Located in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Córdoba represents a midway point between the past and present. This city has a thousand-year history and was recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It’s essentially the living product of a rich mix of cultural influences. Few places in the world can claim to be the capital of both late Hispania under the Roman Empire and the Umayyad Caliphate. You can practically feel the splendour pulsating through the streets of this centre of knowledge and wisdom, which is also the birthplace of Séneca, Averroes and Maimonides.
While strolling through Córdoba’s old town, it’s hard not to stumble across its wonderful network of narrow streets, plazas and whitewashed courtyards surrounding the medieval buildings and palaces that give this city its unique history. Despite maintaining strong links with its splendid past, Córdoba is very much a modern city equipped with up-to-date services and infrastructure, as well as a number of hotels and restaurants where you can try local specialities or enjoy a much-needed break. Read on to find out which attractions to visit!
- Jewish Quarter (Juderia)
- Alcázar and Gardens
- Puerta del Puente, Puerta de Almodovar and Puerta de Sevilla
- Torre de la Malmuerta
- Courtyards of Córdoba
- Chapel of San Bartolomé
- Plaza de la Corredera
- Mausoleos Romanos
- Hammam Al Andalus
A real sight to behold, everyone in Córdoba agrees that Mezquita-Catedral is both a symbolic building and a jewel in the city’s crown. It’s been a World Heritage Site since 1984 and is a great example of how Umayyad architecture has evolved and been influenced by Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque culture over the centuries. The location of today’s Mosque-Cathedral has been dedicated to different deities since ancient times. The original Basilica di San Vicente was constructed under the rule of the Visigoths. As Córdoba’s Muslim population started to grow, the building was purchased by Abderraman I and replaced with a mosque. A few elements of the original building were integrated into the mosque.
The grand mosque has two distinct features: a courtyard featuring a minaret (under the Renaissance tower) and a prayer room. Its interiors feature a series of bi-tonal columns and arcades, which are incredibly eye-catching. Its enclosed spaces are divided into five separate areas, each corresponding to the various extensions added over the years.
You only need to set foot in the historic Patio de los Naranjos to feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Here, you can take photos of the amazing bell tower surrounded by palm and orange trees. oft lighting gives the space an almost supernatural feel, while its various columns and arches are decorated with flashes of red and yellow. By the time you reach the maqsura – the prayer space reserved for the caliph – you’ll know you’ve visited one of Spain’s most impressive feats of architecture.
The only one in Andalusia and the third most impressive of its kind in Spain, you’ll find Córdoba Synagogue in the Jewish quarter. Built between 1314 and 1315 –according to inscriptions found inside the building – it served as a temple until the expulsion of the Jewish community. After crossing through the courtyard, you’ll find yourself in a small atrium, where a set of stairs to the right leads to the former women’s division.
Opposite the courtyard, you’ll find the main chamber, which is a quadrangular space decorated with stuccos and ornamental features. The wall supporting the women’s gallery features three arches adorned with beautiful plasterwork. When the Jewish population was expelled in 1492, the synagogue was turned into a hospital and then a nursery. In fact, it was only declared a national monument in the late 1800s.
After visiting the Mosque, make sure to wander through the winding streets of Córdoba’s Jewish quarter (Juderia), which belonged to the local Jewish community from the tenth to fifteenth centuries. Begin your walk on Calleja de las Flores, a beautiful whitewashed street overflowing with colourful vases, and with a great view of the minaret to boot. This is one of the most photographed areas of the city. Jews fleeing numerous persecutions once found refuge here, and the neighbourhood has since become a cultural and spiritual hub.
There is no shortage of things to admire in this area of the city, just let your eyes guide the way. Make sure to explore this charming neighbourhood in all its entirety, with its narrow streets, pretty plazas and whitewashed buildings adorned with decorations, balconies and colourful flowers. In fact, this neighbourhood is also home to the Municipal Museum of Taurine Art, the only museum of its kind to exist outside a bullfighting arena.
The Córdoba Bullfighting Museum is one of the largest in Spain. It has seven exhibition rooms that tell the story of the city’s bullfighting history. The museum also exhibits original pieces and objects owned by some of the world’s best bullfighters, including Cordob, Lagartijo, Manolete, Guerrita, Machaquito and El Cordobés. In the exhibition room dedicated to these five celebrated bullfighters, you’ll find old costumes, cloaks, portraits and information panels. You can also watch a fascinating documentary about the relationship between bullfighters and bulls during bullfighting events. The museum also features an exhibit on bullfights in Portugal and South America.
Alcázar and Gardens
The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos – a castle and palace enclosed within sturdy walls – encapsulates much of Córdoba’s architectural evolution. Roman and Visigoth ruins coexist alongside those of Arab origin in this majestic building, which has housed various city rulers over the centuries. When Córdoba was conquered by Ferdinand III back in 1236, the building belonging to the old Caliphate palace was totally destroyed. Alfonso X later began its restoration, which was completed during the reign of Alfonso XI. Throughout history, it has had multiple uses, including the headquarters of the Holy Office (Inquisition) and even a prison (in the first half of the nineteenth century).
Visitors to this castle will be surprised by its almost rectangular layout, featuring large stone walls and four towers. The castle itself is surrounded by sprawling gardens overflowing with exotic, colourful flowers, aromatic herbs and leafy trees. The castle interiors are topped with Gothic stone cupolas, while you’ll find a third-century pagan sarcophagus on display in one of the access tunnels. On the castle’s façade is a relief depicting an allegory for the passing of the deceased to the afterlife through an open door.
Among the castle’s various halls is a small Baroque chapel. It’s known as the Hall of the Mosaics and inside you’ll find numerous Roman artefacts. Right below this hall are Arab-inspired bathrooms divided into three vaulted rooms with starred lights These bathrooms are connected to the boiler located under the Tributo tower. Of the two courtyards, Mudejar tends to attract the most attention due to its sheer beauty. Its marble tiles, canals and pools create a refreshing, relaxing atmosphere for tired visitors. In addition, the expansive gardens surrounding the castle really emphasise the Alcázar de Córdoba’s important history and splendour.
The Alcázar gardens extend along three elegant terraces. On the upper terrace, you’ll find two large basins collecting water from the mountains and transporting it to the lower terrace, which you can access via two large stairways. The lower terrace also features three large basins.
It’s here that you’ll find statues of the Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinando and Queen Isabella in the very place they once met with Christopher Columbus in front of a public audience to hear about his proposed new route to the Indies. Just imagine this green, aromatic garden dotted with citrus groves. The gardens have undergone numerous transformations over the years, and especially during the Renaissance period. You’ll also find fountains, water jets and glazed tiles in these gardens.
Puerta del Puente, Puerta de Almodovar and Puerta de Sevilla
The Puerta del Puente is one of only three city gates left standing in Córdoba and you’ll find it near the Puerta de Almodóvar and Puerta de Sevilla. Its current entrance is located in an enclave where Roman and Muslim gates one stood. In Roman times, the gate connected the city to the Roman bridge and Via Augusta. The Puerta del Puente, Roman bridge and Calahorra tower were all declared cultural heritage sites back in 1931.
Back in the sixteenth century, the authorities declared that the city needed a better gate following the previous structure’s deterioration. It was therefore decided by order of Alonso González de Arteaga on 18 February 1572 that a new bridge gate was to be erected. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the gate was restored to its original height, and the structure became independent. The bridge gate features tall foundations supporting four Doric columns, which in turn support a classic post-and-lintel structure.
An inscription was placed above the door lintel to mark King Philip II’s visit to Córdoba in 1570. The Puerta del Puente now displays a selection of texts and images, along with a vantage point offering magnificent views of the surrounding area.
Torre de la Malmuerta
The Torre de la Malmuerta de Córdoba is a watchtower shrouded in legend, and you’ll find it near the Plaza de Colón. Local myth has it that the tower was named after a noblewoman of Córdoba who was murdered at the hands of her jealous husband. According to accounts at the time, in order to atone for his guilt, the nobleman was ordered to build and dedicate a tower to his wife after falsely accusing her of adultery. It also has an interesting history: the tower was built on top of a previous Islamic construction in the fifteenth century.
Gambling fines were used to finance this octagonal construction, which has an archway that touches the Rincón gate. No longer used to defend the city, the tower was later turned into a prison. Under the arch, you’ll spot weapons and an almost entirely faded inscription that gives rise to yet another local legend. If a knight passing under the tower’s archway manages to read the inscription at a gallop, the entire tower will collapse and reveal a fabulous treasure that will belong to the lucky reader.
Courtyards of Córdoba
The Courtyards of Córdoba are best enjoyed during the first two weeks of May as part of a dedicated festival. The Córdoba Courtyard Festival is on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, and a series of events and initiatives attracts thousands of visitors, who come to admire the floral decorations, colours and scents that invade the city streets. Interestingly, houses with inner courtyards are actually an Islamist influence.
This particular layout guarantees better ventilation and floods the house with light. You’ll find various courtyards preserved and maintained throughout Andalusia. Patios are often a house’s primary selling point in this part of the world, as they’re the most immediately visible asset. That’s why courtyards are cared for and decorated more carefully than the rest of the home. It’s also very common to find wells and fountains in courtyards, which are a vital resource for geraniums and numerous other species of flower.
Courtyards are essentially like living rooms. In fact, these sorts of houses were often constructed without living rooms. La festa de los patios de Córdoba promotes happiness in the local community by encouraging neighbours to touch base with each other after the winter months. The competition was originally launched in the early twentieth century, and prizes were awarded to the winners of each category. The festival has continued to grow, and a number of new categories have been introduced, including those for balconies and railings. Many individuals and associations participate in the event, which helps to encourage botanical creativity throughout the city.
Chapel of San Bartolomé
San Bartolomé Chapel was erected following an attack on the Juderia district and the dispersion and conversion of the local Jewish population in 1391 (back when the neighbourhood was called Malburguet). At the end of the sixteenth century, it was integrated with San Bartolomé Church and used as a place of worship. A funeral chapel was later added to the complex and is a wonderful example of Mudéjar architecture. The chapel’s architectural style was influenced by Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures in medieval Spanish society.
The word mudéjar means ‘domesticated’ in Arabic and was used to describe Muslims who remained in the city after its conquest. The fusion of these two styles is immediately recognisable in the chapel’s tiled floors, geometric patterns, stuccos and Gothic vault. You’ll find the monument near the old Hospital del Cardenal Salazar, which was founded in 1704 and now houses the University of Córdoba’s Literature and Philosophy departments. It was declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1931.
Plaza de la Corredera
This is the only example of an enclosed plaza in the whole of Andalusia. The Plaza de la Corredera is often associated with the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and Salamanca due to its shape and surrounding buildings. Vaguely trapezoidal, it was built on the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre and has been home to a weekly market since 1526.
The current structure was designed by the Salamanca-born architect Antonio Ramos Valdés, who worked to reconstruct in the second half of the seventeenth century. In recent years, it has undergone important restoration and consolidation works and is now one of the busiest squares in the city. In 2014, it was crowned the most beautiful square in Spain. It is a key meeting point in Córdoba for local people and Erasmus students as it’s full of bars, clubs and people and always has a great atmosphere, especially when the weather’s good!
And that's not all. The Plaza del Potro is also very picturesque. Situated on the banks of the river Guadalquivir, this particular plaza features the Fuente del Potro, which gives the square its name. It is one of Córdoba’s most historic squares and was once used to buy and sell cattle. Today, it houses two museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and a museum dedicated to the Spanish painter Julio Romero de Torres.
In the heart of Córdoba, you’ll find the city’s most central square: Las Tendillas. Its undoubtedly most famous for its equestrian statue of the Gran Capitan. The square also features a clock that makes the sound of someone playing a flamenco guitar!
These imposing funerary monuments date back to the first century AD and are some of Corboba’s most important constructions. The Roman mausoleum was discovered accidentally in the Jardines de la Victoria in 1993 during construction works to build a car park. Due to both its sheer size (13 metres in diameter) and location near the city walls, this Roman mausoleum is one of most prominent examples of Roman monumental architecture. It consists of a concrete and limestone building and its burial chamber remains almost entirely intact. It is the only Roman mausoleum in this region and its architectural style matches those built in Italy back in Roman times.
Historians have attempted to trace its family origins. Its size and location point to a high-ranking family. Archaeologists also discovered a matching mausoleum on the other side of the road. The most reliable theory is that one of the mausoleums housed the remains of the father’s family, while the other was dedicated to women and girls.
Hammam Al Andalus
In the heart of the Jewish quarter, you’ll find Córdoba’s Arab Hammam Al Andalus baths, the largest of their kind in Europe. They are located just a stone’s throw away from the Mosque-Cathedral and boast a 2,000-year history. In fact, the baths may have been built back when Córdoba was the capital of the Caliphate. During your trip to the city, why not enjoy a calming dip and massage while you admire the unique architecture?
Inside, you’ll find rooms offering different temperature levels and services, be it cold baths, thermals baths, whirlpools or the relaxation room. The water in the cold baths rests at 16°C, while the thermal baths offer a unique view: all you need to do is look up. The star-shaped skylights flood the vaulted ceiling with light. The temperature reaches around 36°C in the thermal baths. Right next door you’ll find a massage zone, where you can even enjoy a hot-stone treatment.
The hot zone has two baths, with temperatures reaching 40°C in a very relaxing environment. Imagine the sound of water flowing through this truly historical, elegant setting. Here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a feeling of pure well-being. Finally, in the relaxation room, you can sit back with a cup of tea and some traditional Arabic treats, prepared with a refined blend of aromatic herbs.
Enjoy beautiful Córdoba with Costa
Rich in history and tradition, this city is bound to amaze and intrigue you. Córdoba is synonymous with art, culture and leisure, thanks to the multitude of cultural events that take place throughout the year, such as flamenco festivals, concerts and ballets. What’s more, you can enjoy these activities between trips to local museums and lively bars. Córdoba is home to no less than four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Mezquita-Catedral (1984), its surrounding historical centre (1994), the Fiesta de Los Patios (2012) and Medina Azahara (2018). And just like the rest of Spain, it’s also famous for Flamenco dancing (2010) and the Mediterranean diet (2013).
Córdoba is one of the best Andalusian cities for those interested in exploring Muslim, Christian and Jewish culture, and it’s also the perfect place to embrace your inner creativity. Its narrow, charming streets are full of colourful flowers and balconies, making it an Instagrammer’s paradise, while its tiles and arches are a constant reminder of the city’s Muslim past and its influence on the local architecture. And if that’s not enough, Córdoba is also home to a lot of tapas bars, exquisite local wines and charming hotels. All that remains is to embark on a trip and discover its true essence.