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A UNESCO world heritage site with astounding Roman remains, a breathtakingly beautiful mezquita cathedral and latin quarter, Córdoba charms and captivates in equal measures.
Southern Spain at its most sublime showcasing Andalusian architecture, gourmet delights and a historic heart with numerous nooks, lush lanes and attractive alleyways to explore, here is our guide to the top things to do in Córdoba, Southern Spain.
How to get to Córdoba
The nearest airport to Córdoba is in Seville, and other nearby airports include Granada, Malaga and Madrid. Travelling by direct train from one of these cities is the easiest and fastest way to reach Córdoba – visit Renfe to plan and book your train tickets online. Alternatively you can hire a car at either of these airports and reach Córdoba that way.
You can reach Córdoba from Sevilla Santa Justa station in 40 minutes on the high speed train, or just over an hour on the local train. We recommend you stay at least 1 night in a hotel in Córdoba, but if time is limited then you can also visit Córdoba from Seville as part of a guided day tour – check out this Cordoba Day Trip from Seville on GetYourGuide.
To reach Córdoba from Malaga is a 1 hour journey on the train from Málaga-María Zambrano station. You can also visit Córdoba from Malaga as part of a guided day tour – check out this Córdoba and Mezquita from Málaga day trip.
To reach Córdoba from Madrid is a 1 hour 50 minute journey on the high speed train from Madrid-Puerta de Atocha station.
To reach Córdoba from Granada station is a 1 and a half hour train journey. You can also visit Córdoba from Granada as part of a guided day tour – check out this Cordoba and Mezquita Full Day Tour from Granada
Getting around Córdoba
Córdoba is fairly compact and all attractions are easily reachable on foot. There is also a Córdoba City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour which is a 24 hour ticket and travels to 17 different stops through the city.
Things to do in Córdoba
1. Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba / Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
We start our Córdoba things to do list with the Mosque Cathedral, because it is quite simply beautifully breathtaking and a prescient reminder of Córdoba’s heritage and culture.
A former Islamic mosque that was begun around 780 AD and converted into a Catholic cathedral in the 1230s, the Mezquita of Córdoba is one of the most wonderful and serene places we’ve ever encountered, even when you take into account the other tourists wandering around at the same time (it attracts over 1.5 million visitors every year).
The outside courtyard leads you into the darkened inner sanctum and our descriptions just won’t do it justice so suffice to say you must just visit it for yourself.
A quick travel tip for Medina Azahara if you are on a tight budget or feeling frugal – admission usually starts from 11 Euros per person, but you can explore for free Monday to Saturday if you visit between 8.30am and around 9.15am, whilst they are setting up (paid admissions begin from 9.30am and security staff do a sweep around 9.20am to ask everyone to leave).
We did this one Saturday morning and whilst relatively busy (approx around 200 people & tourists inside), it is definitely a lot quieter than the afternoon when all the huge tourist groups rock up.
2. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
The ‘Castle of the Christian Monarchs’ dates back to the 12th century originally as a military defence base to protect the city from would-be invaders. Whilst the buildings themselves are nothing spectacular (the indoor highlight is the Hall of Mosaics) , the gardens are glorious and opulent, like something out of Versaille. Resplendent with fountains, symmetrical ponds and orange groves, we couldn’t believe admission was only 5 Euros (as at November 2021) for such an incredible place.
Note we visited Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos in November 2021 when COVID-19 was still prevalent so you must book in advance online with your passport number and mobile phone to get a time-slot and tracking reference.
3. Viana Palace
Viana Palace is known as the ‘museum of courtyards’ and you can explore the 12 patios, gardens and courtyards of this 15th century house which was once a residence for Spanish royalty.
Each of the courtyards have different styles and you’ll see Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and Moorish influences with beautiful fountains and colourful flower beds. We visited around 3pm on a weekday and there were hardly any visitors there, so had a much more peaceful experience compared to the Mezquita and Alcázar.
The entrance fee to access the 12 patios and the garden is 6 euros, or you can pay 10 euros for a combined ticket of patios and garden access plus a guided tour through the interior.
Tip – entrance is free to the patios on Wednesdays from 2pm to 5pm and in July and August from 2pm to 3pm. Note the palace is closed on Mondays.
BOOK IT: Viana Palace Entry Ticket >
4. Mercado Victoria
Reminiscent of Mercado Lonja del Barranco in Seville, we visited Mercado Victoria on several occasions as within its charming conservatory setting on the edge of a green park, you’ll find many local and street food stalls selling the best of Andalusian and international cuisine at inexpensive prices.
It is open daily from 8.30am to 12.30am and can get very busy. We visited on a Friday and Saturday night and both times, it was heaving (mainly with locals and groups of all ages).
We tried Spanish omelette, croquettes, paella, iberian ham etc all from different stalls – the best advice we can give is to pounce on a free table as soon as you find one and then try different bits from various proprietors. There is also a bar at either end of the market plus a cocktail bar in the middle.
5. Patio de los Naranjos
The courtyard and entrance to the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba is free to visit and adorned with orange groves, fountains and landscaped gardens abound with cypress trees. Once home to Muslim prayer and then Catholic ceremonies after the conversion in the 13th century, this is best to visit first thing in the morning as it isn’t so serene once all the huge tour groups turn up with their microphones and flags.
6. Jewish Quarter of Córdoba (La Judería)
The historic heart of Córdoba and the main reason why many visit the city, a walk around La Juderia, the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba is like taking a step back in time (more so if you squint to try and remove the gift shops from your field of vision). Charming courtyards, narrow alleyways, white and elegantly tiled walls abound – as with most old town attractions though in Córdoba, it is best to go late in the afternoon or first thing when the tour groups aren’t here.
Our favourite street in La Juderia for photography and street scenes was just outside in the square by Taberna El No 10 on Calle Romero – colourful, charming with the city’s towers providing a stunning backdrop.
7. Puente Romano de Córdoba / Roman Bridge
Spanning over the Guadalquivir (river) connecting the old and new town of Córdoba, this beautiful and romantic Roman bridge was originally built in the first century but subsequently reconstructed several times over the years, complete with seven arches and views of the nearby river and Calahorra Tower.
One of the most popular places to visit in Córdoba and now pedestrianised, don’t be surprised to encounter several singers or street performers as you walk along the Puente Romano so it isn’t always as peaceful as you might hope.
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8. Plaza de la Corredera
A historic and huge town square popular with the locals for eating, drinking and meet-ups, Plaza de la Corredera is a pleasant surprise, and feels similar in setting to the San Marco Square / Piazza with huge numbers of restaurants, bars and tavernas (plus pigeons!).
Nearby, check out the Mercado de la Corredera Plaza de las Cañas and mingle with the locals to get your fresh produce (fish, fruit, veg, meat) or cheap as tapas and drinks at the indoor cafe and bars within the market.
9. Calahorra Tower / Torre De Calahorra
A medieval gate tower and now a modern day museum with nicely bookends the aforementioned Puento Roman bridge, the Calahorra offers panoramic views of Córdoba’s historic heart and Guadalquivir (river) and waxworks (eek!) for 4.50 Euros admission, as of November 2021. Originally erected to protect and watch over the bridge, it is the oldest existing defence tower in Córdoba.
10. Puerte Del Pente / The Bridge Gate
Currently undergoing extensive restoration work so with very limited views beneath the scaffolding and tarpaulin, Córdoba’s Puerte Del Pente was constructed in the 16th century to commemorate King Phillip’s visit to the city (presumably a postcard wouldn’t have sufficed).
Not a visitor attraction as such (you can’t climb it like Calahorra Tower) but there are interpretation panels around the outskirts and it serves as a suitably historic and wonderful welcome to the Roman bridge.
11. Hammam Al Andalus
After a day’s walking around Córdoba, time to unwind and relax in the Hammam Al Andalus, a traditional Arab style steam bath with accompanying spa treatments. Start in the warm pool and work your way up to the hottest pool before indulging in treatments and plunging into the ‘cold pool’.
With an inner setting reminiscent of the medina azahara, this is a luxurious retreat and a world away from the tourist hubris of the streets outside – treatments start from 47 Euros.
12. Patios de Córdoba
Córdoba is famous for its picturesque patios and during the first fortnight of May every year is the Courtyards Festival of Cordoba. The festival has been running since 1921 and locals who live in the old quarter of the city decorate and open up their flower filled courtyards to the public and enter a contest to try and win prizes. During the festival there are also parades, street celebrations and flamenco shows.
The next festival is scheduled to run from 3rd to 15th May 2022 and it is one of the most popular times of year to visit Córdoba, so book your accommodation well in advance!
If you cannot visit Córdoba for this festival then many companies offer walking tours all year round to visit some of the private courtyards. Here are some tours you can book online: Guided Tour of the Cordoba Patios, Patios of Cordoba Walking Tour or Cordoba: Flower Courtyards Walking Tour
13. Córdoba Walls
Once encompassing the whole of Córdoba, the Roman Walls here were built around 200 AD after the city was captured by the Romans. Whilst you can’t exactly walk on them (and much of the stonework has since been destroyed, fallen down or converted into a swanky hotel – no really!), you can still see a long stretch of Arabian wall and some gates along the Cairan area of the city – Puente Gate next to the cathedral is a particularly fine example. Two arches also remain in the Córdoba Old Town – Belen and Portillo
14. Rooftop bars in Córdoba
After a day of sightseeing head up to one of Cordoba’s rooftop bars to watch the sun set over the city with a cocktail before you go out for dinner. The best rooftop bar in Cordoba is on the top floor of the Hesperia hotel which has breathtaking views of the Mezquita and the Alcázar.
15. Córdoba tapas bars
No trip to Córdoba is complete without a tapas crawl of sorts, visiting the various restaurants in Córdoba’s old town (although if menu del dias are more your thing, there is plenty of scope to indulge).
We recommend Bodegas Mezquita, a local family run chain comprising of three restaurants, where the service is good, food prices reasonable and they have an extensive tapas menu.
We visited the BM Cespedes branch (near to the Medina Azahara) one Saturday afternoon without a booking and luckily managed to bag a table for an hour or so, before the restaurant filled up quickly. Popular with the locals for tapas and beers, bookings in advance are recommended or rock up as soon as they open – also check out Victoria Market / Mercado mentioned above.
16. Córdoba Roman Temple / Templo Romano
In the shadow of Córdoba town hall, the remains of this partial Roman temple (dating back from the first century AD and started during the reign of Emperor Claudius) weren’t actually uncovered until the 1950s. A viewing area has since been added to make access more easy although this is more of a viewpoint than visitor attraction. Easily spotted due to its 6 colossal Corinthian columns made from marble, this is a wonderful reminder of all that went on Córdoba in Roman times and one of the best examples of a remaining Roman temple in Spain.
17. Calleja de las Flores
A popular, tourist trap and one that needs all of 2 minutes to visit, the Calleja de las Flores (a floral street) wasn’t that fantastic in our opinion (although we visited in late November, so maybe it is much better in the summer).
Essentially a narrow line lined with plastic plant holders that goes into a small dead-end square, we can’t see why this is so high on all the attractions lists. For the best photos, head there early and into the square at the end, and take pictures looking back into Calleja de las Flores, so that you can include the cathedral spires in your shot.
18. Córdoba Synagogue
Built in the 1300s and reputedly one of the best three preserved medieval synagogues in the whole of Spain, due to its religious nature and pilgrimage like experience, we found the queue to get in the Córdoba Synagogue the biggest of any ‘attraction’ in the whole city – numerous tour groups visit so the line snaked halfway around the Jewish quarter.
The initial courtyard entrance leads to the synagogue and then there are separate staircases to the main hall. The Jewish community were expelled in 1492, and afterwards, the building was used first as a hospital and school. In the 19th century, the Córdoba Synagogue was declared a National Monument and has been a popular religious site ever since.
19. Cordoba Bullfighting Museum
Although we don’t condone bullfighting in the slightest (barbaric as), we are just mentioning the presence of their Córdoba Bullfighting Museum which displays traditional costume, pictures and details the history of bullfighting in the area, including at the Plaza de Toros Los Califas – Auditorio just out of town.
The actual bullfighting season usually runs from March / April to September, but the bullfighting museum is open to visit throughout the year. To be honest, we were more enamoured by the family of four black cats sunning themselves outside the main museum entrance.
20. Plaza de las Tendillas
Near to the main shopping district in Córdoba and surrounded by stores and cafes galore, Plaza de las Tendillas is a popular meeting place and city hang-out.
In the summer months, kids run through the fountains whilst in the winter, Christmas decorations and a Christmas market adorn the square (we visited at Christmas so you can see all the Cordoba Christmas market 2021 stalls in our photos). Check out the huge horse statue (Gran Capitán) and the famous Tendillas Clock tower which is the go to place in Cordoba to ring in the New Year.
21. Sample the Salmorejo local dish
During your visit to Córdoba, you must try the famous southern Spain dish of Salmorejo, a thich gazpacho style cold soup most often eaten in warm months for a cooling effect. The main ingredients of salmorejo are tomatoes, bread, garlic, olive oil, Iberian ham and in some cases, a hard boiled egg.
One of the best and easiest places to sample Salmorejo in Córdoba is at La Salmoreteca at Victoria Market / Mercado.
22. Capuchinos Córdoba / Cristo de los Faroles (Christ of the Lanterns)
We discovered the Capuchinos area of Córdoba quite by chance after walking back to our hotel without a map from Plaza de las Tendillas. At its heart lies the Jardines de la Merced, a picturesque and peaceful park with a fountain, mosque and lots of benches.
This was our favourite park in Córdoba and even on a winter afternoon when we visited, there were a few brave picnickers enjoying tapas on the lawn. Nearby, in Plaza de los Capuchinos, you’ll see a 200 year old crucifix statue with 8 lanterns, entitled Cristo de los Faroles (Christ of the Lanterns)
Where to stay in Córdoba, Spain
Here are some highly rated accommodation options for all budgets in Córdoba:
Puerta de la Luna
Lovely hostel located just minutes from the Cordoba Mosque. Rooms are a mix of both private and dorms, and facilities include a terrace and shared lounge Check out prices and availability for Puerta de la Luna
Charming guest house with air-conditioned rooms, cable TV, private bathrooms and balconies overlooking the ancient streets of the Jewish Quarter. Check out prices and availability for Hostal Almanzor
Hotel Córdoba Center
Located near Córdoba train station, this comfortable 4 star hotel has a 7th-floor seasonal pool with city views, gym, sauna and Jacuzzi. Check out prices and availability for Hotel Cordoba Center
NH Córdoba Califa
This highly rated hotel has a typical Andalusian courtyard and lounge bar, and is located close to Mercado Victoria and other attractions in town. Check out prices and availability for NH Cordoba Califa
Modern hotel with seasonal rooftop swimming pool, sun terrace and fitness centre, located 5 minutes walk from the famous Mezquita and the Jewish Quarter. Check out prices and availability for Eurostars Palace
H10 Palacio Colomera
Housed in an elegant stately 1928 building in central Plaza de las Tendillas, this hotel has a restaurant, pool, rooftop bar and a terrace offering panoramic city views. Check out prices and availability for H10 Palacio Colomera
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