In the heart of Andalusia (Spanish: Andalucía) lies Córdoba, an important Roman and Islamic centre during the Middle Ages. The magnificent Mezquita (Grand Mosque) built in AD785 sits majestically at the centre of this UNESCO World Heritage city. The Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos, the Synagogue and the Roman Bridge form the nucleus of Córdoba’s old quarter.
From sampling restaurants serving sumptuous Spanish cuisine to diving into traditional wine bars (bodegas) and tavernas, or simply exploring the narrow, winding streets and courtyards, Córdoba should feature as part of any Andalusian trip.
Travel Essentials – Córdoba in 48 hours
Airline: Wizz Air and easyJet from London Luton (LTN) to Seville (SVQ) and Málaga (AGP). From £50, return.
Transport to Córdoba: By train, bus or car.
Distance from Córdoba: Seville 141km (87.6 mile) and Málaga 158km (98.2 mile).
Need to know
Visa: From 1st January 2021, UK residents can visit Spain for 90 days maximum in any 180 day period.
Travel: See the FCDO website.
Currency: Euro (£1 = €1.11 approximately).
Language: Spanish. English is spoken and understood.
Best time to visit: March until May.
Time: GMT +1.
Quick Facts about Córdoba
- At one time the world’s largest city with 1,000,000 inhabitants.
- The Mezquita de Córdoba is the largest mosque in the world.
- Is the only city with four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Home to some of the world’s largest olive plantations.
Grab breakfast at one of the many local family-run cafés near Puerta del Punte. Cafeteria LLENKA (C. Tenerife, 1, 14009 Córdoba) or Cafetería Bar Emilio (Av. de Cádiz, 25, 14009 Córdoba) are good bets. The classic café con leche plus tostado with ham, tomato and olive oil comes in at just €2.60 (£2.15).
Head towards Torre De Calahorra, a tower with far-reaching views and a small museum, on the cusp of the Puente Romano, or Roman Bridge which crosses the 657km (408.2 mile) Guadalquivir river built in the first century BC. The bridge has 16 arches supported by semi-cylindrical buttresses is 247m (810.4ft) long by 9m (29.5ft) wide.
The Puerta del Puente, a Renaissance gate, is a stone gateway leading to the old town and once formed part of the city’s defensive walls is located at the end of the bridge.
The tourist office is located on the right after entering the gateway and next to the Mezquita-Catedral or Mezquita de Córdoba (Entry €11 or roughly £9 for Adults), with the Mezquita considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. important in Islamic architecture history, it influenced Moorish architecture worldwide.
The interior is covered with lustrous decorations, including carved marble, mosaics and inscriptions. The arches, initially supported by 1253 columns, of which 856 remain today, were designed to provide the illusion of a forest of date palms. The area around the masquara and mihrab, which symbolises the direction of prayer, is the most intricate part of the Mezquita.
The main altar, completed in 1653, consists of three verticles aisles flanked by columns. Dominating the central aisle is the tabernacle, whilst the upper half displays a canvas of the Assumption. Overhead, the domes are decorated with star-patterned stone vaulting.
Climb the watchtower to get a great sense of the 21st-century city and spend time exploring the Mezquita’s exterior. There are four huge doors, with their unique detailed inscriptions, on each side of the Mezquita’s sides.
Try Casa Pedro Ximénez (C. Deanes, 10, 14003 Córdoba) near the Mezquita. Salmorejo, one of the most famous dishes from Cordoba, is a thick, cold, tomato-based soup closely related to gazpacho.
The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, or Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs is a medieval alcázar located in the historic centre of Córdoba next to the Guadalquivir River. Once a fortress whose construction was ordered by King Alfonso XI in 1328, the lavish interior is complimented by magnificent gardens and courtyards demonstrating Mudéjar inspiration. Spring results in blossoming flowers, starting with the Battle of the Flowers at the end of April, a unique parade marking the beginning of a month of festivities.
Wander the streets heading for the cluster of bars around Miraflores Bridge and enjoy Fusión de Sojo (C. Enrique Romero Torres, 5, 14002 Córdoba) serving excellent food and drinks where a Negroni costs €7 (£5.77).
A plethora of bars exist in and around the Jewish quarter, Taberna Rafaé (C. Deanes, 2, 14003 Córdoba) is a good bet. Typically Andalusian, this bodega with walls covered in photos of bullfighters serves tasty food along with a varied wine menu.
Dinner with the locals
Relatively unchanged since opening in 1879, Taberna Salinas (C. Tundidores, 3, 14002 Córdoba) offers traditional Andalusian cuisine including pig’s trotters (mantias de cerdo) and plenty of delicious seafood.
Part of the historic centre of Córdoba, The Jewish Quarter, or Judería de Córdoba, retains the urban layout of a medieval Islamic city, surrounded by a labyrinth of smaller streets often resulting in dead ends.
The Sinagoga (Synagogue), the Zoco Municipal (Zoco Municipal Market) or the Museo Taurino (Bull-fighting Museum). Built in 1315 (5075 in the Jewish Calendar), it is only one of three synagogues remaining in Spain, the other two located in Toledo. The size indicates it may have belonged to a wealthy man as his private synagogue.
El Zoco (Zoco Municipal de la Artesanía Calle Judíos, s/n 14004 Córdoba) or the municipal souk of Córdoba is an artisan’s market near the synagogue. Serving as a market for several centuries, It was the first craft market that was created in Spain, offering spices, perfumes, leather, ceramic and silver goods.
Try Taberna La Montillana (C. San Álvaro, 5, 14003 Córdoba), a modern tavern serving traditional Andalusian meat and seafood dishes with a creative spin at very reasonable prices.
Head to the UNESCO caliphate city of Medina Azahara, translated as ‘the radiant city’, lies 8km north-west of Córdoba. Built in the 10th century on raked terraces, it used the mountainside slopes and featured a rectangular floor plan. The construction took merely 10 years, and at total capacity, the complex housed 12,000 people.
Each of the three terraces is separated by walls, the upper one for the Alcázar Real Palace and the lower one for servant dwellings, barracks and the Aljama mosque. There are remains of the gates and entrances to the city walls.
A dedicated archaeological museum at the edge of the site is built mainly underground to minimize disruption to the views of the landscape.
The verdict – Córdoba in 48 hours
Often heard is the phrase ‘el tiempo en Córdoba’?, meaning ‘What is the weather in Córdoba? The answer is repeatedly, sunshine. Córdoba is often overlooked in favour of other Andalusian destinations such as Málaga and Seville; however, this overwhelmingly historical city packs a lot in.
During the 10th century, it was the most significant economic and cultural centre of the Western world, and much of that importance is evident today with grandiose architecture. Gastronomically, Córdoba is a delight with plenty of traditional dishes on offer and contemporary dining. The city is perfect for a weekend sojourn, or as part of a longer Andalusian road trip.
Spain’s Official Tourism site for Córdoba.
Read about our other Spanish breaks.