Cordoba is a small andalusian gem not to be missed while in the region. The Italian Eye takes you to discover its narrow cobbled streets. And the stunning Mezquita: a Moorish architectural masterpiece of the XVIII century
The small city of Córdoba is located in the northernmost region of Andalusia. It is easily accessible from Seville in 40 minutes by a comfortable fast train. The historic center of the city can be visited easily in one day. Walking through the most important monuments: the Mezquita, the Alcázar, the Puente Romano, the Medina Azahara.
Built on the banks of the Guadalquivir, in a strategic point where the river is no longer navigable, Cordoba was founded as a Roman colony around 152 BC. And then became in 756, after the arrival of the Arabs, the Islamic capital of the Iberian Peninsula. For over three centuries Córdoba is the nerve center of the Western Muslim empire. And becomes the richest and most sumptuous of the known world cities. In 1236 it was conquered by the king of Castile: Ferdinand III the Saint. And begins a long process of decline. Today, Cordoba is home to one of the most renowned universities in Spain. And plays a vital role in trades between high and low Andalusia.
The Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos
From the train station, take a taxi to Avenida del Alcázar. From here, on the right, you can admire the magnificent Puente Romano, a pedestrian bridge of 250 meters dating from the I or II century. Along with the Mezquita and the Alcázar gardens, it is the most photographed monument in the city; if you cross the bridge to Plaza Rastro, it also offers beautiful views of Córdoba. From the road along the Guadalquivir, walk to Plaza Campo Santo de los Martires, from where you enter the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.
This palace-fortress, which was completed in the XIV century, initially was located next to the Mezquita, but was moved to its present location by the Spanish monarchs after the Christian reconquest. The interior of the building are not worth mentioning because of the three centuries when it was the seat of the Inquisition and then a prison. Don’t miss instead the beautiful terraced gardens Moorish-style: a feast of fountains, flowers and shaded footpaths. Inside you can admire a statue of Christopher Columbus that was received here by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1486. The tower offers spectacular views of the city and neighboring Caballerizas Reales, the former stables of the palace, where now you can admire equestrian performances (upon purchase of a ticket).
Proceeding north from the Alcázar, you will find the Synagogue (Calle de los Judíos 20) of 1315. It is one of the only three remaining synagogues in Spain (the other two are in Toledo), surviving the expulsion of Jews in 1492. Near the Synagogue, on the same street at no.7, there is the Bodega Guzmán, an old tapas bar, mainly famous among locals and enthusiasts of corridas, where you can taste the local specialties while seated or standing at the counter. Definitely a no frills place but the tapas are good and you can breathe the true air of the city, far from the tourist bars around the Mezquita. Try the Montilla, the Andalusian sherry.
Immerse yourself in small cobbled streets of this maze-city and head for the Mezquita, where crowds will increasingly dense. The Mezquita-Catedral is one of the most spectacular places in the world: despite the hordes of tourists, the whole complex still manages to emanate an incredible mystique aura and to leave visitors in awe in front of so much history and beauty. The building’s foundation rests on the remains of the original Visigoth basilica of San Vicente, on which the Mosque was built in just one year (785) with its impressive forest of Arab arches. The Mezquita was enlarged by each of the great Islamic rulers that followed until the Christian reconquest.
Do not miss the beautiful sacred wall erected in the X century, the Mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca. Almost three centuries after the arrival of the Christian sovereigns, Charles V built, exactly in the middle of the Mezquita, the Renaissance choir of the Cathedral and then added, around the perimeter of the structure, many chapels, sacristies and doors. Walk along the arches and discover the various testimonies left by both religions in this truly unique place.
Hammam, oysters and flamenco
For a relaxing break, go to the Hammam Al Andalus for a bath and a massage in a truly picturesque setting just a few meters from the Mezquita. Invigorated by the effluvia of the hammam, head east to Plaza San Pedro where you will find the delightful restaurant Blanco Enea.
The chef, José María González Blanco, serves innovative dishes, although always inspired by Andalusian tradition, and winners of numerous national awards. Also, during summertime you can see flamenco shows in many squares of the old town: usually dance schools are performing, but it is very common to see even locals try their hand at the dances and have fun singing in the middle of the spectators.
The Medina Azahara
An additional option for the afternoon is a visit to Medina Azahara, an exceptional historic site just 7 km north-west from the center of Córdoba. Symbol of the greatness of the Western Caliphate, the complex is stretched in length for 2 km and 900 meters wide with terraces sloping down towards the Guadalquivir. To date, archaeologists have revealed only 10% of the entire structure that the caliph Ab dar-Rahman III wanted to devote to his favorite wife, az-Zahra (the Radiant).
During peak season, all of the monuments are only accessible after hours-long queues. Don’t forget to buy your tickets online.
Bodega Guzmán, Calle de los Judíos 7, 14004 Cordoba; tel. +34 957 290 960
Hammam Al Andalus, Corregidor Luis de la Cerda 51, 14003 Cordoba; tel. +34 957 484 746
Blanco Enea, San Pedro 1, 14002 Cordoba; tel. + 34 957 100 675
Flamenco, Patio la Judería or Plaza Potro
Where to sleep in Cordoba
Calle Magistral González Frances 15-17, 14003 Cordoba; tel. +34 957 48 11 02
Literally in front of the Mezquita, with a delightful indoor patio. The rooms are very spacious and bright. Inspired by Moorish architecture. Double room from 70 € per night.
Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia de Cordoba
Calle Tomas Conde 10, 14004 Cordoba; tel. +34 957 20 20 95
Stylish hotel just 3 minutes from the Mezquita. With swimming pool and a beautiful patio framed by columns. The rooms are ultra-chic with wooden details and arabesque drapes. Double room from 150 € per night.