the best flamenco museum in Andalusia.
Cordoba’s calling card
The sightseeing of Cordoba rests on three pillars: the Mesquita, the Alcazar and the Medinat Ezzahra. Beneath the singsong words of Cervantes’ language are, respectively, the cathedral mosque and the cathedral together, the palace of the Christian kings and the “shining city” – the capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba in the 10th century.
Mesquita is an honorary member of the list of the twelve architectural wonders of Spain, and once the second largest and most important mosque on the planet. Everything is stunning here: the grandiose construction and the forest of columns of precious stones, the recognizable red and white arches and intricate limestone carvings – and finally the complete cathedral with its Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance features. The Alcázar Palace is practically a “memory of Granada”: a series of lush gardens with cascading ponds and statues frame the jewel – the residence of many Spanish kings, including Ferdinand and Isabella, the unifiers of Spain. Medinat Ezzahra is a resplendent palace city invented by the imagination of Caliph Abderrahman, with government buildings, a treasury, salons, residences, and mosques. Even though the interior decoration has barely survived (the city existed only 70 years, and then was destroyed by Berbers), one can still marvel at the grandeur of the Caliph’s ambitious plan and the perfection of the urban layout.
And in Cordoba, you can still admire the grandeur of the Caliph’s ambitious plan and the perfection of the city’s layout.
The main attractions are the Mosque-Cathedral of Mesquita, the palace of the Christian kings Alcazar and fairytale fantasy city Medinat Ezzahra.
The Archaeological Museum of Cows has been repeatedly recognized by experts as the best museum of this profile in Andalusia, and sometimes in all of Spain. Tourists who are not deterred by the mention of archaeology in the name will be taken on a literally magical journey deep into the centuries of Cordoba’s long history. There are stunning exhibits from seemingly every period of human history, from prehistoric primitive tools to the finest caskets of the Cordoban caliphs, openwork embossing and masterful wood carvings.
A museum that is guaranteed to appeal to anyone whose blood boils with the beat of castanets and the whirl of colorful skirts is the magnificent Flamenco Museum Fosforito, which offers visitors a fascinating journey into the world of this traditional art of Andalusia, inscribed in the Intangible Heritage List of UNESCO. In the museum you can learn all about the history of flamenco, listen to and watch the famous performers and try to beat the various rhythms yourself.
Cordoba travel guide: how to get there, what to see, food, shopping, reviews and tourist tips
Cordoba or Cordoba is an Andalusian city and an ancient Moorish capital, where the sights compete for primacy in scale and sophistication. Local museums are housed in the palaces, and the mighty bridge was built by Caesar. The effect is heightened by the flamenco bars, Andalusian patios and delicious cuisine, fortress walls and gates.
Visiting Cordoba is like visiting three countries at the same time, since three monotheistic cultures have left a deep mark here: Muslim, Christian and Jewish. The Cordoba Mosque (Mesquita) is the most beautiful mosque in Spain and the third largest in the world, attracting more than 1.5 million tourists every year. The Christian monarchs responded to the Moors by building their Alcazar, considered second only to that of Seville. There’s also a colorful Jewish quarter and an ancient synagogue.
You can see Cordoba by watching this video:
Equally unique is the legacy of ancient Rome – the bridge, the ruins of the temple and amphitheater, the stunning marble sarcophagus in Cordoba’s Alcazar. Cordoba’s festivals are vibrant displays of flamenco, flowers, guitar and festivities. Many tourists plan their trips so that they can catch one of these fiestas.
How to get to Cordoba
Photo: Tourist map of Cordoba
Cordoba has high-speed rail connections to the main cities (carrier AVE). From Madrid, the train (AVE) takes 1 hour and 45 minutes with a ticket price between 30-70€. From Seville the AVE takes 42 minutes and costs 25-35€. From Málaga (useful during the holiday season) the train (RENFE) takes 1 hour and costs 18-28€.
From Madrid by bus (Socibus) take 5 hours and cost about € 30 each way. From Seville by bus (ALSA) – 2 hours, ticket price €15-22. From Málaga by bus (on ALSA) – 4 hours 15 mins, ticket price €16€ – €25€.
When to go
Córdoba has an almost year-round climate but in July and August it will be too hot (up to +40 ˚C). However, if you come here for a few days from the coast, the shady courtyards and cozy cafes will save you from the heat during the siesta.
Spring in Cordoba is velvet – +18 to +27˚ C, the gardens are in bloom, the wind blows gently and there are fiestas and festivals in May.
Autumn is unusual – in September it averages +32 ˚C (high season and high prices), in October an intoxicating +26 ˚C, and in November +18 ˚C (+10 ˚C at night). Winter is moderate from +5 to +15˚C, with oranges blooming and ripening at the same time. There are not many tourists and the city has a very special atmosphere.
The first records of the city date back to 230 A.D. in connection with the Roman settlement of Carduba. At the beginning of the 8th century, Cordoba became one of the largest and most influential cities in Europe after Constantinople. At this time it was the capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba or Al-Andalus, with about 500,000 inhabitants (now about 320,000).
In the 9th and 10th centuries, Cordoba was the center of scientific and cultural life with the best university, where about 10,000 people from Europe and the East studied. Most of the townspeople were literate, and Cordoba’s library was the largest in the Islamic world (over 400,000 volumes).
In 1236 Cordoba was conquered by the Castilian armies of King Ferdinand III, but the imprint of Muslim culture has remained the strongest.
Sightseeing in Córdoba
Photo: Alcázar of the Christian Kings
Cordoba Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it takes 2 to 3 days to see all of its attractions. To keep within 1 day you can choose the most interesting places – the Mesquita, the Alcázar of Cordoba, the Roman Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, the Plaza de la Constitución and one of the museums.
The Roman Bridge, Cordoba’s oldest site, is 250m long and dates back to the time of Caesar. The 16-arch bridge over the Guadalquivir River is flanked by a beautiful Arab fort tower with the Torre de la Calahorra teeth on one side (now a museum), and an ancient gate on the other.
Photo: The Roman Bridge in Cordoba
The 14th century Alcazar of the Christian Kings (alcazar means “palace” in Arabic) is the second most important royal residence after that of Seville, combining the features of a magnificent palace with fabulously beautiful gardens and a mighty fortress. The 55,000 m2 fortress palace was the place where the most important matters of Columbus’ expeditions were decided, as is shown by the sculpture where Columbus is standing in front of the royal couple. The Ancient Roman sarcophagus from the 3rd century A.D., made from a single piece of marble and intricately carved, is of great value.
The Mesquita is a Moorish wonder in the heart of Cordoba. The mosque was built in 786 on the site of a destroyed Visigoth basilica and was the main sanctuary of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The stunning beauty of the mosque seized the Spaniards and they did not destroy it, and instead built the Cathedral of St. Mary between its columns (13th century).
Photo: Mesquita Mosque
A picturesque orange garden with cypresses and olives, an arcaded chapel, amazing vaults, altars, and elaborate decorations make Mesquita one of the most visited attractions in Europe. A narrow street leads to Stallion Square and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Plaza del Potro, in a former hospital building, immediately attracts the eye with its elegant fountain with a foal. An inner courtyard unites it with the Museo Julio Romero de Torres. Paintings by Palomino, Pedro de Cordoba, Bote, Murillo, Ribera, Alejo Fernández and other Renaissance and Baroque artists are on display here. The sculpture collection includes works by Cristobal, Juan de Mesa, Julio Antonio and Mateo Innuria. Of high value is the collection of graphics, with works by Goya.
Photo: Plaza del Potro
While in Plaza del Potro, don’t miss the opportunity to stop by the Fosforito Flamenco Museum in a lovely 14th century medieval inn. The courtyard itself has the spirit of old Andalusia, and inside there is an interactive exhibit with photos and recordings of the best performances, antique and modern flamenco gear.
Plaza de la Corredera is one of Cordoba’s most famous squares and is admired for its sweep, straight lines and conciseness. It used to be the site of public executions of inquisitors, fairs, and bullfights. Now there are cafes and an underground parking lot.
Photo: Plaza de la Constitución in Córdoba
The archaic Roman Temple (Templo Romano) is like a portal to ancient worlds in the center of the city. Judging by the scale of the construction and the quality of the marble columns, it could have been the main sanctuary of the Romans. Interestingly, the ruins were only excavated in the 1950s during the expansion of City Hall.
The Museo Viana is another museum in the palace that opens the door to the lives of the affluent citizens of old Cordoba. The palace impresses with the number of courtyards, each decorated in a different style, and the pots of flowers create a cozy atmosphere. The collection of the Museo de la Viana includes rare furniture, tapestries, paintings, a unique collection of books and other antiques.
Photo: Museo de Viana
The 13th-century Church of San Miguel in the square of the same name is a fine example of aged Gothic. You can also visit the Church of St. Hippolytus and head to Tendillas Square, the Museum of Archaeology and Huderia, the Jewish quarter.
Plaza de las Tendillas is Cordoba’s main square in its historic center and is always bustling with life. It is adorned by majestic Art Nouveau buildings and a beautiful equestrian sculpture of the outstanding Spanish general Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. It is the site of Christmas fairs and regular performances by street actors.
Photo: Plaza Tendillas
The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, housed in the magnificent 16th-century Paez de Castillejo mansion, welcomes guests with a pleasant courtyard with a fountain. The lower level exhibits unique items from prehistoric to Roman times, while the upper level presents the visitor with an outstanding collection from the Moriscan era.
The Jewish Quarter (Juderia) is a colorful place where Jews have lived for 5 centuries. There are many interesting sites here, including the Synagogue of Cordoba, the Sephardic House, and the Almodovar Gate, next to which is a monument to Seneca.
The Cordoba Synagogue (presumably early 14th century) is the only surviving Jewish shrine in southern Spain. The synagogue is stunning in its splendor of carved plant ornaments, Stars of David and Torah writings.
If you don’t get lazy, you can find the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater west of the center in the Juan Carlos I Park.
Attractions in the vicinity
Photo: Medina az Zahara Palace
Medina az Zahara, a palace 8 km from Cordoba, the residence of Abd al-Rahman III, built in the 10th century and destroyed at the beginning of the 11th century by a Berber invasion from Africa. You can imagine the former beauty of the palace city, because even its ruins exude luxury and grandeur.
Bujalanse is a beautiful Andalusian town 45 km from Córdoba with charming houses, churches, palaces and towers. Here you can spend a day strolling through the historic center and the outskirts, arriving by bus from Córdoba, which runs every hour.
Montilla is a pleasant town 55 km. from Córdoba where it’s worth stopping to buy the best wines and olive oil. The Dukes of Medinaceli have a magnificent Renaissance palace here.
Tips from tourist reviews
Best places for pictures
One of the most beautiful places for a walk and photo session is Calleja de las Flores. Be sure to find this incredibly narrow street with white houses that seem to compete for beauty and a variety of colorful flowers in bright pots. Also beautiful is Calle Bailio, with its cypresses, whitewashed houses, waterfalls of bright colors and wrought iron. It makes for the most atmospheric Andalusian photos.
The Roman Bridge is a great place for panoramic photos, where you can see the city, the Mesquita and other structures. And, of course, the Alcázar of Cordoba and the Mesquita, where every corner can be the setting for a luxurious photo shoot.
When planning a tour of the city, keep in mind that many establishments may be closed for siesta. For example, Mesquita, which is not open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. But even if you miss it, you can go to the Jewish Quarter or check out one of the restaurants.
Photo: Patio Festival in Cordoba
The Battle of the Flowers (after April Sunday) is a sumptuous procession with huge flower arrangements and a cheerful throwing of carnations.
May Crosses Festival – interesting action in early May, when huge 3-meter crosses decorated with flowers are carried along the street.
Córdoba Fair (late May) – the main fiesta of the city with merry dances, treats, rivers of wine, competitions and concerts.
The soul of Cordoba is its lovely patios with flowers, for which a festival has even been invented. The second and third week of May is the Inner Courtyard Festival, when everyone can enter and appreciate the patios of the participating townspeople.
The Flamenco Festival is held in June, when evening Cordoba is full of ladies in colorful dresses with fans. This is the best time to get into town – the flamenco concerts and overall atmosphere are breathtaking.
The Guitar Festival is another native Spanish event that lasts for 2 weeks in July. The sound of the guitar pours from everywhere – flamenco, jazz, folk tunes, Celtic motifs. Most events are free, and you must purchase tickets in advance for the professional concerts.
- Sombrero (Cordoba hat);
- Leather goods;
- Batik with an Arabic or floral pattern or with a girl in a flamenco dance;
- Ceramics – souvenir tiles with house number, magnets;
- Glass mosaics.
Where to buy
Souvenirs and leather goods are sold in the city’s many souvenir shops. Also check out the large shopping center El Corte Ingles.
Consider Cordoba the jewelry capital of Spain, thanks to PARQUE JOYERO DE CORDOBA, which has the largest selection of jewelry and watches in Europe.
Pay special attention to the old Arab market with a great selection of silver jewelry at very attractive prices.
Things to do in Cordoba
10 Things to do in Cordoba:
- Take in the Oriental tale of Mesquita and continue at the Moroccan Tea House;
- Feel like a monarch in the gardens of Cordoba’s Alcázar;
- Spend an evening in a flamenco atmosphere at Tablao Flamenco Cardenal or the cozy bar Taberna La Fuenseca;
- Visit Hammam Al Andalus, an oriental bath;
- Buy beautiful and inexpensive silver jewelry in an Arabian market;
- Salmorejo and oxtail in a restaurant with an Andalusian patio;
- Go to Medina to see how luxurious the ruins can be;
- Explore the Jewish Quarter, the fabulous Synagogue and the Sephardic Museum;
- Hide from the heat in Cordoba’s Botanical Gardens;
- Go to charming Montilla for the best olive oil.
What to try
Photo: Córdoba Salmorejo soup
Cordoban cuisine stands on three pillars: meat, vegetables and olive oil. The best wine from Cordoba winemakers are Amontillado and Aloroso, which stand out for their special bouquet.
Salmorejo is a cordoba soup similar to gazpacho, but thicker and necessarily flavored with boiled egg and ham (jamon). Just like gazpacho, it is served cold and helps a lot in the heat. Try it after a walk through Mesquite at El Caballo Rojo (even open during siesta).
Rabo de toro is tender and lean oxtail stewed with vegetables. You can try the best oxtail in Cordoba at El Patio Azul, also near Mesquita. Charming Andalusian patio, huge portions, homemade food, reasonable prices.
Flamenquin – deep-fried pork rolls stuffed with jamon. An excellent hearty snack with beer. Usually served with salad and fries, which makes it a complete dinner.
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