Tucked away in the south of Spain, Cordoba is a city full of history, stunning architecture and amazing culture. Most people venture for a day trip from nearby Seville, Granada or Madrid, but if you can spend a weekend in the city it’s more than worth it. Instead of rushing from a tour of La Mezquita to a walk across the Roman bridge, and back to explore the old Jewish quarter, Cordoba is the perfect city for slower travel. Yes, it has the sights to make you want to visit. But taking time to enjoy a coffee in a charming courtyard, or an afternoon tapa and caña gives you a better appreciation for the city.
Plus, Cordoba has 4 UNESCO World Heritage titles, that’s more than Paris or Rome! If you’re looking to tick off all 4, you’ll need to time your visit well as one is the Patios Festival which only takes place in May. The other 3 can be seen in a day if you’re tight on time, and they are the old quarter, La Mezquita and Medina Azahara.
The narrow streets lined with white buildings are a common sight in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain that is home to Cordoba. The old town of Cordoba doesn’t disappoint if you’re hoping to spot them, but the newer parts of the city are also home to some stunning, detailed architecture.
Day trippers make up a large portion of the tourists here, and there are plenty of shops offering souvenirs. From the usual postcards, magnets and tea towels, you’ll also find cute little flamenco outfits, charming tiles and…tea. For those that would rather avoid the tourist traps, Cordoba also has a modern shopping area with larger stores like El Corte Ingles. It’s a city of two styles: old, charming streets with little shops, and large, modern streets with big department stores.
Cordoba holds another title: highest average temperature in the summer in Europe. In a city where heat is a huge factor, the Spanish siestas are perfect. The streets get a little quieter toward the middle of the afternoon as the heat rises, and people take the opportunity to stop for a coffee or a caña and relax. During the rest of the day, the heat doesn’t stop life going on as normal. This is a city built for warmth, and there are plenty of shaded areas that keep the streets cool. Plus, those charming narrow streets with white buildings are surprisingly cool during the hotter hours.
The Festival de los Patios is recognised by UNESCO, and is an annual festival taking place in the first week of May. The patios which are usually reserved for residents are opened up to the city and tourists, and are full to the brim with flowers of every colour. If you visit at any other time of the year, you can still appreciate the pretty public courtyards that have the instagram-worthy pots hanging from the walls. Charming, and a lovely sight to just stumble upon while exploring the historic centre.
No doubt the biggest attraction that draws in the tourists is La Mezquita. With a turbulent history taking it from a humble Roman temple to varying sizes of mosques and then to include a church, it’s another of the city’s UNESCO gems and one of the biggest reasons people visit Cordoba. A tour inside is worthwhile, but it’s just as impressive to explore the exterior. The walls hint at the Moorish past of the city, while the courtyard is home to orange trees, providing welcome shade from the sun.
The exterior of La Mezquita alone is breathtaking, but the inside is on another level. As you step through the doors, the historical development of the building is evident and somewhat confusing. Look one way, you see the Moorish architecture and features of the mosque. Look the other, Christianity is very present. It’s one of those places that is definitely worth the entrance fee, just don’t forget your camera, a map and a jacket – it gets cold in there!
Cordoba is a city often overlooked in favour of the larger cities, but with so much to see and do, the only question is: when will you be visiting?