Muslims, Jews and Christians once lived together peacefully in a city described by a famous Saxon poet as “The Ornament of the World”. That city was Córdoba, one of the grandest cities in Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus). Architectural gems from this enlightened period remain, as well as more recent Spanish buildings and even a relic from the distant past, when Córdoba was part of the Roman Empire.
We spent 2 days in Córdoba (Andalusia), admiring the exotic architecture and wandering around the narrow streets. Here are some ideas on what to see if you’re thinking of doing the same.
La Mesquita de Córdoba (The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba)
Wow — this is one of those most beautiful buildings I’ve ever stepped foot in. There was originally a Catholic church on this site, but construction of the building we see today started in 784 AD. The Catholics decided to give it an extreme Christian makeover when they took over the city in 1236. I’m sure the remodel took away some of its beauty, but luckily they left the best bits — the rows and rows of candy-cane arches. You’ll struggle to find a more eye-catching interior anywhere in the world — if you’re anywhere near Córdoba it’s worth making a detour for this place alone. The Catholic part of the Mesquita isn’t quite as interesting, but walk around the perimeter of the massive, arch-filled complex and you’ll see other examples of intricate Muslim design. The outside of the Mesquita is nice as well — its massive stone walls feature lots of detail and there is a little garden full of oranges as you enter through the main gate. A ticket for the Mesquita will set you back €8. We didn’t have to queue at all but we visited in winter — it probably gets really packed during peak season.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
This place is similar to the Alcázar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada. While it doesn’t have the impressive interiors of those 2 historic wonders, it does have a lavish garden filled with long pools lined with orange trees. It’s the height of opulence — you can just imagine the ancient royals frolicking in their Eden-like water wonderland. The other highlight of the Alcázar is the view from the top of the main tower. In one direction are the old buildings of Córdoba as well as the Roman Bridge crossing the Guadalquivir River. In the other direction you get a bird’s eye view of the gardens. The Water Palace costs €4.50 and you can spend a good few hours relaxing in the peaceful gardens.
The Roman Bridge
Dating back over 2000 years, the Roman Bridge in Córdoba is still in remarkably good shape (but surely, like most people in Hollywood over the age of 40, it has had some work done). We walked across the bridge a few times, looking out over the Guadalquivir River and back towards the cluster of buildings in the old part of town. The Roman Bridge is a great place to go at night — it’s all lit up and is a hive of activity.
Juderia (The Jewish Quarter)
We stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the colourful Jewish Quarter. When we weren’t checking out Córdoba’s sights we were wandering the cobble-stone streets of this old neighbourhood. This area is a good place to shop and eat, but if you’re looking for something a bit more local you’re better off heading to the downtown district between the Jewish Quarter and the train station.
What we missed
We had planned to visit Madinat Al-Zahra, the ruins of the former administrative centre of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain). There was some confusion over bus times and we eventually learned there was no afternoon bus that day (according to the woman at the tourist information office) — it was really frustrating. I guess it just means we’ll have to return to Córdoba next time we are in Europe. If you’ve been there, let me know what it’s like in the comments below.
2 Days in Cordoba: The Details
I don’t like to give hour by hour itineraries to people — who actually follows those anyway? If you’re spending 2 days in Córdoba I’d recommend spending a morning at the Mesquita followed by a casual walk around the city in the afternoon (don’t miss the Roman Bridge!). On the second day check out the Alcázar and Madinat Al-Zahra. There are also lots of other things to see, so go out and explore and, if you can, try and spend an extra day or 2 — it’s one of those cities that are enjoyable even if you’ve already seen the sights.
Have you been to Córdoba? What is your favourite city in Andalusia? Let me know in the comments below!
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