Sitting in the heart of Andalusia, Córdoba is one of the most important cities when it comes to Spanish history. Home of three cultures, populations of Jews, Muslims, and Christians all coexisted peacefully here for hundreds of years.
Today, Córdoba is a captivating city full of plenty of things to do for any kind of traveler.
Museums, archaeological sites, diverse houses of worship, patios, hidden terraces, and plenty of cobblestoned streets for getting lost in, Córdoba truly has it all. If you’re planning a trip, here are a few of the best things to do in Córdoba to add to your itinerary!
- Brief History of Córdoba
- How to Get to Córdoba
- Top Things to Do in Córdoba
- 1. Marvel at the Mezquita-Catedral
- 2. Explore the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba (La Judería)
- 3. Discover the Alcázar (Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos)
- 4. Watch a Flamenco Show in an Arab Bathhouse
- 5. Visit the Córdoba Synagogue (Sinagoga de Córdoba)
- 6. Discover the Roman Temple and Roman Bridge (Puente Romano)
- 7. Eat Your Way Around Córdoba
- 8. Admire Calleja de las Flores
- 9. Enjoy the Patios at Palacio de Viana
- 10. Climb to the Top of Calahorra Tower
- 11. Visit a Museum
- 12. Sip a Coffee at Plaza de la Corredera
- 13. Catch a Festival
- 14. Take a Bike Tour
- One Day Itinerary in Cordoba
Brief History of Córdoba
The large cities of Portugal and Spain get a lot of buzz from travelers. Tourists flock to places like Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, and Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville in Spain. However, if you’re interested in exploring a lesser-known destination, Córdobais one of our top recommendations. Nestled between Madrid and Seville, Córdoba has some of the most exquisite Moorish architecture in Europe.
Be prepared to be wowed as Córdoba is an architectural dream and such a striking departure from the more traditional Spanish cities. It was one of my favorites in Spain, and a must-see in my opinion.
Córdoba was a Roman colony (Corduba) founded in 152 BC, and it fell to Muslim invaders in 711 AD. Just a couple hundred years later, it became the largest city in Europe where Jews, Christians, and Muslims mostly peacefully coexisted. It was captured by Spain in the mid-13th century and then underwent a period of decline.
Córdoba’s architecture reflects a blend of the cultural groups (Roman, Visigoth, Islam, Judaism, and Christian) that occupied the area. It is known for its talented artisans in leather, tile, and silver. The Jewish Quarter of Córdoba is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing the historic center for the outstanding examples of religious architecture.
How to Get to Córdoba
As mentioned, Córdoba is located between Madrid and Seville. It’s around a 2-hour trip from Madrid on the high-speed train or only a 40-minute train ride from Seville, making it a great day trip from either city.
Alternatively, you can take a train from Madrid to Córdoba, and end your evening in Seville, which is what I did. I loved it and wished I had an extra day or two to explore as there is so much to see and do.
Top Things to Do in Córdoba
There are some magnificent structures to visit when you’re in Córdoba, along with a wander through the old Jewish Quarter. You can do this on your own or find a local walking tour. If you’re a bit of a history nerd like I am, definitely consider a day tour. You can learn a lot more about this amazing city exploring with a local.
There are a number of free tours, and I have found them to be wonderful as the tour guide receives payment only in tips. How’s that for motivation?
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1. Marvel at the Mezquita-Catedral
The Great Mosque of Córdoba, also known as the Mosque-Cathedral or the Mezquita, is the largest mosque in the world and the best-known building in Córdoba. It was built in 785 AD on the ruins of a church and has been enlarged and embellished since it was originally constructed.
The Mezquita-Catedral is one of the most incredible examples of Islamic art in Spain.
After the Christian conquest, a Renaissance cathedral was erected in the center so it is now a blend of Moorish and Christian architecture. Its opulence is magnificent, and it is worth spending as much time as you can here. Tour the great hall with the detailed stone arches, the Patio de Los Naranjos courtyard, and the Bell Tower.
Today, the monument is a religious mishmash with striped arches supported by tall pillars (850 of them, to be exact) and gilded altarpieces dotting the halls. There are secrets hidden in the walls and various religious motifs around every corner, making it a thrilling place to visit to learn about Córdoba’s religious past.
If you love history, book this guided tour complete with a skip-the-line ticket -a must-have as this is Córdoba’s most popular attraction!
2. Explore the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba (La Judería)
The entrance to the Jewish Quarter (La Judería) is through the Almodovar Gate. When you enter, you are in the historic center of Córdoba. This neighborhood is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes many of the historical monuments that attract visitors to this city.
This was once a vibrant Jewish community from around the 10th to the 15th century until their expulsion from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. This happened in 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus made his maiden voyage seeking western route to the Far East.
The Jewish Quarter is now a bustling area with many shops and restaurants, though there are still reminders of its history in the street names like Calle Judios. There are also some signs and statues throughout the quarter reflecting the history of this area.
It is a lovely maze of narrow streets and beautiful courtyards with lots of shade from the strong southern Spain sun. For an insider look at the Jewish Quarter, I highly recommend taking a walking tour with a local guide who will bring you to hidden streets, markets, and breathtaking sites in this neighborhood.
3. Discover the Alcázar (Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos)
Another one of Córdoba’s most famous monuments is the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristanos, a glimpse of the city’s Christian past.
This beautiful compound was constructed as a residence for Catholic kings by the order of King Alfonso XI, but was subsequently used as the Holy Office headquarters during the Spanish Inquisition, housing prisoners instead of royalty.
The Alcazar was built atop the ruins of a Moorish fort and then further completed in a Mudejar style, allowing visitors to imagine what Cordoba looked like during the 10th century.
The gardens of the Alcazar are a true highlight, spreading throughout numerous courtyards filled with baths, perfectly trimmed hedges, and stunning flowers. Another unmissable sight is the tower which you can climb for panoramic views of Córdoba.
Located just beside the Mezquita, the Alcazar is no stranger to crowds. Book early and opt for a skip-the-line ticket and tour so you can spend more time exploring and less time waiting around!
There is a large and magnificent outdoor garden surrounded by the four towers of the Alcázar. The garden is one of the highlights of the building. It features large paths lined with cypress trees, beautiful fountains, ponds, citrus, and palms. It’s hard to believe you’re in the center of a city while in the garden, though you can climb the towers and walk along the ramparts to enjoy city views.
The main hall is known as the “Hall of Mosaics” for the stunning mosaics covering the walls. There are also royal baths and two beautiful courtyards. The building is impressive, though the gardens and the mosaics are the true highlights.
4. Watch a Flamenco Show in an Arab Bathhouse
Flamenco is central to traditional Spanish culture and catching a show is something you simply must do while in Spain.
This authentic experience consists of a flamenco show held in a 10th-century Arabian bathhouse… ideal for ambience and acoustics! Mix some history with culture, killer music, and stomping feet and here you have an outstanding show!
The intimate performance starts at 10.00pm, but arrive a little early and sip on a complimentary beverage before the dancers take to the stage. This is truly one of the best things to do in Córdoba for a really reasonable price, so don’t miss out!
5. Visit the Córdoba Synagogue (Sinagoga de Córdoba)
The Córdoba Synagogue is the only remaining Jewish Synagogue in Andalusia and one of the best-preserved remaining in Spain. Due to its small size, it may have originally been a private synagogue for a wealthy family.
Located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, it served as a temple until the Jews were removed from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. The Synagogue was then used as a hospital and a school before it became a recognized national monument in the 19th century.
Though the building is small, there are some intricate carvings and scrolling work on the walls. There are also Hebrew inscriptions on the interior walls and beautiful scalloped archways. It is worth getting a guided tour if you’re interested in learning more about the history of this synagogue and the Jewish Quarter.
6. Discover the Roman Temple and Roman Bridge (Puente Romano)
One of the top things to do in Córdoba is to walk across the Roman Bridge, especially for an evening-time stroll. It crosses the Guadalquivir River and leads directly to the heart of Córdoba’s historic center, providing postcard-worthy views of the city and lush surrounding countryside
The bridge was originally constructed by the Romans in the 1st century but has undergone multiple renovations throughout history. What stands today is greatly credited to the Moors from their 8th-century restoration.
In the 1950s, the remains of a Roman Temple dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries was found. 10 marble columns remain and you can see them today. Built around the same time, the Roman bridge is a famous Córdoba landmark. It has 17 stone arches and provides great city views.
At the end of Puente Romano, you will find Calahorra Tower, a large tower built during Muslim times.
Fun Fact: For any Game of Thrones fans sightseeing in Córdoba, the Roman Bridge was featured in the show as the entrance to Volantis!
7. Eat Your Way Around Córdoba
What else is there to do in Córdoba? Well, eat of course!
Definitely check out some of the local tapas bars while you’re here. The good ones may not look impressive from the outside, but you will find them packed with locals. Tapas is a tradition in Spain, and one I highly recommend.
Don’t leave without tasting salmoreja, a traditional dish that is perfect for the hot weather. It’s a cold tomato soup made of olive oil, garlic, vinegar, bread crumbs, and has bits of serrano ham and eggs sprinkled on top. It’s like a substantial gazpacho, and originated in this area.
You’ll find that there are countless places to have an outstanding meal in Córdoba, but to find spots frequented by a local crowd, consider taking a local food tour.
This three-hour evening tour visits a secret terrace with stunning views of the city, a palace that was converted into a five-star hotel, an authentic Roman villa, and a tavern that’s a local staple, with yummy bites to eat and drink along the way.
Alternatively, opt for this full-day tour where you’ll mix dining with sightseeing, accompanied by a local guide committed to bringing you to the best hidden food spots!
No matter what you choose, you’re sure to end up with some unmatched meals from one of the best places to eat in the world!
8. Admire Calleja de las Flores
The most famous street in Córdoba is without a doubt Calleja de las Flores, the Alley of Flowers. Lining the narrow little street are dozens of hanging flowerpots and patios, overflowing with colorful fauna and bright green leaves as if out of a fairytale.
You’ll see patios and flowerpots along many streets in Córdoba, but they’re definitely most abundant and picture-perfect along Calleja de las Flores. This street is easily accessible as it’s right in the heart of Old Town, so you can’t miss it during a day out on the town.
9. Enjoy the Patios at Palacio de Viana
The most stunning place to take in Córdoba’s patios is Palacio de Viana, a massive compound complete with 12 different gardens.
Each of the interior patios are intricately designed, full of different plant varieties, exotic flowers, and shady trees, in a position to compliment the 14th-century residence surrounding the gardens. All of the patios have a unique theme, creating a stunning experience as you wander between each of the different ones.
The residence is also open for visits and guided tours where you can see antique collections of furniture, artwork, tapestries, and mosaics, giving some insight into how the wealthiest families of Córdoba lived.
10. Climb to the Top of Calahorra Tower
Sitting on the southern side of the Roman Bridge, you’ll find Calahorra Tower, the main defensive point of the city, standing guard over Córdoba.
Torre de la Calahorra has been standing tall since the mid-1300s and has kept countless enemies and undesirables outside of the city.
Today, you’ll find a museum inside the tower with presentations of Córdoba’s history and evolution over time. Once you finish making your way through the displays, climb the winding staircase to the top of the tower for panoramic views out over the Roman Bridge and the rest of the city.
11. Visit a Museum
Like most Spanish cities, Córdoba is home to some world-class museums, perfect for exploring on a rainy day or when you need some refuge from the hot Spanish sun.
To get an outstanding picture of Córdoba’s past, head to the Archaeological Museum. It’s filled with prehistoric and medieval artifacts, rounded out by an outstanding collection of bits and pieces from Iberian and Roman periods. The Archaeological Museum also encompasses the remains of a Roman theatre which was stumbled upon and then fully excavated, turning it into one of the most captivating exhibits in Córdoba.
Art lovers, you may want to visit the Museum of Fine Arts where you’ll be met by stunning collections of Spanish and Baroque art. The works here span the 14th to 20th centuries, with works by famous names such as Zubaran, Antonio del Castillo and Valdes Leal lining the walls. Admission is free for members of the EU, otherwise, it’s €1.50 per person – a total steal!
Finally, if you’re ever curious about Spain’s deep history of bullfighting, head to the Museo Taurino where you can learn everything there is to know about this controversial sport.
12. Sip a Coffee at Plaza de la Corredera
After exploring all of Córdoba’s past, step back into present-day with a visit to Plaza de la Corredera, the beating heart of Córdoba.
This is where you can find a great deal of the hustle and bustle in the city, filled with sprawling patios, endless arcades, and classic Spanish architecture everywhere you turn. It’s always full of life, making it a great place to settle down after a long day of walking.
The plaza was crafted in the late 1600s and has been a staple in the city ever since. It’s where bullfights were previously held, and then it became the central spot for Córdoba’s markets after that.
In the present day, Plaza de la Corredera is a great place to grab a meal or a coffee and watch the daily life of Córdoba swirl around you.
13. Catch a Festival
Throughout the year (especially in the spring months), Córdoba holds several annual festivals, giving visitors a taste of local life as it’s been for hundreds of years.
The most famous festival in Córdoba is Patios de Córdoba, where the entire city opens up its gates to the countless interior courtyards tucked away behind tall walls. The air is full of fresh planted flowers, jasmine and orange blossom and trees in bloom. This is a time for residents to compete in some friendly fun by trying to outdo their neighbors in courtyard decoration.
Besides private residences, many monuments and religious sites in the city also take part in Patios de Córdoba, creating intricate designs with fresh flowers.
It’s the most beautiful time to visit the city as everything is in full bloom! It also gives you the chance to visit patios and courtyards that you never would have known about before.
Patios de Córdoba is celebrated annually during the second week of May.
Just after Patios de Córdoba, the city also holds Feria de Córdoba, a spring fair that dates back to the 13th century.
This festival is held for a week at the end of May and typically takes place at the fairgrounds located in the south of the city. At the fairgrounds, there are more than 100 tents set up filled with places to eat and drink, crowded from mid-day until the wee hours of the morning.
During this time, flamenco and folk dancers are in abundance, stomping their feet and swishing their colorful dresses — a great opportunity to see a more traditional side of Córdoba. There are also fun activities around the fairgrounds like rides, horse shows, and fireworks!
To see local culture come to life, plan your trip to Córdoba around these festivals and you’ll be blown away by the magnificence of it all!
14. Take a Bike Tour
If you want to see it all but don’t know where to start, a bike tour of Córdoba is a great way to see some of the highlights of the city and get yourself oriented.
On this two-hour tour, you’ll visit some of the most famous places in Córdoba like the Mezquita, Jewish quarter, Roman Bridge, and many churches. You’ll also get to see loads of tucked-away patios and small courtyards, ideal for taking a break from cycling.
Your local guide who accompanies you will give some good insight into the best places to eat, where to go out drinking, and less touristy areas of the city, ideal for some independent exploration as your time in Córdoba continues.
Taking a bike tour is a great way to get yourself situated in Córdoba and have a glimpse into all that the city has to offer.
Now do you believe me when I say that Córdoba truly has something for everyone who visits Spain? There’s so much to do in this city, and it had such a big impact of Spanish history you’d be hardpressed to be bored here.
Whether you’re wandering the halls of some of the most famous houses of worship in the world, catching some sun in a tucked-away patio or gorging yourself on tapas, you’ll be thrilled by all the amazing things to do in Córdoba!
One Day Itinerary in Cordoba
- Start with a visit to the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. This is the most popular attraction in the city so it’s good to go early, if possible.
- Wander around the Jewish Quarter and have lunch. Then visit the Synagogue.
- Visit the Alcázar of Cordoba and spend some time enjoying the magnificent gardens.
- If time allows, visit the Roman Bridge and cross it to see Calahorra Tower.
If you have additional time and can do an overnight in Córdoba, consider exploring more of this amazing city. Córdoba is great day or overnight trip from Madrid or Seville. It features an incredibly beautiful and well-preserved historical center and some true architectural masterpieces.
The uniqueness of this area makes Córdoba a great place to visit when you’re in Spain.
Additional content contributed by Jane Elmets
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