Cordoba – three cultures
Cordoba is a city in southern Spain, in the Andalusia region and lies on the Guadalquivir River. Currently, it is a large industrial, scientific and tourist centre of global importance.
Just over a thousand years ago, Cordoba was the largest city in Europe. There were more than half a million inhabitants in the city. As a result of turbulent historical events and numerous conquests of this city – there were Muslims, Christians and Jews living side by side. There was a relative tolerance and the city was open to newcomers. Numerous travellers who visited Cordoba at that time – shared knowledge and experience among themselves, which shaped the views of the local community.
Today Cordoba is the third (after Seville and Malaga) city centre of Andalusia. While looking for traces of three cultures, we can use numerous monuments that have remained in the city to this day. In the heritage of Cordoba, we can easily find traces of Roman, Arab and Jewish culture.
Cordoba – when it is worth coming?
Of course, nothing prevents you from coming here at any period of the year. However, it is worth considering whether, for example, in the summer we can accept 45-degree heat or during the Easter period very high prices for accommodation and food. Below is a short calendar of the most important events:
Calendar of events
- January – on the 5th of January, there is a parade that passes through the streets of the city, led by the Three Kings. The parade is usually accompanied by an orchestra and a colourful and laughing crowd of cheering spectators. Children are receiving candy and sweets. A day after, try to taste a traditional yeast ring-shaped cake – Roscón de Reyes.
- From March to June, the street kiosks offer fresh snails, prepared according to several different recipes. During this period of the year, orange trees bloom in the city, so the air is saturated with the smell of this fruit.
- During Easter, the Spanish celebrate the entire Holy Week. It is a period that is famous mainly for mysteries, self-flagellation of martyrs and mystical processions passing through the streets of cities. The processions are colourful and very loud. On the streets of Spanish cities, there are so-called “pasos” huge platforms depicting religious scenes and accompanying hooded members of various religious brotherhoods. Every year, during this period, numerous tourists come to Spain to take part in these ceremonial events. Worth knowing that prices for accommodation, food and transport in this period of the year can be doubled.
- May in Cordoba marks the beginning of the summer fiestas: festival Cruzes de Mayo – on patios and squares, the inhabitants are erecting crosses decorated with fresh flowers and colourful scarves. Typical tapas and wine are served, flamenco music resounds around. People are dancing and having fun on the streets on that day. Fiesta de Los Patios – is a local competition for the most nicely landscaped and floral patio in the city, and Feria de Cordoba – a festival of dance and flamenco music.
- During the summer months in Córdoba, temperatures are very high. During a day, the thermometer often shows above 40-45 Celsius. Urban life comes back here only after sunset.
- From July to September, there are dozen, or so summer cinemas exhibited in the city, and film screenings start after sunset. In July there is a Festival of Cordoba. It is an international festival of guitar music taking place in the gardens of the Alcazar.
- In autumn, you can enjoy a pleasant climate for walking around the city – it is still warm but not hot anymore. At the turn of September and October, the International Festival of Poetry – Cosmopoetica takes place (the event lasts 10 days).
- In December, the city begins preparations for the celebration of Christmas. The New Year, in order to be happy for us, should be welcomed in a Spanish way. According to tradition, it is believed that whoever eats 12 grapes during the bell’s striking, will have a lucky and prosperous year. Local residents like to celebrate it together, a popular meeting place is a clock on Tendillas Square.
Cordoba – how best to explore the city?
If we have more than one day to visit the city, one day you can use a bus touristic: Hop-on Hop-off, and on the second day take a walk around the city. The bus (at the price of 25 Euro) will take you to the most important attractions in Cordoba (17 stops). It will also allow you to move quickly between different places. However, if we have only one day to visit the city, there is no way to see all its attractions and feel the atmosphere of this place. Having one day only, I suggest taking a walk (mainly around the Jewish quarter of Juderia) and focusing only on a few city attractions.
For those interested in the tourist bus in Cordoba, I encourage you to visit Cordoba City Sightseeing Bus website.
Cordoba – what is a must-see?
On the UNESCO list, the “historic Centre of Cordoba” was inscribed in 1984 and 1994. On the UNESCO website you can find the following description:
“Cordoba’s period of greatest glory began in the 8th century after the Moorish conquest when some 300 mosques and innumerable palaces and public buildings were built to rival the splendours of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad. In the 13th century, under Ferdinand III, the Saint, Cordoba’s Great Mosque was turned into a cathedral and new defensive structures, particularly the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos and the Torre Fortaleza de la Calahorra, were erected.”
The Mosque–Cathedral of Cordoba – La Mezquita
The Great Mosque of Cordoba is known as the “pearl of the medieval religious architecture of Islam”. It was built in the 8th century in the place where before there was a church built in the year 600 by the Visigoths. The mosque has been rebuilt many times, but after the Reconquista in the thirteenth century – the Spaniards set a Catholic church in the middle of the mosque. The reconstruction of the interior part has continued uninterruptedly for several decades. In 1523 the final transformation of the mosque into a Catholic cathedral took place.
La Mezquita is one of the most famous mosques in the world and the largest former mosque in Europe. The mosque is known not only because of its size, but mainly thanks to the famous hall with the “forest of columns”. There are over 850 columns made of marble, granite and jasper, and the total area of the mosque is about 23 thousand sqm. In 1984, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Great Mosque is worth visiting both during the day and at night. It delights not only with its unusual architecture or beautiful decorative details but also with its size, acoustics and magically illuminated interior.
Great mosque – visiting hours:
- During spring and summer (III – X), sightseeing is possible between 10.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and between 8.30 – 10.30 a.m. and 2.00 – 7.00 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays.
- In autumn and winter (XII – II) sightseeing is possible from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and between 8.30 – 10.30 a.m. and 2.00 – 6.00 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
Admission tickets: 10 Euro for an adult, 5 Euro for teenagers. Children under the age of 10, residents of the city and senior card holders have admission free.
More information about the mosque can be found on the Great Mosque website.
The complex of Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs
The Castle of the Christian Monarchs was built on the foundations of a Roman fortress and an Arab palace. This is a rather strange place because the Catholic rulers who built it fought on the Iberian Peninsula with Muslims but their residence in Cordoba was built in the Arabic style. The works were initiated in 1328 on the orders of the king of Castile and Leon – Alfonso XI.
The castle interiors are not very interesting, but it is worth going there due to the gardens that are the main attraction of this place. There are several fountains, ponds and beautiful greenery designed in the Arabic style. The spring garden smells of orange flowers and in the summer – jasmine. It is a very pleasant place to relax.
Visiting hours: Tuesday to Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., weekends from 8.30 a.m. to midnight. Entrance ticket: 4,5 Euro.
More info about the complex can be found on the Alcázar website.
The House of Andalusia is located in the heart of the Jewish quarter of Juderia, next to the old synagogue. The house, also called the “12th century Cordoba”, is not listed on the main list of tourist attractions of the city, but I strongly encourage you to visit it. This Museum-House was opened in 1997, after a tedious and long-standing restaurant. It is a place full of charm that takes visitors to the time of the caliphate, where you can feel the atmosphere of a past era. The house was built in an Andalusian style but mixes with Eastern styles and Arabic symbols. In front of the main entrance, there is a cosy courtyard, with a small fountain and a beautiful little garden.
Inside there is also a small Museum of Paper, where you can learn about the old production process of this material.
The house is characterized by beautiful architecture, it is filled with symbolism and colourful details. It is worth visiting this place and feeling its magical atmosphere.
Admission tickets: 4 Euro. The museum is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Address: Calle Judíos, 12
The bridge on the Guadalquivir River was built by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century BC, probably replacing the previous wooden bridge. The present bridge was built in the eighth century, on the remains of a bridge erected by the Romans. It has 16 arcades, 1 less than originally, and a total length of 247 meters. The width is about 9 meters. For about 2,000 years, it was the only bridge on the Guadalquivir River, to cross over to the other side. Another bridge was built only in the middle of the 20th century. For centuries, the Roman Bridge was repeatedly restored and repaired, mainly in the tenth century. The last major renovation took place in 2006.
It is worth coming to the bridge after dusk because it is beautifully illuminated. On both ends of the bridge, there are two interesting buildings: the Calahorra Tower and the Bridge Gate, in the shape of a triumphal arch. The Calahorra Tower houses the “Al-Andalus Museum”, an exhibition which shows the daily life of Moorish Andalusia, and the coexistence of Muslims, Jews and Christians during the Middle Ages. Inside the Bridge Gate, there is also a small museum, but the main attraction is the observation deck on the top of the building.
- Al-Andalus Museum: during winter (from October to April) it is open from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. From May to September, the museum is open from 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. and from 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Entrance ticket: 4.5 Euro
- The Bridge Gate: open from Monday to Thursday from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m., from Friday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. and from 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. Entrance ticket: 1 Euro.
More detailed information about the museum in the defensive tower can be found on the Calahorra Tower website.
The former Jewish quarter is the perfect place to “get lost” here for a while and stroll around to discover the beauty of this place. Our attention will certainly be drawn by the narrow cobbled streets, shaded courtyards, flowered gardens and balconies. There is a fifteenth-century synagogue, the only synagogue that survived throughout Andalusia. There are several old, restored houses from the 12th – 14th centuries, which have been transformed into museums – today they bring closer the culture of their former inhabitants. In the district, there is also an old Arabic market “Zoco Municipal”, with numerous craft workshops. You can buy silver jewellery, colourful ceramics or items made of wood there. In Juderia there are many cafes and restaurants where you can taste Arabic or Jewish cuisine. In many small shops, you can buy aromatic herbs, spices, coffee or tea. The perfect place for an afternoon walk.
Cordoba – other attractions
In the city, there are also other attractions that are worth visiting if you have more than one day to do it. Unfortunately, I was only a few hours here, so I did not have time for everything. Tourist guides recommend several more places:
- The Victoria Market (Mercado Victoria) operates in a 15th-century hall with a cast-iron construction. Here, you can not only eat well or do grocery shopping but regular concerts and culinary workshops are also organized at the market
- Plaza del Potro – a square famous mainly due to Cervantes, because in the “Inn of the Colt” (Posada del Potro), the writer created fragments of “Don Quixote”. Currently, the building is the headquarters of the Flamenco Center.
- Plaza de la Corredera – a square designed in the Castilian style. In the arcades surrounding the square, many cafes and taverns are open. There are also many souvenir shops.
- The Roman temple has today 11 columns that are only a replica of the building from the Ist century erected in honour of Emperor Augustus. Some fragments have been preserved from the original temple, including fragments of the altar and three capitals crowning the columns.
- Palac Marisa Viana – is a Renaissance residence that has a rich exhibition inside. It consists of numerous paintings, tapestries, antique furniture, collections of books, porcelain or firearms. In the palace there is Galeria de Los Azulejos, which was decorated with over 230 paintings from the 13th – 19th century, arranged with ceramic tiles. Additional decoration of the residence is twelve traditional Andalusian courtyards and a botanical garden. More information about the palace can be found directly on the Palac Marisa Viana website.
Spain, my other post
I encourage you as well to read my other posts about Spain: