Things to do in Cordoba, Spain

Things to do in Cordoba, Spain

Cordoba is a city I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. I passed through Andalusia on my first visit to Spain but, while I saw the main cities of Malaga, Sevilla and Granada, I never made it to Cordoba. Recently I had an opportunity to rectify this on a return to southern Spain and ensured a visit to the city was a top priority.

Whilst Cordoba is a small city there are plenty of things to do and some beautiful scenery along the way. Situated away from the coast in the centre of Andalusia, Cordoba is less than two hours from Sevilla and a little further from Malaga or Granada. The most famous site is La Mezquita, with the old town based around this great mosque-cathedral. However, the more modern part of the city is just a few minutes’ walk away, where you can find the typical high street shops, bars, restaurants, bus and train stations as well as several parks and gardens.

La Mezquita is what most people want to see in Cordoba and it’s worth the trip at any time of year. There are three main parts to the site; the orange tree lined gardens (or patio), the bell tower and the mosque-cathedral itself. Whilst you can see the gardens for free it costs €10 to access the cathedral and a further €2 to climb the tower. Depending on how busy it is when you visit, you may be given a timeslot for accessing the bell tower and La Mezquita.

La Mezquita in Cordoba
La Mezquita is set in a stunning garden of orange trees

Cordoba is a city I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. I passed through Andalusia on my first visit to Spain but, while I saw the main cities of Malaga, Sevilla and Granada, I never made it to Cordoba. Recently I had an opportunity to rectify this on a return to southern Spain and ensured a visit to the city was a top priority.

La Mezquita comprises an interesting mix of styles, as it is influenced by both its Moorish and Catholic rulers over the centuries, giving it the unique distinction of being a hybrid Mosque-Cathedral. Inside you can wander through the incredibly spacious main room, marvelling at the amazing architecture and perusing several items of historical interest. From the top of the bell tower you have a great view looking over La Mezquita, the patio, the river not to mention the surrounding old town.

Inside La Mezquita in Cordoba
The view from inside the mosque-cathedral is no less impressive

Away from La Mezquita another popular spot is the roman bridge crossing the nearby Guadalquivir River. Just a few minutes’ walk, the bridge leads to the Torre de Calahorra. A former medieval gate-tower and now the site of a small museum covering the history of the area. Entrance is €4.50 and includes several audio-visual displays covering the past of the city when the contrasting cultures of Christians, Muslims and Jews all lived side by side. At the top of the tower you’ll find a roof with great views of La Mezquita and the city. This is made all the more impressive if you can time your visit for sunset.

Walking back across the bridge gives more spectacular views of La Mezquita and the old town. You’ll find a similar landscape (and in my opinion far more beautiful) in Salamanca. Yet whilst Cordoba’s bridge, or the sights beyond, may not be as great, it’s still worth stopping by. Especially late in the day.

Looking back towards Cordoba from the bridge
Personally I prefer the view in Salamanca but this is still pretty impressive

The Alcazar, former home of the ruling Christian kings in Cordoba, is another spectacular location. Entrance is €5 and well worth the price. You can freely walk around the area, taking in the various rooms, ruins, former Arabic baths, patios and gardens. Climbing the tower allows you to enjoy some stunning sights over the gardens and nearby Caballerizas Reales horse stables. The gardens themselves are incredibly beautiful at any time of the year and you may even meet a few of the local cats who roam the area.

View from the top of Cordoba's Alcazar
The view from the tower of Cordoba’s Alcazar

How to get there

Cordoba doesn’t have an airport for commercial flights, however Sevilla, Malaga, Jerez and Granada are all less than three hours away. Buses run regularly throughout the day between the cities and you can find more information on the Alsa Bus website. A bus from Sevilla (a little over two hours) or Malaga (typically three hours) costs less than €13 per ticket.

Cordoba’s bus and train stations are on the opposite side of the city to the old town. However, there are plenty of local buses and a taxi rank just outside the stations, or it takes around 20-25 minutes to walk to the old town.

When to go

If you want to see Cordoba’s famous patios then Spring is the perfect time to visit. The Patios Festival happens in May and while more tourists will be attracted at this time, the flowers are in full bloom and temperatures are not too extreme yet. The summer is another matter however, consistently reaching well over 40°C and regularly the hottest city in Spain. I visited in mid-December and the temperature was warm in the winter sun with good weather. However, as soon as the sun sets the temperatures drop and the nights are much cooler. There are also less daylight hours and some places close earlier at this time of year.

Where to stay

Shed like accommodation on a rooftop in Cordoba
My Cordoba accommodation was different to most places I’ve stayed in

Once in the centre of Cordoba it’s easy to get around. Staying in the old town is ideal as you’ll find plenty of options for food and everything is in easy walking distance. For something more unique I stayed in an Airbnb on a rooftop, sleeping in what can only be described as a shed. Definitely one of my more memorable lodgings.

Where to eat

Plaza de la Corredera on the edge of the old town is a picturesque square, typical of the main squares in many Spanish cities. There you’ll find lots of restaurants, each offering their own menu of the day. Make sure to try flamenquín, a typical local dish made of ham and pork and covered in breadcrumbs before being deep fried.

An alternative option for food is Plaza de las Tendillas, close to the ruins of the old Roman temple. Or for something a little more upmarket there is Victoria Market, situated in a park in the middle of the modern area of Cordoba. During the evening Paseo de la Ribera, close to La Mezquita with views over the river, is the perfect place to be.

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