The third largest city in the region of Andalusia is Cordoba, and if you think you have seen everything you need to see in Andalusia in Seville, Granada or Malaga, you are very much mistaken. The truth is that Cordoba is the Andalusian city that should be visited most urgently. After all, it is considered one of the most memorable cities in Spain. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that the entire city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Everywhere in Cordoba you can find evidence of the city’s sometimes glorious past, which was strongly influenced by its Roman, Visigothic and Arab inhabitants. In order to follow the traces of the past in Cordoba, vacationers should ideally plan several days.
Tip 1: Mosque in Cordoba
The Mezquita is the largest mosque on the globe and is located on 24000 square meters. 856 columns in the famous red and white of the Arabic architectural style form the enchanting rows of columns in the center of the mosque. The thousand-year history brought many changes and constant extensions of the temple complex. As early as 833 the first expansion began, in 961 the complex was further enlarged and the last time in 987. Cordoba was then the largest city in Spain with 1 million inhabitants and was the cultural center of Muslims in the Occident.
The church-mosque-temple complex is located directly in the picturesque old town of Cordoba. Here, in addition to the Muslims, the Carthaginians and Romans as well as the Visigoths have left their history. Beautiful is the Orange Courtyard, the inner courtyard that you enter from the entrance at the bell tower. Here, orange trees, palm trees, moats and romantic fountains await the visitor. The mosque, only eleven meters high, is rather inconspicuous and is surmounted by the cathedral built in the 16th century, during the reconquest of Cordoba by the Christians, in the middle of the mosque. The double-arched rows of columns, 179 meters long, are particularly impressive.
In the ancient mosque one encounters many prayer niches, called mihrab. These are masterpieces of oriental architecture. The columns of marble, jasper and granite, stolen from Roman temples and Visigothic churches, form a unique labyrinth of arches and columns. The fascinating dome is made of a complete block of marble and represents the world shell. The vestibule is famous for the fantastically beautiful mosaics, a gift from the Emperor of Byzantium. There are also magnificent old wooden beamed ceilings, valuably enhanced with wonderful paintings.
Tip 2: Alcazar of the Christian Kings
Correctly, the castle is called Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, which translated means “Palace of the Christian Kings”. The word Alcázar, which comes from Arabic, goes back to the term Al-Qasr, which means palace.
In the eighth century, a previous building was erected on this site as a residence for the caliphs. At that time, Cordoba was occupied by the Moors, many of whom remained in the country even after the reconquest in 1236.
The current building was constructed in 1328 under King Alfonso XI. History buffs, nature lovers and flower enthusiasts alike are attracted to the magnificent grounds.
It is most famous for its gardens, which were laid out by the Moors and taken over by the Christian kings. Palm trees, trees and flowers of all kinds thrive in these extensive outdoor areas. They charmingly surround fountains and ponds.
The gardens are undoubtedly among the largest and most beautiful on the Iberian Peninsula and can easily compete with the gardens of the Generalife in the Alhambra.
Inside the palace, which was also a fortress and measures 4,100 square meters, those interested can marvel at mosaics from the second century, found during archaeological excavations in the city center, and a Roman sarcophagus from the third century.
Furthermore, information panels tell about the life and reign of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II as well as the historical background.
Over the centuries, numerous peoples and cultures have left their mark on Córdoba. The Alcázar of Córdoba is no exception. On the contrary, there are traces of the Romans, the Iberians and, of course, the Arab-Islamic conquerors, who ruled over large parts of Andalusia from a castle here until 1328.
Tip 3: Roman Bridge
Over 16 mighty stone arches, the Roman Bridge in Córdoba leads across the Guadalquivir River and directly into the old town Judería with its numerous sights. The arched bridge with wedge stone vault is a historically and architecturally important structure and was probably built under Emperor Augustus in the 1st century and is definitely worth seeing. It is one of the largest preserved Roman buildings in Andalusia.
Especially in the evening hours a walk to the other end of the bridge, opposite the old town to the Torre de la Calahorra is worthwhile. From here you have a unique panoramic view of the highlights of Córdoba.
On your way back across the 250-meter-long Roman Bridge, you will pass the statue of Archangel Raphael by Bernabé Gómez del Rio from 1651. Believers light numerous candles here to ask for help from the patron saint of the sick, who also takes travelers under his wing. We continue on the Puente Vieja, the old bridge, as the Roman Bridge is also called, towards Puerta del Puente – the “entrance of the bridge”.
The masterpiece of Roman engineering was built around 45 BC after the Battle of Munda. It is believed that the bridge was part of the Vía Augusta, which led from Rome to Cadiz in southern Spain. It probably replaced a much older primitive wooden bridge. In the 10th century, the bridge was completely renovated by the Caliph residing in Córdoba at the time, the beginning of a long series of renovations and extensions. Thus, in the Middle Ages, the bridge gate Puerta de la Puente and the watchtower Torre de la Calahorra were added. The Puente Romano was the only bridge of Córdoba for 20 centuries.
Tip 4: Corredera Square
Built in the late 17th century starting in 1683, the square is about 113 meters long and 55 meters wide and is located in the center of the old town of Cordoba and is the only “Plaza Mayor” of its kind in all of Andalusia.
The Plaza de la Corredera is lined by several historically significant buildings such as the Mercado de Sánchez Peña, which from 1846 housed one of the most modern hat factories in Spain at the time, and the once upper-class residential buildings Casas de Doña Ana Jacinto.
From 1893 to 1896, a market hall was built in the center of the square, which was demolished in 1959 due to dilapidation and poor sanitary conditions. During this process, workers discovered numerous Roman mosaics, which have since been exhibited in the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.
Today, with numerous bars and cafes, the square is a popular and lively meeting place until late at night.
Tip 5: The Jewish Quarter of Cordoba
In the Judería of Córdoba, every step is a journey into the past of Andalusia. The eventful history of the charming old town on the banks of the Guadalquivir begins with the Romans, has its heyday in the Middle Ages under the Moors and continues today with exciting cultural events. Here pulsates the life of Córdoba!
The Judería, the Jewish quarter in the old town of Córdoba, is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Andalusia. Today, it is one of the most visited and best known areas of the city, dating back to Roman times. The Judería unfolds all its charm during a leisurely stroll through the streets and squares, where you will feel as if you have been transported back in time.
Let yourself be surprised by the appealing testimonies that the Romans, Moors and Christians of the Middle Ages have left in the Caliph city over 2,000 years.