Tucked between the popular city of Seville, Granada and Malaga, Córdoba is often left out by many tourists. The city lies on the right bank of the Guadalquivir in the south of the Iberian Peninsula.
With charming patios, exquisite Moorish architecture, and renowned Jewish Quarter, It is an easy day trip to Córdoba to experience all the wonderful things the city has to offer.
Best Time to Visit
Just like in any part of Spain, the best time to visit Córdoba is between March and May and September and November. The weather in spring and autumn is pretty relaxing. I made my trip here in early October and had an enjoyable time here with lesser tourists.
If you want to enjoy the local Córdoba Patio Festival (Festival de Los Patios), you will need to travel here in May. The residents love to open up their private homes to visitors during this traditional festival to showcase their gorgeous patios decorated with colorful flowers.
The summer season starts from June to August and is the travel peak season for Europeans. Temperature can hit up to 41°C and likely remain warm during the night. You will be walking under the scorching sun, and need to take breaks from the sun.
There is no airport in Córdoba and the quickest way to the city is AVE Renfe high-speed train. You can take the train to Córdoba Station from Seville (45 minutes), Malaga (1 hour), Granada (1 hour), Madrid (2 hours) or Barcelona (5-6.5 hours).
The train services are very frequent and run as early as 7 am until 11 pm. If you are planning for a day trip, the nearest city to stay is either Seville, Graada or Malaga. This gives you ample time to walk and have dinner in Córdoba before taking the train back home at night.
Train tickets can directly be bought from Renfe’s official website without any additional booking fee and only need to show your e-ticket before boarding the train.
Buses are connected to Córdoba from all other destinations in Spain. The prices are much lower than the train, but they do take longer time to travel (Click here to check on the destination and price).
Once you arrive at the station, take a 10-minute taxi and Uber ride or a 20-minute walk to the historic sites. You can also take bus No. 3 or 13 to the city center. There are many bus routes in town too.
Córdoba is a small city unlike Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona. All of the UNESCO Heritage Sites and other attractions are concentrated in the city center and they are within a short walking distance. The great way to admire these heritage buildings is to get around on foot along the pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets.
The Perfect Day Trip to Córdoba
This historic Córdoba is enriched with diverse culture, where Christians, Jews, and Muslims once lived together in harmony. It is great to make a day trip from either Seville, Malaga or Granada to explore the heritage buildings and stroll around the narrow cobblestone streets.
Wander around the gorgeous Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos or Castle of the Christian Monarch is a medieval palace built in 1328 by King Alfonso XI. Today, the fortress is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Córdoba.
Stroll around the impressive 55,000m² Jardines del Alcazar planted with palm, cypress, orange, and lemon trees and surrounded by elegant fountains and ponds. The garden is divided into three levels: the upper garden, the middle garden, and the lower garden.
The King’s Walk (El Paseo de los Reyes has several sculptures of the kings who built the Alcázar and another represents Christopher Columbus commemorating his first meeting with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand (above picture).
The Hall of Mosaics houses an impressive collection of Roman art from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and the Roman sarcophagus gallery with a sculpture depicting the journey of the dead to the underworld.
Brief History of the Alcázar
The Alcázar was originally used as the residence of Roman governors and then a Visigoth fortress. It was rebuilt after the Umayyad conquest of Hispania and made the site of the Royal Palace by Abd ar-Rahman I when he fled here.
When the Catholic Monarch conquered the city, the palace was built and made the seat of the Castilian Royal Court. It later functioned as the headquarters of the troops to campaign against the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, the last Arab stronghold in Spain. It became the main residence of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Christopher Columbus made discussions and preparations here with them for the first trip to America.
Address: Pl. Campo Santo de los Mártires, s/n
Opening hours: September 16 to June 14: Tuesday to Friday from 8.15 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 9.30 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 8.15 am to 5.45 pm/ June 15 to September 15: Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15 am to 2.45 pm
Entrance fee: Adults: €5/ Adults aged 65+: €3/ Children aged 0-13: Free (Click here to buy the tickets from their official website and check other discounted rates)
Admire the beautiful patio gardens in San Basilio
Córdoba is famed for its beautiful patio gardens built around the residential neighborhood of San Basilio. The residents love to decorate their outdoor courtyards with lush plants and wonderful flowers. They open their doors all year round to invite visitors to view the amazing patio gardens.
If you are here in May, the patio festival, Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba will take place here with a competition to see who has the most fabulous patios at their home. This fiesta was a tradition that started back in 1918 to honor the residents’ effort to maintain such beautiful courtyards.
The tradition for the decoration of patios remains unclear, but it is strongly rooted in the culture of this Andalusian city. Due to the humid weather during the summer, the houses were built around the courtyard to keep the residents from the heat. The flowers, water features and mosaics have all contributed to the natural air conditioning into their home.
Travel tips: Collect a free tourist map from the ticket sales and information center in Plaza Luis Navas
Entrance fee: Free but a small donation is much appreciated by the house owners
Spot the sculptures of grandfather and grandson working on patios
A sculpture of a grandfather and his grandson, working together to decorate the patio garden can be found in San Basilio. The bronze statue was designed by Jose Manuel Belfonte to honor the important tradition of the Cordoba patios that pass from one generation to the next for more than a century.
Explore Córdoba Synagogue
Situated in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, Córdoba Synagogue is one of the three best preserved and remaining synagogues in Spain. The synagogue is built in 1315 in Mudéjar style for the Jews before finally expelled from Spain. Later, the building has been used for other purposes as a hospital, a property of the shoemakers’ guild, Catholic chapel and nursery school.
The synagogue features Moorish-shaped arches, intricate mosaics, geometric patterns, and carved Hebrew inscriptions. The small courtyard leads to a narrow entrance hall. A staircase on the right goes to the women’s area overlooking the prayer room. The surrounding buildings were believed to be used as baths and a Talmudic school.
Address: Calle Judios, 20
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm and 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm
Entrance fee: General entry: €0.30
Find Estatua de Maimónides‘ statue
Located close to the synagogue, the statue of Maimónides was created in remembrance of him as a Jewish astronomer and physician in the 12th century. The statue’s feet are shiny and believed to carry good luck when rubbing them.
Discover the magnificent Mezquita-Cathedral
The Mezquito-Cathedral known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba is the main highlight of the trip to Córdoba. The complex covers 24,000 m2, which includes the charming Court of Orange Trees (Patio de los Naranjos). The outer courtyard is filled with orange and palm trees and lovely fountains.
The Great Hall inside the complex consists of 856 arches and columns painted with red and white stripes. It was constructed with marble, onyx, jasper and granite carved from pieces of the Roman temple and buildings that once stood here.
Brief History of Mezquita-Cathedral
This UNESCO Heritage Site was used for the worship of different divinities since ancient times. The Basilica of San Vicente first occupied the site under the Visigoth rule.
The Great Mosque was built under the order of Abd ar-Rahman I in 785 AD, when the city was the capital of the Muslim-control region of Al-Andalus. Some expansions had been made by his successors up to the late 10th century, such as the minaret and mihrab.
Once the city was captured by the Christian forces, the mosque was converted into a cathedral in 1236 under the order of King Carlos I. The then-cathedral went through minor upgrades towards the 16th century with a new Renaissance nave added in the middle of the complex and the minaret converted into a bell tower.
Address: Calle Cardenal Herero
Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm, except Thursday and Sunday from 8.30 am to 11.30 am and 3 pm to 6 pm
Entrance fee: Adults: €11/ Adults aged 65+: €9/ Chidren aged 10-14: €4/ Children aged 0-13: Free (Click here to buy the tickets from their official website and check other discounted rates. Ticket entry includes an audio guide)
Take a glance of the great Templo Romano
This Roman temple was constructed during the reign of Emperor Claudius in the first century AD. Today, the ruin only has the remains of the foundations and standing columns built in Corinthian style. This has shown the existence and importance of the Roman empire once stood here. The temple was discovered in 1950s when the City Hall was being expanded.
Address: Calle Capitulares, 1
Enjoy breathtaking city views from Roman Bridge
The Roman Bridge is the best place to enjoy a spectacular sunset as the sun lingers on the golden red stone. It was built in the early 1st century BC across the Guadalquivir River and believed that the Via Augusta which connected Rome to Cadiz most likely passed through here.
The original bridge was probably built with wood before It got replaced. It went through several reconstructions over the centuries and only two arches are the original. The bridge now has 16 arches, one less than the original with a total length of 247 meters and 9 meters width.
The sculpture of San Raphael, the patron saint of Cordoba was put in the middle of the bridge in the 17th century. Game of Thrones lovers will be familiar with its film setting of Season 5 as the Long Bridge of Volantis.
Address: Av. del Alcázar, s/n
- Always buy tickets for tourist attractions well in advance to secure the date and time, especially during the peak season.
- Check out any discounted rates or free entry to the city attractions for youths, students, adults above 65 years old, and person with a disability regardless of the nationality of a country on their official website to save some money on your travels. Remember to bring your I.D. as proof of identification.
Going Elsewhere in Spain?
If you are looking for more adventure in Spain, you can look at my other posts for some travel guides: