Are you planning your southern Spain itinerary and want to know the best things to do in Cordoba Spain? Well, you’re in for a truly memorable destination! The ancient city of Cordoba dates back to the Romans and is brimming with layer upon layer of history.
In this guide, you’ll find:
- what to do in Cordoba,
- how to get to Cordoba,
- how much time to spend, and
- where to stay in Cordoba should you decide to spend the night.
12 Spectacular Things to Do in Cordoba Spain
Cordoba Spain has been a Roman outpost, an Arab capital, and a city eventually conquered by the Catholic Kingdom of Castile in the 1200s. Throughout Cordoba and southern Spain’s Andalusia region, the blending of these cultures and religions reveals itself in the architecture, the artwork, and the traditional dishes served across the area.
Cordoba’s ancient city embodies this cross-culture mix from the moment you see the walled city, the Roman Bridge, and of course, its treasured Mezquita. Whether you stay in Cordoba or somewhere else nearby, this spectacular historic city is not to be overlooked! It’s a must for any Andalusia itinerary.
Where is Cordoba Spain?
Cordoba is in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, 88 miles northwest of Seville and 245 miles south of Madrid by car. Other popular cities like Malaga, Ronda, and Granada are also about 2 hours away by car.
How to Get from Seville to Cordoba
Many visitors choose to visit Cordoba by taking a day trip from Seville because both cities are well-connected and relatively close to one another.
If you’re planning an Andalucia road trip and would like to drive from Seville to Cordoba, Spain’s A-4 highway is a direct route taking just 1 1/2 hours.
Parking in Cordoba is available outside the historic center in several well-marked lots. Look for parking lot signs as you enter the city and try to be just outside the historic center or on the other side of the Roman bridge for an easy walk to the main Cordoba attractions.
It’s also possible to go from Seville to Cordoba by train. Numerous trains depart throughout the day and take about 45 minutes. Taxis from the station in Cordoba are available to bring you closer to the old city or you can make the 20-minute walk.
Alternatively, you can take the Seville to Cordoba bus. The buses depart from Plaza de Armas and take about 2 hours to reach Cordoba. The bus station in Cordoba is just across from the train station.
You could also choose a Seville to Cordoba day tour if you’d prefer to go with a guide.
No matter how you decide to visit Cordoba, you’re sure to fall in love with this one-of-a-kind city!
What to See in Cordoba
1. Marvel at the Mezquita – Mosque-Cathedral.
The Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral is Cordoba’s most famous sight. It was originally built as a Mosque in the 700s when Cordoba and many towns, in what is now southern Spain’s Andalusia region, were under Islamic control.
After hundreds of years as an Arab capital, the Christians seized control of Cordoba and brought Christianity to the region. As a result, the Mosque was Christianized in the Middle Ages, and eventually, converted into a Cathedral. Today, the Mezquita is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cornerstone of Cordoba history.
The Moorish architecture is evident from your first glimpses of the building’s exterior. As you enter the courtyard and finally the inside, the mix of architecture from this combination of cultures reveals itself from the red and cream striped Moorish arches to the Gothic and Renaissance influences predominant in the altars and side chapels.
Seville’s Alcazar and Granda’s Alhambra seem to attract more attention, but the Mezquita in Cordoba is an absolute show-stopper! It took my breath away and I’m betting the same will happen when you visit, too.
If you’re spending just the day in Cordoba, consider a Mezquita tour with an official guide. You’ll skip the line and learn about the history to get the most from your visit. Plus, you’re free to explore on your own once the tour is over. Otherwise, get your Mezquite tickets when you arrive.
2. Admire the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos.
Just a few blocks away from the Mezquita sits the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos or Palace of the Christian Kings. This palace was built in the 1300s as a fortress and later used as a residence by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand as they set out to defeat the last remaining Moorish states in southern Spain. Today, it’s one of Cordoba’s proud UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Inside the castle, just its structure remains. However, there are spectacular 4th-century Roman frescoes, discovered in the 1950s, on display, that were originally part of the city’s Roman Circus. You can also climb the tower for a sweeping view of Cordoba and the palace gardens.
After exploring the inside, take some time to stroll through the gardens, which include greens mixed with colorful flowers and orange trees. The peaceful landscape grows alongside shallow, rectangular fountain pools. Peeking out in between the shrubs and along the garden paths, catch the eye of the solemn monarch garden statues.
3. Wander through La Juderia in Cordoba.
La Juderia is the old Jewish Quarter in Cordoba, which is also home to some of the city’s most historic sights like the Mosque-Cathedral, the Palace of the Christian Kings, and the only Jewish Synagogue in all of Andalusia. The entire neighborhood is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In this part of Cordoba, the streets are narrow and the buildings white-washed except for the signature hanging pots and colorful window box displays with flowers of all colors. The streets are lined with shops, some touristy and some selling authentic leather and tile, while restaurants with mosaic and flower courtyards lure you in with smells of rosemary, saffron, fresh vegetables, meats, and fish.
Wander on your own or choose a guided walk to learn about the history of this ancient city center. It’s one of the top things to do in Cordoba.
4. Walk through the Almodovar Gate.
No matter how you enter Cordoba, be sure to see the Almodovar Gate as you wander through the old town. This is Cordoba’s best-preserved Moorish city gate dating back to the 14th century and leads into La Juderia. Along with the ramparts, it was part of the city’s defense system just as with the city walls further south in Tarifa Spain.
The Almodovar Gateway into La Juderia is included in the UNESCO World Heritage recognition of the city’s historic center.
5. Uncover ancient ruins at Medina Azahara.
Located about 5 miles west of Cordoba, Medina Azahara is the city’s newest (and 4th!) UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Caliphate City was built during the mid 900s by Abd-ar-Rahman III to display the power and strength of his kingdom. During this time, Cordoba was the Muslim Capital in Europe.
This Caliphate City was sacked after only 70 years when a Civil War broke out. The site was just rediscovered in the 20th century and, as a result, it’s been only minimally excavated. The history shows it had 3 levels, with a palace in the middle, and perhaps as many as 10,000 people lived and worked here.
If you have a car, visit Medina Azahara before or after your time in Cordoba. You’ll need to park your car at the Museum reception center and take the shuttle bus from there to the archaeological site. The shuttle bus runs every 15-20 minutes. Just be sure to get your ticket to the ruins in the museum first and have some Euros to pay for the shuttle bus to the site.
There are also Medina Azahara guided tours that depart from Cordoba. In addition to a guide to help you better understand the site, the tours include roundtrip transportation from Cordoba and roundtrip shuttle bus access to the ruins.
The Cordoba Tourism Office also organizes roundtrip bus and shuttle transfers from Cordoba. However, tickets must be purchased in advance and the visit is independent without a guide. These buses keep a tight schedule so it’s important to be on time or else you could miss the bus as it leaves from or returns to the city.
6. Check out the view from Calleja de las Flores, Flower Street.
As you wander the narrow streets of Cordoba’s ancient city, make a quick stop to see Calleja de las Flores. It’s more alleyway than street, but it’s lined with Cordoba’s signature hanging potted flowers along the walls of the homes and shops. (If you’re also visiting some of Andalucia’s white villages, the hanging flowerpots in Cordoba are a preview of what’s to come!)
Once you’re there, walk to the back and look toward the Cathedral for a steeple view in the background. Knowing you’ll see the Cathedral is also helpful because the street is so tiny it can be tricky to find on a map.
You could also include this Cordoba stop while on a private walking tour to help separate yourself from the larger crowds.
7. Photograph the Puerta del Puente.
This city gate was rebuilt in the late 1500s to replace another gate that was in poor shape. Previously, the location was the place of both Moorish and Roman gates. If you stand behind the Puerta del Puente, it’s possible to get a photo looking through the archway and onto the Roman Bridge.
8. Walk across the Roman Bridge.
Originally built in the 1st century B.C by the Romans, this bridge still stretches across the Guadalquivir River and into Cordoba’s historic center. The bridge has undergone several changes and restorations over its long history. When you visit today, you’re mostly looking at the changes made by the Moors in the 8th century.
Some visitors who drive to Cordoba park on the other side of the bridge and walk into the old city by crossing the bridge on foot. If you do this, stop by Cordoba’s Tourism Office in the square just behind the Puerta del Puente, or bridge gate, to grab a Cordoba tourist map of the town.
As the sunsets, walk across the bridge and look back onto the old city and the Mezquita for spectacular city views. Or join an evening walking tour to really see the city sparkle.
9. See the breathtaking views from the Calahorra Tower.
As you walk across the Roman Bridge, away from the historic center, you’ll see Calahorra Tower in front of you on the other end of the bridge. It was originally built as a defensive gate by the Moors and strengthened by the Christians in the 1300s when a third tower was added to the structure.
The tower has been named a National Monument and now holds a museum that tells about life in Cordoba during the 10th century when Muslim, Christian, and Jewish populations lived peacefully together.
Don’t miss the views from the rooftop! You can see ancient Cordoba and the Mosque-Cathedral as you look back towards the city.
10. Discover Cordoba’s Patios.
In addition to the hanging flower pots adorning the whitewashed walls around the old city, Cordoba’s gorgeous interior patios are tucked away and mostly, out of sight from visitors.
Cordoba is one of the hottest places in Europe and these patios were designed to help residents from long ago and today keep cool during the hot summer months. The patios are decorated with plants and flowers, and typically some type of water element, to provide shade and cooling.
Lucky visitors who plan their Cordoba visit during the Patio Festival in May will be treated to about 50 patios which would normally be closed to the public. These patios participate in the Patio contest and are free to visit for a few hours just before the afternoon siesta and again in the evening. The Cordoba tourist office usually has a map of all the open patios, like this one from 2018.
If you’re not visiting Cordoba in May, consider a Patio tour to see 7-8 popular patios and courtyards around the city, as well as learn about this architectural feature that dates back to the Romans.
11. Tour the Palacio de Vianna.
Palacio de Viana is a palace museum located about 15 minutes by foot from the Mezquita in a quieter area of Cordoba known as the Santa Marina neighborhood. The 15th-century palace was once a home for one of Cordoba’s upper-class families.
Even though the palace is lovely in its own right, the patios are what attract most visitors. Palacio de Viana has 12 different patio styles you can see year-round and at any time during museum hours. Information about each patio is available in English.
If you’d like to see the interior of the palace with its tapestries, mosaics, and tilework, you’ll need to join one of the museum’s guided tours. Or you can join a patios walking tour that includes the Palacio de Viana.
12. Taste Local Specialties.
The number of restaurants in Cordoba Spain can’t top Seville’s astounding 4k+ tapas bars, but like Barcelona, the city certainly has no shortage of good eats. Locals pride themselves on using the best ingredients.
I had a fantastic lunch at El Rincon de Carmen, located in the heart of the old city. The patio restaurant is surrounded by greenery and decorated with hanging flower pots.
I recommend trying a bowl of salmorejo, a traditional Cordoba cold soup with a tomato base but creamier than gazpacho. It’s typically served with bits of ham or hard-boiled egg on top. Also, be sure to taste Cordoba’s mouth-watering deep-fried eggplant drizzled with honey. Both are local specialties!
Is Cordoba in a day enough time?
Cordoba makes for a great day trip from nearby places like Seville. With an early start and a full day, there’s no reason you can’t see many, if not all of the city’s historic and cultural gems. But for places farther off, like a day trip from Malaga, you’d likely not get the most from your visit given the travel time.
However, you could also plan to stay 1 night if you’re driving or traveling throughout the area. There are plenty of narrow streets to explore in the ancient city, as well as numerous shops, restaurants, and places to stay in Cordoba.
If your plan is to stay 1 day in Cordoba, focus on the city’s historic sights and the surrounding historic neighborhood. The Mosque-Cathedral, the Alcazar, the Roman Bridge, and a wander through the Jewish Quarter can be seen in the first half of the day.
Stop for lunch and be sure to order a bowl of salmorejo. Afterward, consider any parts of the Jewish Quarter you’d like to still explore or discover Cordoba’s treasured patios either on a tour or at the Palacio de Viana.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the Medina Azahara is open as late as 9 pm Tuesdays – Saturdays. You could make this your last stop on your way out of Cordoba, assuming you plan to drive back to Seville, for example.
Alternatively, you could spend 1 night in Cordoba and visit the Medina Azahara first thing in the morning before continuing your Andalusia road trip.
Hotels in Cordoba Spain
Wondering where to stay in Cordoba? The historic center is convenient to Cordoba tourist attractions, not to mention the most scenic.
The list below highlights a few of the best hotels in Cordoba.
Las Casas de La Juderia overlooks the Jewish Quarter and is just steps away from the Alcazar and the Mosque-Cathedral. The hotel is a restored historic home, which once was lived in by some of Cordoba’s most noble families. It’s a beautiful hotel with old town charm from the inner courtyards to the guest rooms! If you’re like me, you won’t want to leave!
Balcon de Cordoba boasts balconies and courtyards that both provide sweeping views over the old city and a peaceful retreat from the busy historic center. This traditional Andalusian home, over 400 years old and now converted into a hotel, blends architectural styles reflecting Cordoba’s multi-cultural history and has over 100 archaeological objects on display throughout the hotel.
NH Collection Amistad Cordoba is situated next to Cordoba’s 14th-century synagogue and is made from 2 palaces from the 18th century. The restored buildings respect the historic style while integrating modern touches like air conditioning for ultimate comfort.
What to do in Cordoba comes with a long list of possibilities! But each one reveals another layer of Cordoba’s past and exactly what makes it an unforgettable addition to your Spain itinerary.
Which things to do in Cordoba for 1 day do you have on your itinerary?
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