Journeys, Travel Guides

How to spend a day in Cordoba, the heart of Andalusia

Cordoba is where Catholic and Islamic worlds blend harmoniously while preserving the Roman heritage.

It’s a great destination for architecture and history lovers!

The architecture speaks best of this mix in styles and ages, but also of its tumultuous history, considering Cordoba has been the capital of a Roman province, the capital of an Arab State and a Caliphate.

Packed with people under a torrid sun, the atmosphere of the old city reminded me a bit of Istanbul. Singing and dancing on the streets, small shops on each corner and tapas restaurants filled with people at every step give a certain good life vibe to the city.

Beautiful hidden patios and streets adorned with flowers invite you to wander and wonder. It seems that following the narrowest streets always leads to the city center, and so we did, arriving on the famous Calleja de las Flores on our way to Mezquita – Catedral de Córdoba.

Considering we only had a day to visit Cordoba, we had to choose carefully what to see and experience during our stay.

The old city center of Cordoba – Mezquita and the streets around it – form a UNESCO Heritage Site and also reveal the essence of the city, so we chose to spend all of our time here.


Top things to do in Cordoba

  1. Visit Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (the Great Mosque)

Mezquita is beyond doubt the top attraction in Cordoba. Blending two wonderful architectural styles of different origin – Islamic and Catholic – into a grand Cathedral, this place is monumentally quiet even when packed with tourists.

It’s a one-of-a-kind architectural gem, featuring 856 columns made of jasper, onyx, marble and granite. You can find them in four or five different spaces inside the cathedral. The filtered light coming out of stained glass windows adds to the magical aura of the corridors.

On the other side of the Mezquita, the Gothic charm and structures typical of the Catholic churches and cathedrals surprise the visitors by the strong contrast with the Roman Columns and the decorative Islamic walls.

Its many facades and doors bear wonderful Arab motifs, just as some of its impressive number of interior chapels which stand testimony to Mezquita’s past, when Muslims and Christians shared this place of prayer.

Loved the vibes here and the serenity you usually find within the walls of a mosque, like you’re in an enchanting and forbidden place; it feels magic, and Mezquita is no exception!

Mezquita-the-Mosque-Cathedral-of-Cordoba, Spain

  1. Walk the prettiest street in Cordona – Calleja de las Flores

Red cranes-bill flowers in blue pots decorate the white walls of this narrow street in Cordoba that ends in a small square. This spot gives you a beautiful perspective over the bell tower of Mezquita-Catedral  – looks like the tower it’s floating above the pretty flowers.

Calleja de las Flores looks even more charming when bathed in the afternoon sunlight, so it’s better to visit then. But if there are too many tourists taking pictures here, you can always come back a little bit later to capture its beauty.

Calleja-de-las-Flores-in-Cordoba,-Spain

  1. Ox Tail Tapas? Yes, please! Or where to eat in Cordoba

I won’t deny that there are three things that I really love about traveling: learning about art and architecture, marveling at nature’s wonders and the opportunity to taste the wonderful food around the world. And the Road Trip in Andalusia had all three of them.

Spanish Tapas are famous, but the word tapa actually means a small portion of food – a snack. Racion is the big portion and that’s the size I got when tasting the ox tail, without any idea about how it would taste.

The salty ox tail meat was so tender and flavored that I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure how I missed tasting it in other Spanish cities, but it was for sure the house specialty (most people here ordered it). It would have been great with a glass of red wine, but I was driving to Malaga later, so that had to be postponed for another day.

The Spanish meat plate served before lunch was also better than in other restaurants we’ve been, so I recommend you get it before the main course.

This small tapas place was packed with cheerful Spanish people (even the tourists were Spanish), and that always gives a certain authentic charm to any meal.  You can find it pretty easy when walking in the old city center because of the wonderful flowers on its facade – it’s called Taberna El Capricho (in the pic below).


  1. Wander the pretty alleys and narrow streets of Cordoba

After a good Spanish meal, the best thing you can do is wander the beautiful alleys and narrow streets of Cordoba. They’re filled with flowers in matching pots, freshly painted facades, and hiding some amazing private patios you can take a peek at.

Narrow-streets-of-Cordoba,-Spain-covered-in-flowers

facades-of-Cordoba-covered-in-flower-pots

Travel tip: If you visit Cordoba in May, make sure not to miss Festival de Patios.

Each year, during the second week of May, the city hall holds a competition between locals and awards the most beautiful patio. During the weekend, the owners of the patios open them to the public, and it seems you have to book a ticket online well ahead to see them.

Patios of Cordoba, Spain

But the most delightful surprise streets of Cordoba have to offer is the blend between European and Islamic worlds reflected in the contrasting architecture. So when walking in the old city center, remember to keep an eye for Moorish architectural details: doors, windows and colorful facades.


  1. Walk by The Roman Bridge

Even if it’s not the most impressive bridge, it deserves a walk by on your way to Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.

It stands testimony to the city’s rich history; it was built by the Romans in the early 1st century BC and reconstructed under the Muslim domination. It was then modified by adding Moorish architectural elements, thus integrating it in the city’s landscape.

Roman-Bridge,-Cordoba,-Spain

2 other places to visit on your one day trip to Cordoba

  1. Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

It’s one of the beautiful palaces in Andalusia we had planned to visit in Cordoba, but arrived 30 minutes after its closing time (3.30 p.m. on Saturdays). Still, we got some pictures of its majestic outside walls and walked around the old city, discovering new narrow streets and Moorish doors.


  1. Palacio de Viana

A Renaissance palace surrounded by stunning gardens and an impressive number of patios I would have loved seeing in spring. But we’ve missed it because I wanted to take a crazy trip to Ronda that got us lost between the many olive hills (a story for another time).

Travel tips for a trip to Cordoba

Alcazar-de-los-Reyes-Cristianos-in-Cordoba,-Spain

Parking in Cordoba

Before going on a trip to Cordoba by car, make sure you do your research right on all the parking spots in the city. Even if we had two parking places saved for Cordoba, they were all full when we got there. This doesn’t happen in Seville, Granada or Malaga.

I had to drive around the city for 45 minutes before finding a spot to park the car and I found it in the 7th parking lot. El Corte Ingles is a chain of malls around Spain, I knew it from our trip to Valencia 2 years ago, so that’s where we finally found an available parking spot.

If you’re not a local, parking on the streets is not recommended because they will probably toe your car.

Getting around Cordoba

The best way to get around Cordoba is by walking. During the weekend, it’s even faster than taking the bus, so it’s better to walk for 45 minutes than to wait 40 minutes for the bus to arrive. As I’ve already said, parking is a nightmare in Cordoba, so driving around is not an option.

When to visit Cordoba

April is a great month to visit Cordoba because here spring feels like summer (25-300C). If you want to experience the wonderful Spanish events, Semana Santa/ Holy Week is held each year before Easter.

The second week of May is also a good time to visit Cordoba because of another wonderful event: Festival de Patios. If you’re there for that weekend, you can visit the most beautiful patios in Cordoba.

I hear October is also a good month for those who love going to warm destinations during the cold season in Europe, but I don’t know about any events taking place that month. But please check the many online calendars for Spanish fiestas to find out if there’s something taking place at the time of your holiday.

That’s it – all my tips and lovely places to visit in Cordoba in one day!


Road Trip in Andalucía, Spain: Cordoba – MalagaGranada – Seville | April 2017 | All Photography ©Ana Matei > Instagram: @MateiAna


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Ana
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