While its mosque–cathedral Mezquita still reminds us that Córdoba was once the greatest metropolis west of Constantinople, the city doesn’t fail to impress even centuries later. As one of the most charming Spanish cities, Córdoba is a must see – no matter if you’re exploring the whole country or just the Andalusian region. The city boast colors, stunning Islamic architecture and picturesque cobblestone alleys with potted plants. One day in Córdoba may not seem like much, but you can still visit all the greatest sights, eat as many regional tapas as you want and still have time to explore its hidden plazas and flower-filled patios.
What’s the best time to visit Córdoba?
As one of the warmest city in Europe, Córdoba enjoys sunny weather throughout most of the year. Summer is particularly hot and dry with fairly frequent periods around 40 °C, so better skip it if you can’t handle such heat. Winter is mild, with the average temperature around 10 °C, so it can be a great escape from a harsh North European winter. However, the best months to enjoy some perfect sunny weather are April-May and October.
Major local events include Carnival in February, Cruces de Mayo (construction of large crosses made of flowers) in May and the Holy Week or Semana Santa a week before Easter. Semana Santa in Córdoba and pretty much all the region of Andalusia is an outstanding experience and something worth visiting. Daily processions create a pretty impressive atmosphere, attracting thousands of tourists and locals to the streets of Córdoba.
a Few facts about Córdoba
Córdoba is a city in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. During its turbulent history, the city was under Roman rule, then colonized by the Muslims in the 8th century which led to it becoming a major Islamic center and the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba in the Middle Ages. At that time it was one of the biggest, if not the biggest city in the world. During the Reconquista in the 13th century, it was recaptured by Christian forces.
One Day in Córdoba Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Córdoba.
Visit the Mosque–Cathedral Mezquita
Since Mezquita is the number one tourist attraction in Córdoba, huge queues are inevitable, so it’s better to visit it right in the morning before the crowds. One of the world’s greatest works of Islamic architecture, Mezquita Mosque–Cathedral is an astounding hybrid structure built as a mosque in the 8th century by Umayyad Abd-ur-Rahman. At that time Córdoba was the leading city in terms of science and culture in Europe and the most important city in the Islamic Kingdom. At the beginning of the 13th century, Córdoba was retaken by Christians and the mosque was converted into a church, culminating with the Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century. For ‘skip the line ticket’ or booking the guided tour, click here.
Start your Mezquita tour in the Patio De Los Naranjos – an enchanting orange patio adjacent to the church. The former Caliphate courtyard of ablutions today houses the ticket office and is a great place to enjoy the shade of the trees and the subtle orange scent.
After you enter Mezquita, you’ll face the forest of 850 red and white columns and horseshoe arches on top of them. The remarkably serene atmosphere and the effect of the sunlight that filters through the hall makes this an unforgettable all-senses experience.
Stroll the Historic Centre and explore the Jewish Quarter
After you’re done with the Mezquita, it’s time for a quick stroll through the Historic Centre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just around the corner north from the Mosque, you’ll find Calleja de las Flores, a narrow whitewashed alley filled with flowers and a great photo opportunity. The Historic Centre of Córdoba is famed for its hidden patios, large interior courtyards and twisting alleys. In case you want to grab some breakfast, there are many restaurants and cafes around the area, but not all of them are open right in the morning. Check out Bodegas Mezquita in Calle Cespedes or Macsura Gastrotaberna for some snack or cheese platter.
After you’re done exploring on your own, head northwest of the Mosque-Cathedral where you’ll find the Jewish Quarter along the city walls. Its medieval streets have a distinctly Moorish flair, reminiscent of the Jews’ prosperity in Córdoba. If you’re interested, pay a visit to the Synagogue and Souk. Great eats in the area are Juan Pena in Calle dr Fleming street and Casa Rubio in Puerta Almodovar.
Visit the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
Continue your city tour with the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos or the Castle of the Christian Kings and make sure to book your tickets online to skip the lines. The castle is another key architectural landmark of the city with a long and complicated history. In the 14th century, the Catholic king Alfonso XI ordered the construction of this royal palace among the ruins of a vast Moorish fort.
Since he used the Mudéjar style in its construction, the Moorish feel has been preserved, which gave the structure its Islamic appearance. The splendid interior and a sober exterior are accompanied with vast, magnificent gardens with lush trees surrounding elegant fountains and ponds.
Have lunch at Paseo de la Ribera
After you’re done with the main city attractions, you’re probably both tired and hungry. Walk the riverside promenade until you reach Paseo de la Ribera. It’s an area filled with stylish restaurants probably packed with people by now. Turn left on the Calle Enrique Romero Torres, where you’ll find plenty of choices. Taberna La Alquería offers famous regional dishes Salmorejo (cold tomato soup), Flamenquin (pork roulade), Berenjenas (fried eggplant with honey) and the ultimate dish you must try – Rabo de Toro (braised oxtails). You can choose whether you like tapa portion, medium portion or the full plate. By ordering tapas, you can pretty much taste all the dishes you want at once.
Walk the Roman Bridge and visit Torre de la Calahorra
Pass the Roman Bridge to reach the other side of the city. The bridge dates from the 1st century BC, but was rebuilt in the 10th century during the Moorish occupation. The bridge walk offers nice views of the city and the nature around the river Guadalquivir.
When you reach the other side you’ll be facing Torre de la Calahorra. The tower houses Museo Vivo de Andalus, a living museum featuring waxworks and a model of the Alhambra and offering stunning panoramic views of the city.
Explore the hidden patios
Building houses with an internal, open-aired atrium dates back to the Roman times, and due to the intense summer heat you could only stay away from the strong summer sun in an open space. Over the centuries, these patios were decorated with flowers, trees, plants, mosaics and fountains.
Today the city hosts Feria de los Patios, a festivity held in May where the owners open their interior courtyards to the public with Córdoba’s town hall offering a prize for the prettiest patio. In case you’re not travelling during that time of the year, you can still explore the patios in the San Basilio neighborhood.
Spend the night at Mercado Victoria
The lively market hall Mercado Victoria, located in the Jardines de la Victoria park, is the best place to end your day in Córdoba. Take a quick stroll through the beautiful park and then find yourself a table around the market hall. Many food and drinks stalls offer the best examples of Spanish and Andalusian cuisine and wine. It’s pretty busy at night, and there’s even a part with music and dancing for those who want to burn their calories right away.
Where to stay in Córdoba?
NH Collection Amistad Cordoba
Plaza de Maimonides, 3, 14004 Córdoba
NH Collection Amistad Cordoba is a modern and luxury hotel, set in a 18th century Moorish mansion in the Jewish Quarter, next to the Synagogue. Original details such as traditional courtyards, archways, ceramic floors and woodwork are combined with carefully-chosen modern touches and modern art. The hotel features a fitness centre and a sun terrace with a seasonal outdoor pool.
Calle Cabezas 17, 14003 Córdoba
Hotel Madinat is a stylish hotel that combines the Moorish tradition with modern designs. It is a charming place, with excellent design and a lot of interesting details. One of the best accommodations in the city, no doubt about that. The hotel is set in Cordoba’s Historic Centre, a short walk to the Mosque. It features an exclusive hamman and 2 terraces with panoramic views of Mezquita. Each room is individually designed and offers great comfort.
Puerta de la Luna
Calle Luna, 1, 14004 Córdoba
Puerta de la Luna is perfect for those who want to stay on budget, but still enjoy the beautiful ambient of the Historic Centre. The property offers both dormitory and private rooms and features a beautiful terrace and a shared lounge. Puerta de la Luna is perfectly located – only a short walk to the Cordoba Mosque and the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.
Extra tips for visiting Córdoba
– The atmosphere is Córdoba is pretty laid back. Most of the shops and restaurants don’t open before 10 AM, but some of them open even later in the day. Restaurants open for lunch around 1 PM until 4 PM and then reopen for dinner around 8-9 PM. During the siesta hours in the afternoon finding a great place to eat could be a hard task.
– Córdoba is very well connected to the rest of Spain. The two most convenient intercity transportations are RENFE trains and ALSA buses. Check their schedule to find the fastest and the cheapest travel options.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).