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Things to Do in Cordoba

A heady mix of Roman, Moorish, Jewish, and Christian influence make Cordoba one of Andalucia’s most fascinating cities. Perfect for wandering, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed medieval old city is a winding network of lanes, squares, and whitewashed courtyards that take visitors on a journey back in time to the days when the city was the center of the Iberian Islamic world. Highlights include Cordoba’s 14th-century synagogue, which sits in the heart of the Old City’s maze of backstreets and is one of only a few medieval synagogues remaining in Spain. There’s also Roman history to seek out, including a Roman-era bridge, temple, and theater.

The Basics
A top destination in Andalucia, Cordoba is often visited on day trips and as a stop on multi-day itineraries through southern Spain that also include visits to areas such as Seville, Granada, Ronda, and the Costa del Sol. While there’s enough to see and experience to warrant a few days in Cordoba, travelers pressed for time can catch the highlights—the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, the Mezquita, the Jewish Quarter with the Cordoba Synagogue, and Calleja de las Flores—on a convenient day trip from Seville.

Things to Know Before You Go
  • A visit to Cordoba is a must for lovers of architecture, history, and culture.
  • Choose to visit Cordoba on a day trip or as part of a multi-day guided tour through Spain.
  • Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces.
  • Day trips from Seville typically last upwards of nine hours.

How to Get There
The closest commercial airports to Cordoba are in Seville, Malaga, and Madrid, so the vast majority of visitors arrive on a guided tour or by high-speed AVE train, which runs hourly from Madrid, Seville, and Malaga. From the train station, it’s about a 25-minute walk to the Old City and the Mezquita.

When to Get There
While winters in Cordoba are quite mild, the best times to visit for optimal weather are during the spring and autumn months. In summer, this is one of the hottest places in Spain, so expect temperatures around 100°F (38­°C) in July and August.

Getting Around Cordoba
Cordoba is divided into two main sections: the Old City and the modern, commercial section. Most of the major points of interest are in the Old City, which comprises the Jewish Quarter and the area surrounding the Mezquita. This historic core is small and easily navigable on foot, but horse and carriages (coches de caballo) are also available for rent to see the city the old-fashioned way.
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Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba)
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Originally the site of the Christian Visigoth Church San Vicente, Córdoba’s Mezquita -- or Grand Mosque -- stands as the city's most proud monument and one of the most exquisite Islamic structures in the western world.

Its initial origins date back to the year 600 and, following the Islamic conquest in the 8th century, the site of the Visigoth church was actually split between Christians and Muslims for a time. Ultimately, it was bought out by the governor of al-Andalus, with the construction of the Islamic mosque beginning in 785 by Muslim emir Abdurrahman I.

Since then, the structure has evolved right along with Spanish history. A minaret was added, and the building was enlarged, reaching its final size in 987. Then, when Kind Ferdinand conquered Córdoba during the Reconquista in 1236, the structure was consecrated as a Christian Cathedral.

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Cordoba Jewish Quarter (Judería de Córdoba)
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Sprinkled across the Spanish Peninsula, you'll come across Jewish Quarters known as juderías. In Córdoba, which was once considered the most populous city in the world, the Jewish community especially thrived, and now its ancient neighborhood of white buildings is considered one of the most famous juderías in Spain.

The Jewish community indeed played an important role culturally in the history of the Iberian Peninsula. During the Moorish Caliphate -- the period of Islamic rule over Spain which ended in 1031 -- the Jewish community flourished as Córdoba rose as a center for commerce, prosperity, education and religious tolerance.

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Córdoba Synagogue (Sinagoga de Córdoba)
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Located in the heart of Córdoba's Jewish Quarter, and just blocks away from the Mezquita, sits one of Spain's most unique connections to the past: the Synagogue of Córdoba.

Constructed in the 14th century, Córdoba's synagogue is the Judería's (Jewish Quarter's) main attraction and is one-of-a-kind in the Andalucía region. This is because, while the Jewish community once played a very key role on the Iberian Peninsula -- especially during the Moorish Caliphate -- much of Jewish culture was eradicated and expelled in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition. As a result, Córdoba's synagogue and two others in the city of Toledo remain as the only lasting structures of their kind from pre-Inquisition Spain.

The small Córdoba synagogue houses a courtyard, prayer room and women's gallery. With a humble brick exterior, the small interior features walls with intricate Hebrew inscriptions, scalloped archways and Mudéjar plasterwork.

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Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs (Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos)
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Córdoba doesn't just have a Grand Mosque, but also a palace: the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. Once the site of a Visigoth fortress, it was ultimately rebuilt to house the caliphs of Córdoba, before being taken over by the Christians. Once in their hands, the palace was famously home to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel for eight years during the Spanish Inquisition. During that time, it was even visited by Christopher Columbus, who came to explain plans for his westward journey to the Catholic Kings.

The palace has gone through various rounds of re-buildings and modifications, with today's structure maintaining little of the Moorish one that stood before it. Even so, the present-day Alcázar still has a Moorish flavor, given the Múdejar style of design and architecture implemented under King Alfonso XI.

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Tablao El Cardenal
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Situated in what was once part of an archbishop's palace, Tablao El Cardenal is the most-coveted spot in Córdoba to catch one of Spain's most beloved art forms.

Indeed the south of Spain is steeped in a history of flamenco, as it is believed that this is where the tradition originated. Consisting of clapping, guitar playing, singing and of course dancing, tablaos -- places where flamenco is performed -- are the ideal venue to become acquainted with the soulful tradition.

Just meters away from the Mezquita, in the city's Jewish Quarter, the 25-year-old Tablao El Cardenal offers what is considered the best of Cordoban flamanco in a ultra-traditional setting. During fall and winter, the shows take place in the indoor auditorium, meanwhile in spring and summer, they move to the courtyard, so emblematic of this southern city of patios.

The hour-and-a-half to two-hour performances typically include several different dancers.

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Plaza de Las Tendillas
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Cordoba’s Plaza de Tendillas sits in the very heart of Cordoba and at the crossroads between the older part of town and the relatively newer modern one. Its construction dates back to the 1920s, when it was built to be used as a central meeting place in the big southern city.

Nowadays, the almost entirely pedestrian-only square is home to various events, including protests, markets and celebrations. Arguably its biggest celebration is New Year’s Eve, which is marked by the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes in sync with the midnight strikes of the clock — which, here in Cordoba, are always marked by the musical strums of a flamenco guitarist rather than the sound of bells. Come to the plaza to check out the famous El Gran Capitan statue (erected in honor of the famous military commander Gonzalo de Cordoba), to people watch while having a drink al fresco, and, during summertime, to cool off in the geyser-like fountains especially loved by the kids.

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More Things to Do in Cordoba

Medina Azahara

Medina Azahara

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Just a short drive away from Spain's southern city of Córdoba sits Medina Azahara. While little of the 10th-century medieval palace-town remains, its legacy as "Old Córdoba" lives on.

Legend has it that the city, erected by Caliph of Córdoba Abd al-Rahman III, was named after the Caliph’s favorite concubine, Azahara. Recent studies, however, reveal that its creation likely had more to do with politics, symbolizing the Caliph's power and superiority over his rivals. Whatever the case, for a short time, Medina Azahara stood as the de facto capital of Muslim Spain (called al-Andalus) before it was eventually devastated during civil war in 1010, only to be abandoned, buried away, and finally excavated in the early 1900s. Rectangular in shape, Medina Azahara was carefully laid out, with an advanced sewer system. The hillside township was broken into terraces: the top and middle sections dedicated to the royal palace.

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