Not as famous as Madrid or Barcelona, the small city of Cordoba is less known to tourists, but it has a lot of charm and uniqueness that is hard to find elsewhere in the world. Cordoba located in the Andalusia region — an autonomous community and historical region in Southern Spain, is the world’s first city owns four UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Sites. This city by the Guadalquivir River is not only known for its outstanding religious architecture but also attracts tourists with its colorful flower patios. So, is Cordoba worth visiting, what to do in Cordoba Spain and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Cordoba for the first-time? Let’s check out our Cordoba travel blog (Cordoba blog) with the fullest Cordoba travel guide (Cordoba guide, Cordoba tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and top things to do in Cordoba Andalusia find out the answer!
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Spain has many beautiful cities with their own beauty and attractive features, including a small, nostalgic city called Cordoba. This city located in the Andalusia region, in the south of Spain, has existed since the Middle Ages with the ancient architecture of castles or residential houses filled with colorful flower-decorated courtyards and terraces. All these beauties make Cordoba the most romantic destination in the hearts of tourists.
Cordoba, located in the south of the country, is a city of many cultures, with a rich history of trading spanning hundreds of years. The architectural style of this city is boldly ancient, the houses are all covered by a layer of yellow-brown paint, creating its own charming beauty.
On a road trip in early spring, I went from France, crossed the Pyrenees, passed through the arid deserts of Spain to the region of Andalusia in the south of the country. If you have read the famous novel “The Alchemist” by author Paulo Coelho, you must know the homeland and also the starting place for the adventure across the desert to find the treasure of Santiago.
Andalusia is vast, located in the southern end of Spain, just a narrow strip of Gibraltar strait from Morocco. As the connecting point between the two continents Europe – Africa, Andalusia is the convergence of different cultures, mingling many civilizations and religions over thousands of years. Therefore, coming to Andalusia is coming to a completely different Europe, both as romantic as traditional Europe, as charming and mysterious as stepping out of the Arabian land of the Thousand and One Nights.
In the early 8th century, the Moors, Muslim Arabs from North Africa, arrived in Europe and quickly occupied most of the Iberian peninsula, including present-day Spain and Portugal. At that time, the rest of Europe was still in the dark of the Middle Ages. For more than 700 years, the Muslim kings established a rich Al-Andalus (the Muslim-ruled area), endowing it with superior civilization and lavish wealth that no other Western European land could match.
Coming to Andalusia is coming to the heart of Spain, with vibrant flamenco dances, passionate bullfights. In this land, olive farms spread across the hillsides. Almond groves flutter their delicate, pinkish wings in the winds of March. The orchards of oranges and lemons bloom with fragrant flowers in the sunshine of April, waiting until they are orange and ripe when winter comes.
I still remember that morning, I left the inn very early to go to Córdoba, the first city of Andalusia that I would set foot in. I caught the dawn running along the roads through the silver-green olive hills. The first rays of sunlight flashed, illuminating the undulating purple peaks of the Sierra Morena mountain range. I opened the car window, enjoying the cool, misty air. A new day began in a new land.
Cordoba travel blog: Overview of Cordoba, Andalusia
Historically, the city of Cordoba was discovered by the Phoenicians and the city’s name in Semitic language means “Good Town”. The city then belonged to the Carthaginians and Romans from 206 BC, and was soon a Roman colony since then. By 692, the city fell into Muslim hands.
The most beautiful time of the day in Cordoba is in the evening, when all the streets in the city are lit up, enchanting in the golden light. A night in Cordoba cannot be complete without the pulsating drum beats and the flickering guitar sound in the Flamenco performance stages, where boys and girls, tapping their shoes and spinning in passionate dances.
Cordoba is a multicultural land that attracts a lot of tourists when they coming to Spain. The historic central district of this city by the Guadalquivir River retains its ancient features with its religious architecture, grand buildings and narrow cobbled streets and alleys. Cordoba is considered as the birthplace of the glamorous and seductive Flamenco. This city in ancient Roman times was called “Corduba”. The quaint and picturesque city of Cordoba with ancient castles, poetic flower-filled patios and courtyards in houses, even this place is known to the world as the “City of Patios”.
In Cordoba, there are many festivals that take place every year, so there are many hostels and guesthouse run by locals open to tourists. If you have the opportunity to come here, try to stay at a guesthouse or homestay to experience the enthusiastic, friendly and hospitable service of the Cordoba people and join them in the entertainment activities they organize every night.
Cordoba is said to be the birthplace of Flamenco, so you will easily hear the thumping footsteps on the wooden floor, see the arms and hands posing with the Spanish signature musical instrument Castanuelas (Castanets) emitting distinctive sounds, the decisive hip-shaking and especially the expressive faces, the colorful scarves are both used to wrap the body and perform with the endless dance in the pounding guitar sound and passionate singing on every street in the city.
Córdoba – The Old City of Islam in Europe
Córdoba, along with Sevilla and Granada, are the most beautiful cities in Andalusia. Córdoba was once the first powerful capital of the Islamic state in Al-Andalus. In the 10th century, it was the largest city and also the place with the most developed culture, architecture and art in Western Europe. A Baghdad in the West. The population of Córdoba at that time was estimated at between 250,000 and 500,000, with more than six hundred mosques.
The 13th century marked a turning point in the history of Córdoba when the Catholic kings began to reconquer the southern part of Spain. Since then, Córdoba has become the intersection of three religions, where Islam, Judaism and Christianity coexist.
Today, if you has the opportunity to get lost in the maze-like old town of Córdoba, we can still feel the beauty of a remnant of the past. Thousands of years of history seem to condense right before your eyes. Córdoba architecture is the perfect combination of Islamic culture and European renaissance. The monumental but equally delicate works mark a golden age many centuries ago.
Cordoba blog: Where to go & what to do in Cordoba
Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba) – Imprinting the History of Córdoba
Address: C. Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Spain
Central Córdoba is located on the north bank of the Guadalquivir River, surrounding the heart of the city – Mezquita. Mezquita is the Córdoba’s great Mosque-Cathedral and the pinnacle of Moorish architecture in the 10th century. Mezquita has a very distinctive architectural style. The high ramparts surrounding Mezquita are meticulously decorated with traditional Arabic motifs and delicate carvings. From a Christian church built on the foundation of a Roman temple, the Muslim kings turned this place into a most splendid mosque. After many centuries, Mezquita was completed, had become the second largest mosque in the world, after the Great Mosque of Mecca (Haram Mosque). Mezquita’s astonishing scale is built from magnificent striped arches and 856 marble pillars on a huge area of 180 m x 130 m, equivalent to 2.3 hectares.
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is the Cordoba’s most famous structure with Portuguese and Spanish religious architecture built around the 8-10th century. One of the most special architecture of this massive work is striped arches under the giant dome from the Hispano – Flemish period. Here visitors can take stunning check-in photos next to the world’s oldest mosque, one of the symbols of the highest Islamic art and architecture from the10th century and throughout the 8th century later.
In the 13th century, the Catholic kings recaptured Córdoba and Mezquita became a Catholic church again. Almost the entire previous Mezquita was kept as its original. The Catholic church only demolished the middle part and built a gothic and baroque cathedral, just as magnificent as the rest, in order to affirm its authority and beliefs. We can still distinguish the ancient vestiges from ancient Roman times, lying next to the door frames, soft domes in the mainstream Arabic style. After visiting so many religious buildings in the world, perhaps only Mezquita, along with its historical traces remain, can make me so surprised. Tourists should prepare 10 Euros entrance ticket to visit here. Children over 10 years old are charged 5 Euros and free for children under 10 years old.
Cordoba’s Old Town (The historic centre of Córdoba)
From Mezquita, small streets radiate around. The Arab and Jewish neighborhoods (Judería) contribute to the lovely beauty and charming of Córdoba. There are bustling street corners, a bit like a Moroccan market, crowded with souvenir shops for tourists. Suddenly, after a turn, the stillness returned in the shadows of the freshly painted white houses.
Wandering around the old town of Córdoba on an orange-scented spring morning is an unforgettable memory. Strolling from the center to the San Basilio neighborhood, peering through the half-open doors, you will be satisfied with your curiosity. The lovely narrow streets of Córdoba, like many other Andalusian cities, hide many surprises. The houses often have patios – courtyards, derived from ancient Roman architecture, very popular today in Southern Spain and North African countries. This is a small courtyard in the middle of the house, separated from the street outside by a single or two gates, bring a peaceful and cool atmosphere in the burning heat of the South.
Around early May, Córdoba is vibrant, brilliant, bustling with the Patio Festival (Courtyard Festival) – Fiesta de los Patios which is a tradition that began in 1918. Córdoba’s Patio festival dates back to the early twentieth century, and has been classified as an Intangible Heritage by UNESCO. Every spring, the courtyards are lavishly decorated with colorful flower pots and open to visitors. In mid-May, the Patio festival will vote for the most beautiful patios and the best preserved ancient architecture.
Patio (courtyard) is a typical cultural feature of houses in Spain. It is a small space (possibly in the center of the house) beautifully decorated with tables and chairs, a fireplace, many different flower pots in the courtyard.
In Cordoba, most houses have their own patios, especially in La Juderia, the old Jewish quarter. The courtyard is a place for people to gather, play, and chat together on free time. Locals can spend the whole year planting and taking care of their small garden.
Every year, there are about 50 whitewashed houses participate in the Patio festival. Walking around the alleys in Cordoba, visitors can come across unique flower paintings that stand out on the white walls.
Going a little further out from the bustling downtown, you will find a peaceful of Córdoba. I like to visit small squares in the gentle afternoon sun, like Plaza del Conde de Priego or Calle Compás de San Francisco. Sitting down on a quiet bench under the shade of orange trees and inhaling the sweet scent of orange blossom, it was so relaxing.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Royal Gardens)
Address: Pl. Campo Santo de los Mártires, s/n, 14004 Córdoba, Spain
The Royal Gardens of Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos or the ”Castle of the Christian Monarchs’ Castle”, this medieval garden of Eden is located in the heart of Cordoba. This garden brings the beauty of ancient Spanish castle architecture. This place is known for the poetic beauty of rose bushes, poppies or green palm trees lined up around the fountain, next to the quaint beauty of the castle in the classic Spanish architecture.
Along with the fortress, the castle, the garden once formed the residence of the Spanish Royal Family for many centuries. Visit the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, you can wander along the white gravel path to see the garden’s plants and trees and enjoy the feeling of relaxation under the shade here.
Barrio de la Judería de Córdoba (Jewish Quarter of Cordoba)
The next place in the journey to discover the city of Cordoba must mention the old street of Paseo de Judios (Jewish Quarter of Cordoba), where there is a horse-drawn carriage service to explore around the medieval-like street. This is also a crowded place with tourists because of many interesting and convenient tourist activities.
The Paseo de Judios is also listed as one of the must-visit places in Cordoba. When you set foot here, you will see the great attraction through the image of crowded tourists at any time of the year. If you don’t want to walk, you can use the horse-drawn carriage service. The carriage will creep into every corner of the famous old town so you have the opportunity to admire the full beauty of Alcazar de los Rayes Cristianos – a complex consisting of fortress, palace and royal gardens as mentioned above – where is the residential area for Spanish royal family for many centuries.
Roman Bridge – Tracking the Game of Thrones
Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will not be able to miss Córdoba when visiting Southern Spain.
Right close to the city center, crossing the Guadalquivir River is the Roman bridge, set as the setting for the Long Bridge of Volantis in season 5 in the series Game of Thrones. Córdoba’s Roman Bridge was built in the 1st century BC, and was regularly repaired until it found its present beautiful and sturdy appearance in the 8th century. The Roman Bridge is part of a whole that is in perfect harmony with the magnificent architecture that the Moors left to Córdoba. Try entering the city from the southern bank of the Guadalquivir River, with the Roman Bridge in the foreground, the bell tower of the church and Mezquita standing out in the background in the sunset. On the bridge, the artists slide their hands on the drums to beat the rhythms of the Middle Ages, or strum rhythmic Spanish guitars. One moment in time, I thought I was stepping in a fantasy world, like Tyrion Lannister and Varys entering Volantis.
Visiting Cordoba, visitors can go to the Roman Bridge, a bridge with 16 arches, 247m long and 9m wide built in the early 1st century BC. The place is a famous tourist destination and the most visited place by tourists on their journey to discover Cordoba. In fact, it is believed that the ancient Roman road Via Augusta connected Rome to Cádiz in the south of Spain. From the bridge, you can admire the calm river in the sunset, under the shimmering lights, evoking a shimmering and magnificent landscape picture.
Castle of Almodóvar del Río
Address: C. Castillo, 14720 Almodóvar del Río, Córdoba, Spain
Hours: 11AM–2:30PM, 4–7PM; Saturday; Sunday: 10AM–8PM
Continuing my Game of Thrones journey, I went to Almodovar del Rio castle (Castillo Almodovar del Rio) and discovered another architectural treasure of the Moors of the 8th century. Almodovar Castle, just 22 kilometers west of Córdoba, is a real-life version of Tyrell’s High Garden fortress that appeared in season 7 of Game of Thrones. Just like in the movie, Almodovar is located on a high hill in the middle of green fields. Climb up one of the castle’s eight ancient watchtowers, look out over the fields of golden canola flowers, and enjoy the Andalusian spring.
Cordoba travel blog: When should you come to Córdoba?
Córdoba, as well as Andalusia, has very hot summers, so the best time to come here are months of April, May and October, November, when the weather is cool and pleasant. Especially in spring, Córdoba will host many festivals. From early April, patios decorated with vibrant flower pots, vases are also open to visitors.
If you don’t like crowds, you should avoid Semana Santa – Holy Week (the week with Easter, take places around March and April each year). This is the week the Spaniards often go on for their holiday, there are many outdoor activities and the prices of services are also high, room rates can be 3 times more expensive.
Coming to Cordoba in May, visitors will enjoy the space filled with the smell of ripe oranges. Orange trees are planted a lot on sidewalks and parks.
Cordoba travel guide: How to get to Cordoba?
Not many airlines operate direct flights to Cordoba, but traveling by high speed train from major Spanish cities like Madrid or Barcelona is very convenient with only 2 to 4 hours.
Córdoba is a small city, but Córdoba Central Railway Station is conveniently located, at the intersection of many railway lines, including the LGV highway from Madrid to major cities in the Andalusia region. So, to get to Córdoba from abroad, you can fly to one of the big cities like Madrid, Seville, Malaga and then take the train to Córdoba.
Getting around Cordoba
Like many other ancient Spanish cities, it will be difficult for tourists to find a parking lot. Moreover, the cobbled stone streets in the old town are very narrow. So the best way to explore this UNESCO-listed city is on foot. Strolling in the fragrant orange scent, listening to the Spanish guitar and drop by restaurants and tapas bars is also very interesting.
Suggested Cordoba itinerary 1 day: How to spend a day in Cordoba?
Córdoba is small, just enough for a day visit. The main spots as I mentioned above already:
- Mezquita (legacy of Islam and Christianity), the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, the most monumental and special architecture of Córdoba.
- Next to Mezquita, on the banks of the Guadalquivir River is Alcazar. Alcazar is a transliteration of the Arabic word “Al-Qasr” which means “Palace”. Córdoba’s palace is quite small and not very special compared to the Alcazar of Seville or Granada. But this is where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen of Spain – Ferdinand d’Aragon and Isabella I de Castille in 1486. And from there Christopher Columbus found the backing of the Spanish court to make his voyage in 1492, an unrivaled expedition in history.
- The old town of Judería (Jewish Old Quarter) with lovely and crowded streets and bustling shops, the area has many tapas bars and delectable restaurants.
- In the San Basilio neighborhood, many patios are open to visitors and flower viewing. There are some patios that require a ticket, but many are free or depend on your donation. San Basilio is a tiny neighborhood, just go around all the way. If you see an open door, just look in.
- Go to the Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir river to see Córdoba against the pink sky at dusk and dawn.
Coming to Córdoba, you should avoid Sunday and Monday. On these two days, the city’s attractions close very early, some places close all day on Monday.
If you have half a day more in Córdoba, you can go to Almodovar del Rio castle, 22 km from Córdoba, visit the place that was used as the setting for Tyrell’s High Garden in Game of Thrones. Take the bus M-250 from Córdoba to San Sebastian, get off at Almodovar del Rio stop (Parada de Consorcio) for 45 minutes, fare of €2. Link: Website.
When you arrive at the parking lot at the foothills of the Almodovar del Rio castle, you should not follow the paved path up to the entrance gate of the castle, but should follow the trail climbing the hillside to the right of the parking lot (if standing in front of the castle). This trail leads you to places with good angles and deserted tourists.
Cordoba blog: What and where to eat in Córdoba
Speaking of Cordoba cuisine, visitors can enjoy the traditional flavors of age-old specialties such as Churros con chocolate. This is a type of donut served with chocolate, a Spanish typical dish in the morning. There’s also Salmorejo, a cold tomato soup cooked with olive oil and jamon or eggs. You can also enjoy the unique and famous Sangria red fruit wine.
In addition, in each restaurant and bar in Cordoba, there are lively dance and singing performances performed by local musicians and couples.
Food in Andalusia and especially Córdoba is both cheap and delicious. I recommend a few dishes to try:
- Salmorejo: It is the first specialty that people think of when it comes to Córdoba cuisine. This cold soup is made from tomatoes, breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil, topped with ham or hard-boiled eggs.
- Rabo de toro: Bull tail stew is an indispensable specialty on the menu of all traditional Córdoba restaurants during the bullfighting season (May to September).
- Tapas: If you come to Spain without eating tapas, you haven’t been to Spain yet. This is not only a dish but also the way of life of this country. There’s even a Spanish word tapeando, which means “going out for tapas”. Tapas are appetizers or snacks, each portion is as small as half a hand, but can also be ordered as a main course. Particularly in Andalusian tapas bars, they will give you a free tapas when you order a drink. There are countless delicious tapas bars in Córdoba.
- Iberian ham (Jamón Ibérico): Jamón Ibérico is one of the best cured and smoked hams in Spain. Of which the jamón of Córdoba originates from the famously delicious Los Pedroches valley.
Some savory restaurants in Cordoba
I suggest some of my favorite restaurants in Córdoba:
- Bar Santos: A tapas bar right next to Mezquita, which sells the best tortilla de patata (potato omelet) in the city. Tortilla de patata is also one of the must-try specialties of Spain. (Address: C. Magistral González Francés, 3, 14003 Córdoba, Spain/Hours: 10AM–12AM).
- Taberna El Paseo: A tapas shop located on the waterfront, east of Mezquita. This restaurant has a wide variety of tapas, especially delicious Iberian ham. Address: Plaza Cruz del Rastro. (Address: Pl. Cruz del Rastro, 3, 14002 Córdoba, Spain/Hours: 11AM–12AM).
- Taberna La Viuda: Offer traditional Andalusian and Córdoba cuisine, located in the San Basilio area. Lovely restaurant, with a green patio. Good food and reasonably priced. Reservations are required if you want to be sure of a spot. (Address: 14004 Córdoba, Spain/Hours: 1–4:30PM, 8–11:30PM).
- Buonisssimo Gelato: An Italian-style ice cream parlor, located near Taberna El Paseo, under the shade of orange trees on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. (Address: Rda. de Isasa, 2, Local, 14003 Córdoba, Spain/Hours: 2–7PM/Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Closed).
Cordoba travel blog: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Las Casas de La Juderia (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Cordoba Center (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- NH Collection Amistad Cordoba (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Balcon de Cordoba (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hesperia Cordoba (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hospes Palacio del Bailio (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Eurostars Palace (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Cordoba guide: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Cordoba you can refer to
- Córdoba Guided Walking Tour
- Alcazar of Córdoba Guided Tour
- Cordoba City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Guided Full Day Tour in Cordoba
- Medina Azahara Guided Tour in Córdoba
- Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba Guided Tour with Admission Ticket
- Córdoba Authentic Patios Guided Tour
- Cordoba Guided Day Tour from Seville
- El Cardenal Flamenco Show Ticket in Córdoba
Read more Spain travel guid here.