Sitting in the fast train from Madrid to Cordoba, we were exhausted after a night without sleep but even though all we wanted to do was to close our eyes, soon enough we started noticing the views; patches of olive groves and leafy green carpets flew before our eyes, the sun was warming our faces and we could feel the excitement slowly overcoming our fatigue. Cordoba here we come!
The minute we stepped down from the train, we were greeted with the harsh unapologetic August sun of Andalusia and that was the moment we finally understood why the Spanish insisted on having their siesta, it was too damn hot! Visiting Cordoba in the month of August is not ideal but there are ways to overcome the almost unbearable heat so you’d actually get to enjoy the attractions this city has to offer – explore Cordoba in the morning and the afternoon and take a break at the hotel’s pool (sipping a cold sangria of course) during the hottest hours – Siesta it is!
By now you probably know that Spain is one of our favorite destinations. We especially love the picturesque cities and towns of Andalusia and Cordoba is one of the most beautiful and interesting towns in the area with so many things to do. The old curvy alleys and magnificent architecture and landmarks hold the key to Cordoba’s charm and tell the story of Spain’s golden age when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in harmony. The town is quite small and when taking into account the foodie scene and laid back atmosphere, Cordoba is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway in Spain.
When is the best time to visit Cordoba?
The ideal time to visit Cordoba must be during fall or spring time when the temperatures are pleasant, and the humidity is under control, however if you do visit the area during the hot months of summer, just embrace the local siesta and laid back atmosphere. Rest at the hotel’s pool during the hottest hours of the day and start exploring the city again in the afternoon till the wee hours of the night, like the locals do (dinner time is after 9 PM).
If you are lucky enough to visit the area during the spring, from the end of April, all through May there are celebrations all over Cordoba, starting with “Battle of the Flowers” during which the women dress in gypsy garbs, singing traditional songs and riding through the town’s streets on decorated floats. Then it’s time for the procession of the “blooming” crosses which are decorated with colorful flowers, followed by the “Patios Festival” when the owners of the most beautiful patios in town open their houses for visitors and finally for the crescendo it’s time for “Spring Fair”.
So as you can see, the Spanish really love their spring celebrations, and during this season the city turns into a colorful carnival, with lots of special events, trays of tapas, glasses of sangria and traditional flamenco shows all over the city. For more information read this article about the Spring festivals and attractions.
Top Things to Do in Cordoba
Discover the Historic Center of Cordoba
Cordoba’s historic center is truly unique, no wonder it was granted a UNESCO World Heritage status. There are so many magnificent historic landmarks hidden amongst the labyrinth of old white-colored alleys. Behind every turn there’s another blooming patio or a beautiful shop, not to mention the abundance of traditional tapas bars and cozy coffee shops. As always, our best tip is to just start walking and find these little gems that are just waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the must-see attractions in Cordoba’s historic center:
Visit the Famous Mezquita
One of the most important attractions in Cordoba is the old Mosque at the heart of the historic center that nowadays is used as a cathedral. It is one of the most extravagant buildings in Spain which was built by the Muslims in the 8th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enter through the impressive bronze doors and follow the path to the inner courtyard with its lovely orange trees, from there you can make your way to the remarkable inner space of the mosque. The sight of the dozens red and white arches is a memorable sight that is a prime example of some of the best Moorish architecture that can be found in Spain.
Tip: The best time to visit the Mezquita is very early in the morning. On Mondays – Saturdays individuals can enter the compound for free between 8:30 to 9:30 (there’s a one hour limit on your visit). The tower is opened at 9:30. If you like’d the place to yourself without organized groups and many tourists around, this is the best time to visit (check prior to your arrival that there are no special events since then the opening hours may be modified).
Get Lost in the Alleys of Judería
The old Jewish quarter is one of the best areas in town to get lost in and it should definitely be at the top of your things to do list. Wander along the narrow white-colored alleys which are dotted with beautiful leafy patios, charming little stores and plenty of restaurants and bars. Visit the ancient synagogue which nowadays serves as a museum at Calle Judios. See the monument of the famous philosopher and scholar Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides) at Plaza de Tiberiades. Don’t skip one of the most beautiful alleys in the area, Calleja de Las Flores (you’d better come early or it will be packed with tourists) and rest for a while at one of the coffee shops at Plaza de Juda Leví.
Admire the Views from Córdoba's Roman Bridge & the Calahorra Tower
In the late afternoon Cordoba comes to life again after the sleepy hours of the siesta and the promenade along the Roman Bridge is filled with locals and tourists alike. Make your way along the crowd of ice cream sellers, local musicians, artists, local families and tourists and enjoy the spectacular view. You can cross the bridge to get to the Calahorra Tower which serves as an historical museum today. You can climb the tower to capture the magnificent panoramic views of Cordoba from the top or look at the town from a different perspective from this end of the bridge. If you are looking for a great spot to watch the sunset in Cordoba, come here, because you’ll get to see Cordoba colored by the golden hues of the setting sun.
Enjoy the Splendor of Museum Palacio de Viana
This aristocratic palace is also fondly referred to as the “Patio Museum”. Each courtyard here has a different design, so wander around the gorgeous inner patios through the plethora of plants, flowers and decorated fountains. In some of the patios you’ll see pinkish bougainvillea, in others palm fronds or citrus trees but they are all equally impressive and provide a glimpse into the lives of the old Spanish royalty. You can easily spend here an hour or two so bring your camera and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere.
Go on a Patio Treasure Hunt
Due to the hot weather conditions in Andalusía, the local houses were built around an inner courtyard, a patio. This tradition dates back to the Roman times and is preserved till this day. The local residents are very proud of their beautiful groomed patios and they fill them with leafy plants, colorful flowers, fountains and more to preserve the cool atmosphere. As mentioned before, if you happen to visit Cordoba in May you’ll also get to enter some of the courtyards whose owners compete in the “Patios Festival” (most of them are usually locked behind decorated gates). Then you’ll really have a chance to appreciate the details of the mosaic art, sculptured fountains and sculptures that can be found in these patios. One of the best neighborhoods to visit during this contest in San Basilio, for more details check out this article about the attractions and things to do during the festival.
Explore Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
This palace/fortress was built by Alfonso XI in 1328 and served through the years as the place of residence of the rulers of Spain. The impressive walls and mosaic decorated halls provide a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Spanish royalty, but the most interesting part of this compound, in our opinion, is the beautiful gardens which provide thousands of opportunities to get the perfect Instagram shot.
What to eat in Cordoba?
By now you are well familiar with the traditional patios and historical landmarks of the city but another aspect of the Andalusian culture, and just as important, is the great food scene. So add these best dishes of the Andalusian cuisine to your things to do list:
Gazpacho: If you happen to visit Cordoba during the hot summer months, and you are looking for something refreshing to cool you down, try the local Gazpacho – well-seasoned cold tomato soup. You can also try the thicker version, a specialty of Cordoba, the Salmorejo, either in the tomato version or the lovely purple colored beet version.
Ajo Blanco – The white gazpacho of Cordoba – almond and garlic cold soup with a thick consistency which is usually served with a sweet fruit such as grapes.
Fish and other seafood – Seafood is a great choice for meals in Cordoba, especially the way the locals eat them: fresh or fried and crunchy. You must try the fresh anchovies which are a true delicacy and served on toasted bread with a splash of olive oil.
Stews: If you are fans of rich stews, try the famous oxtail stew, one of the most popular stews in the area. You can also try the various boar stews or the local couscous.
Churros: Everyone has their favorite version of churros and the Spanish eat theirs accompanied by a large cup of melted chocolate, we told you they know how to enjoy life! Churro bars are scattered all over town and even if you are not a fan of this fried donut, you do need to have a taste, at least once, of these little bites of pure joy, served warm and crunchy. Even though we usually don’t eat a lot of sweets, we devoured these little suckers in an instant.
Where to eat in Cordoba?
There is no shortage of bars and restaurants in Cordoba, some of which are your classic tourist traps, but others are really excellent! Here are recommendations for the best restaurants in Cordoba (well, the ones we managed to visit in 36 hours):
Bar Santos – When in Cordoba, you need to try the local Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish omelet made with potatoes, fried onions, eggs and olive oil) and one of the best places to try this Andalusian delicacy is this bar where you’ll also find several other traditional Andalusian dishes (located at 3, Calle Magistral González Francés, 14003 Córdoba).
Garum 2.1 – This place is kind of an upgraded modern tapas bistro and if the weather is pleasant, ask for a table on the roof so you could enjoy the gorgeous views while tasting the local Salmorejo. All the dishes we tried were great, traditional Andalusian cuisine with a modern twist.
Regadera – We loved the food here! The dishes were tasty and beautiful to look at. Everything is made with fresh, local ingredients and it’s a pleasure to sit in the clean modern and refreshing space. You have to try the Ajo Blanco with wasabi ice cream, their tartar and ceviche were excellent and the desserts were delicious too.