10 Must See Attractions In Cordoba, Spain november 29, 2021 – Posted in: Spain, Travel – Tags: Attractions, Cordoba, Holiday, Spain, Vacations, Weekend Breaks
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Tourist attractions in Cordoba
There is plenty to see in Cordoba, the historic city that was once the capital of the Al-Andalus caliphate, after which Andalusia is also named. If you are only in Cordoba on a tour from Granada to Seville or on an day trip from Malaga, you won’t have time to see everything, this magnificent city has to offer.
We can’t recommend you nough to stay one or more nights in Cordoba. This town, one of the oldest in Europe, deserves to be seen in a slow pace, strolling through the labyrinthine streets and also with a hike to the old palace city, Medina Azahara.
Even if you have several days available, it can still be difficult to choose what to see. Here you’ll find a list of the sights in Cordoba that are a definite Top 10 on your vacation in Cordoba. However, there are many other exciting sights in Cordoba and you can read much more and plan your own visit at: Turismo de Córdoba.
An introduction to the history of Cordoba
Before we start talking about the tourist attractions in Cordoba that you have to see, a brief outline of the city’s history is needed. In buildings, in language and on the menu, you can still find signs that Cordoba was once the capital of Al-Andalus, the Muslim caliphate that stretched across most of the Iberian Peninsula, in the countries that today are Spain and Portugal.
The kingdom lasted for almost 800 years, from 711 to 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella under La Reconquista expelled the last Moors from Granada. It was also this royal couple who sponsored the expedition, that led to Columbus discovering America.
In today’s Cordoba, however, it is clear that the Andalusian city has also been influenced by other cultures. The original inhabitants, the Iberians, were in 217 BC. invaded by the Romans and made into a Roman colony in 152 BC. In the 6th century AD. the Visigoths gained dominion over the city. Both under Roman rule and again under the Moors, there was in Cordoba also a large Jewish minority that established itself in the Jewish Quarter, which you can still visit today.
When you walk around Cordoba, it is therefore also a tour through all the remains that the different cultures have left behind: At the bottom Roman ruins, on whose foundation the Visigoths built their churches. After that the Muslim mosques, Moorish palaces and the Jewish synagogue – and at the top the Christian church towers. Yes, it makes sense when you find yourself in the middle of it!
So let’s get to all the sights. We start close to the river, in one of the most exquisite Muslim building complexes in the western world…
10 must see attractions in Cordoba
1. La Mezquita
The great mosque cathedral, La Mezquita , is a strong symbol of the two cultures that have formed Andalusia. The over 850 double-arched columns are an impressive sight, but not less breathtaking is the large cathedral, which, taking into account the already existing building, was placed inside the middle of the mosque.
The mosque was built in 784 on the ruins of a Visigothic church, which again was built where a Roman temple once stood. When the mosque was completed in the late ninth century, it could accommodate 18,000 worshipers, and it was surpassed only by the mosque in Mecca in size. After the conquest of Cordoba in 1236, the mosque was transformed into a Christian cathedral and the minaret into the 54 meter high bell tower, from which you today have the most beautiful view over the city.
La Mezquita is a popular attraction, and although there is plenty of space in the large pillar hall, it is still recommended that you arrive early in the morning – and set aside at least a few hours for the visit. In November 2021, it was €11 to enter, and it was worth every cent, because there is so much to see! Please check the opening hours on the website before your visit, as there are often special events in the mosque cathedral.
2. Puente Romano
South of La Mezquita you’ll find the Roman bridge, Puente Romano, which was built across the Guadalquivir River. The 250 meter long stone bridge was built by Emperor Augustus and was completed in the 1st century BC. The bridge was closed to traffic in 2004, and today you can stroll across the 16 half arches with all the other pedestrians. If the bridge seems familiar, then you may have seen it in season 5 of Game of Thrones!
3. Molino de la Albolafia
Make a stop on the bridge and look back towards the shore. A little west of the bridge stands the Molino de la Albolafia, the ancient watermill that carried water up through the aqueduct to the Moorish palace, the present Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.
4. Torre de la Calahorra
On the other side of the Puente Romano towers Torre de la Calahorra, at the site where the Moors in 711 crossed the river and attacked Cordoba. The Moors immediately set about expanding the city defenses, with the Torre de la Calahorra as one of the city gates. Today, the tower houses the small Al-Andalus Museum, which displays the three cultures that have shaped the city: Muslims, Jews and Christians. From the top of the tower there is a terrific view over to La Mesquita.
On the other side of the bridge there are residential areas and not much to see, so our tour around Cordoba now returns over Puente Romano again, to one of the city’s other major sights.
5. Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
The royal palace Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos bears the same historical features as La Mezquita: on the remains of the residence of the Roman governor, the Visigoths built a fort, which the Moors later transformed into fortifications and palaces. When the Moorish empire was at its height, the Alcazar housed the largest library in the Western world with 400,000 volumes, a hammam and beautiful gardens that were watered using the great watermill.
The present palace was built by Alfonso XI, but is best known as the place where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received Christoffer Columbus, and where the same queen swore she would not wash her petticoat until the last Muslims were expelled from Cordoba. It was also in the basement under one of the towers that the infamous Spanish Inquisition had its interrogation chambers.
The castle is an attraction in itself, but the main reason to visit the palace is the garden that stretches over a huge area. Beautiful fountains, carp ponds and trees shaped like Roman amphorae testify to the thousand-year-old Moorish garden traditions still being kept alive.
6. La Juderia
Under Muslim rule, Jewish community also flourished, and in the old Jewish quarter, La Juderia, you can get a sense of what Cordoba looked like in the Middle Ages. Today, only one synagogue remains, as a memorial to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.
The labyrinthine streets with the whitewashed walls, today house small souvenir shops and great restaurants, and this is also where you, along with all the other tourists, can visit Cordoba’s most photographed street, Calleja de Las Flores. The neighborhood extends to the west all the way to the Puerta de Almodóvar, where you will find the beautiful terrace fountains in front of the city gate.
7. Casa Andalusí
The Moorish water mills in Cordoba didn’t just draw water into the aqueducts and grind flour. The Moors brought the art of paper making with them. In the small museum, Casa Andalusí, also in the Jewish quarter, you can see an exhibition about it. In the small town house you can get a sense of daily life under the caliphate, complete with the scent of incense and Arabic music in your ears.
Even though the small museum is quickly seen, it is a hidden gem. Casa Andalusí gives another piece to the puzzle in understanding what Cordoba once was.
8. The Archaeological Museum
Another piece in the big puzzle, which is Cordoba, is also a visit to the Archaeological Museum, Museo Arqueológico y Etnológico de Córdoba. Here you can walk through the layers of Cordoba’s history, with the remains of Roman theater at the bottom and collections from the history of the Visigoths, Muslims, Jews and Catholics on the upper floors.
If you are interested in history, you can quickly spend several hours here, because there is a lot to see, and the collection is well curated and communicated. Also fascinating is the exhibition of coins through the ages, where the size of the coins tells a tale on how the power wavered back and forth between the different cultures.
9. Templo Romano
The theater under the Archaeological Museum is just one of the visible signs that Cordoba was once an important Roman province. At the town hall stand the remains of the great Roman temple, Templo Romano, begun under Emperor Claudius and completed under Emperor Domitian in the 1st century AD. The 10 large columns testify to an impressive structure visible from Via Augusta, the main entrance to the east.
10. Medina Azahara
On the tour around Cordoba, it has probably become clear that the space within the city walls has always been limited. Perhaps that is why in 936, Abd al-Rahman III chose to build his palace Madinat al-Zahra eight kilometers west of the city. Cordoba was then the capital of the Caliphate of Al-Andalus, and with the palace city, the caliph would prove his role as the new ruler and show the other Moorish dynasties how great and powerful he was.
The palace city is indeed impressive, even today where only the ruins remain. The Medina is still under excavation, but “the shining city”, as it is also called, is a magnificent sight. Not just a palace, but an entire city with mosques, administration buildings, barracks, hammams and aqueducts is waiting for you.
We have written a bit about our walk out to the Medina Azahara here, Hiking Trips in Cordoba, Spain, and in the same article you can also read about how to get out there by bus or by bike.
More tips for your holiday in Cordoba
Find a hotel in Cordoba
There are many good hotels in Cordoba, and especially the old town is popular with tourists. So where are you going to live? On Booking.com you can see the large selection of hotels in Cordoba, and below you can also read our recommendation for a nice and affordable hotel. You can also perform your own search on Booking.com for a good hotel in Cordoba right here:
A recommendation: HOTEL CORDOBA CENTER
We stayed at the Hotel Cordoba Center, which is located a 10 minutes walk from the train station. We had booked a standard double room, but never have we had so much space! When we arrived, there was a bottle of sparkling wine ready for us in the room, and it fit very well with the general impression that it was primarily couples and business people who checked in here. At least we did not see any children in the hotel during our stay.
The breakfast buffet was gigantic and with everything the you could possibly want: bacon and eggs, local specialties, pastries and excellent coffee. At the top of the hotel there is a pool and a bar overlooking the city, and in the lobby there is another bar. We can’t say anything about them, since the hotel is only a five minute walk from the start of the center and Av. del Gran Capitán, which offers plenty of bars and restaurants. From the hotel and to the ancient Roman bridge it is a 25 minutes walk.
In November 2021, we payed just around €80 pr. night for a double room with breakfast at Hotel Cordoba Center.
How to you get to Cordoba?
The easiest way to get to Cordoba is by landing at the airport in either Malaga or Seville. We flew out to Malaga and took the train to Cordoba, which takes an hour. Here are the directions from traveling between Malaga and Cordoba:
From Malaga Airport, take the train to Malaga Train Station, Estación de Málaga María Zambrano. At the station, you have to buy your tickets at the ticket office (Renfe), where you must also show your passport before taking your luggage through the security check at the entrance to the platforms. In November 2021, it was €30 from Malaga to Cordoba and slightly less from Cordoba to Seville. It is not possible to buy food or drink on the train.
We had six wonderful nights in Cordoba before boarding the train onwards to Seville, from where we had our flight home. The train journey between Cordoba and Seville takes about 45 minutes. There are both trains and airport buses between Seville city center and the airport, but we had to leave early in the morning, so we chose to take a taxi.