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When I was planning my trip to Spain, I had one image in my mind. That of a building with red and white pillars and arches everywhere you looked. This imaged carried me through the whole planning process and was a deciding factor when putting together the final itinerary. I was going to be so close to Cordoba so I had to make it happen in any way possible. My boyfriend, T, wasn’t so convinced. He didn’t understand why I was so consumed with the idea of visiting this otherwise small town. Until we got there.
The Mezquita was definitely the highlight of my 24 hours in Cordoba, but there are plenty of other things to see as well. It’s a good way to enjoy a slower pace of life compared to the larger cities of Seville and Madrid nearby. While we met people staying two or three days in the city, one day was more than enough to see the highlights.
Things To Do
Córdoba has the second largest old town in Europe making it the largest urban area in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just wandering around the city is a “top thing to do.” Amongst all your wanderings, be sure to hit up these spots.
Mezquita (The Mosque – Cathedral of Córdoba)
You know how you see something online and then when you see it in real life it doesn’t quite live up to your expectations? This didn’t happen to me. The Mezquita was what I hoped it to be and more. The whole time I was inside, I was in awe at everything.
Its iconic arches seem to go on forever in every direction. In fact, there are more than 850 coloured granite jasper and marble pillars in total.
What makes the Mezquita even cooler is its history. At one time or another through its history, and sometimes even at the same time, the Mezquita was used by Muslims and Christians as a place of worship. This mix of religion is reflected inside the building. At its centre is a Renaissance cathedral stretching high above our heads and along its outer walls are numerous chapels.
All this is juxtaposed against a mihrab on the southern wall denoting the direction of Mecca.
From the outside, the building looks rather unremarkable. It’s essentially just one big box. Were it not for the elaborated decorated gates around the building, you would have no idea of what is inside.
Admission is 8€. However, if, like me, you’re an early bird, entrance is free Monday to Saturday from 8:30 – 9:30 AM. You need to be completely quiet during those hours, though. We got there shortly after 8:30, and the guards said to be out by 9:15. Regardless, we found that this was plenty of time to visit.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
This royal fortress was once the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. They welcomed Christopher Columbus and heard his plans for a new route to India. Today, it stands mostly empty, a shadow of what, I can only imagine, it was. Compared to the Alcázar in Seville, there is no comparison. If my entrance was not free, I would have been upset.
However, I did thoroughly enjoy wandering the gardens which it is famous for. Climbing up one of the towers allowed for great views of Cordoba, the Mezquita and the Guadalquivir River below.
As mentioned, admission is €4.50, however, Tuesday through Friday between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM, you can gain access to the grounds for free. As long as you enter before 9:30, you’re fine. They won’t kick you out.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Then a walk across the Roman Bridge is a must. The bridge was used as a stand-in (and augmented by CGI) for the Long Bridge of Volantis in Season 5. Built in the early 1st century BC, the bridge’s arches reflect the famous Moorish architecture found throughout the city. At the middle of the bridge, there is a statue of San Rafael, the patron of Cordoba. Walk across at night and you get a good view of the Mezquita all lit up by lights.
Where and What to Eat
Our time in Cordoba fell in the middle of our trip in Spain and both of us were craving vegetables and trying to avoid deep fried things. We didn’t eat out much here, instead opting for bagged salads and fruit from the grocery store. We did manage to taste most of the classic dishes typical of the area, though.
Note: Sorry about the terrible photos ahead. I didn’t bring my camera with me to dinner and only had my phone in really low light.
Spain’s lesser known version of gazpacho, salmorejo is thicker due to the addition of bread. There is also garlic, olive oil and sherry vinegar in addition to tomatoes.
This is a dish of pork loin stuffed with serrano ham, coated with egg and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. It sounded like chicken cordon bleu except with pork instead.
Berenjas fritas con miel
Literally, fried eggplant and honey. The combination may sound kind of weird, but I can assure you, it’s delicious. It’s sweet and savoury and the same time. The eggplant is crunchy on the outside from being fried, but it’s also pillowy soft on the inside and melts in your mouth. I could have eaten plates and plates of these.
And where should you get these delicious bites? Here are few suggestions:
Taberna El Pimentón
Our hostel took a group of us here. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it overlooks the water which is nice. One good thing about going with a group is getting to try a variety of things you otherwise might not order. See reviews on Tripadvisor.
Calle Ronda de Isasa, 4,
My Spanish friend who lives in Madrid recommended that we check out this place right next to the Mezquita. We were both so grumpy from the lack of sleep the night before and waking up so early that we didn’t visit. My friend hasn’t led us astray with food recommendations so I’m including it. She suggests getting the omelette and the salmorejo. See reviews on Tripadvisor.
Calle Magistral González Francés, 3,
Where (not) to Stay
Cordoba Bed and Be
I would not recommend this hostel. While the room itself was comfortable and the people running it nice enough, the biggest issue was noise. We booked a private room thinking that we would get a restful night sleep especially after the previous couple nights at a party hostel in Seville. Afterall, Cordoba sounds like a sleepy little town right?
Not so. Cordoba Bed and Be is located above the main road. From the moment we tried to sleep until the next morning, there were people hooting and hollering all the way down the street. When the partiers subsided, the morning deliveries began. There’s nothing like hearing the thudding of dolly wheels against the cobble streets to lull you to sleep. This was hands down my worst night of sleep in Spain. Do not recommend. Find something else if you value sleep.
Cordoba was a stop to see one thing, the Mezquita, but it turned into quite the adventure. I was pleased to find so many other things to explore, and it was a nice change of pace after being in much bigger cities. While I wish I could have had proper sleep, Cordoba was great and I cannot recommend it more for your Spanish and Andalusian explorations.
Have you been to Cordoba? If so, did you like it as much as I did? What other smaller cities have you visited that have been a surprise?