My dad was way more excited about me visiting Córdoba than me but that by no means mean that I wasn’t! The poem I read from Allama Iqbal about the Mezquita Cathedral of Córdoba when I was young just stuck and it was an object of immense fascination for me. An added advantage was a friend I had made last year in Madrid who’s from Cordoba and he was around as well during my visit which made it simply awesome (Having a local with you is the best thing ever!).
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Cordoba is the capital of the province of Cordoba and the city used to be the centre of education in Europe back in the day during the Muslim rule with medical schools, universities and schools. You can clearly see it deeply ingrained on the architecture of this beautiful mid-sized city. It’s Moorish past and Christian present have generated a city that considers a mosque beautiful and cathedral hideous on the land of inquisition, how much more honest do you want a city and its citizens to be?
In terms of its size, Cordoba is fairly small and you can easily walk around especially in the city centre which is part of UNESCO World Heritage sites with old-style cobbled streets, small cafe’s serving great food and people drinking and being merry in the streets outside the bars in small squares.
Getting to Cordoba
Cordoba has an airport but it isn’t functional and the best way to travel to Cordoba from outside is either from Seville or Malaga which are both international airports with excellent connections.
The train to Cordoba from Malaga takes roughly 2 hours. I took a bus from Granada to Cordoba and within 2 hours I was in Cordoba. The views on the way are simply marvellous, you see vineyards, olive groves and open fields and the veer changing landscape didn’t let me get bored at all. The train and bus stations in Cordoba are right opposite each other and at a walking distance to the city centre.
Both the train and bus station are neat and clean and quite modern and have good connections to the rest of the country. I would recommend booking your tickets in advance though. For this part of Spain, a really good website is ALSA. For trains you can use Trainline Europe.
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In Cordoba, you will find a good variety of food and a lot of options from typical Andalucían style Tapas to rather contemporary cafes in the old town with great food. You generally get free tapas with a drink and that’s how the night is run.
Churrossssss with hot chocolate is the perfect breakfast and it is so readily available around, try some small cafe though, their food is almost always amazing.
Rabo de Toro is a speciality of Cordoba which is a bull’s tail and my god it is amazing. Another awesome thing to try is the fried aubergine with honey and you will get an amazing and wide range of Wine here if that’s your thing.
Mercado Victoria is located on one tip of the city centre and I would definitely recommend spending a night here. It is a modern food market with lots of good food options and there is a couple of bars, a club upstairs and even a shisha cafe within its boundary. You will get whatever you desire at this one-stop-shop.
I wrote the reviews for three quite good restaurants during my visit, have a look here.
I didn’t bother with it and most probably you won’t either. Everything is at walking distance that you want to see other than Medina Azahar which you will need a bus or taxi for. It was a bit far and I wasn’t bothered so I didn’t go there. Besides, I didn’t think I’d be impressed after Alhambra and Generalife anyway.
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Free Walking Tour
The Free Tour Cordoba guys were really awesome and provided detailed info on the city and its past linking it to current day, quite a feat in 2 hours but very well done! You don’t need to book in advance but I’d recommend it. The guide was informative and local and kept things very light and bright throughout the tour.
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Cordoba has amazing and beautiful patios especially in the old town and the Jewish quarter and a lot of these places have been turned into restaurants and cafes where you can watch Flamenco shows. I bought the tickets from the tour guide and it was a good enough experience. (I didn’t expect to understand the intricacies of the dance or music in one night anyway).
You will come across a lot of hot guys on Grindr who are extremely sweet and friendly but there aren’t many gay bars or clubs in the city through the gay scene is vibrant and you won’t feel uneasy. The whole city was plastered with images of almost naked men which was part of some theatre production. You should try Glam and Rush if you’d like to visit some gay venues.
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You can easily see everything in Córdoba in a single day but I have divided it into 2 days like I did to relax and enjoy the friendly vibe of this city. I visited during the Easter period so it was extra festive and I got to see the Easter processions as well which were quite awesome.
Plaza de las Tendillas –> Roman Ruins City Centre –> Plaza la Corredera –> Plaza del Potro –> Catedral Mezquita de Cordoba –> Roman Bridge –> Mercado Victoria
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Plaza de las Tendillas
Plaza de las Tendillas is the central square of the town and you can see why. It has the famous clock tower which rings the guitar sound ‘Soleares Accords’ recorded by guitarist Juanito Serrano.
The square used to have small shops around the square which is where it gets its name (tiendas). The modern face of the square has ornate buildings. People of Cordoba consider this the heart and soul of the city and this is where Christmas market, fairs and events happen especially NYE when the whole town counts down from 12 seconds with the clock music. (So bizarre I am writing this on 1st of Jan, 2017).
The square is completely pedestrianised and you can head out to any of the main avenues in the city from here with plenty of options to shop and eat around here. There is a statue of Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba also known as The Captain in the middle of square which is where I met the waking tour people and we started our journey through this beautiful city. Another statue lies on top of another building and you can see two fountains in the square.
Tip: There are quite a few places to get breakfast around here especially the small cafes have amazing churros which come with an espresso sized cup of hot chocolate, dip it or sip it.
Roman Ruins City Centre
Córdoba is a prehistoric city and the Romans conquered it in 206 BC and you will see the ruins of the Roman temple in the middle of the city next to the city hall with excavation still going on. The structure stands quite tall and has a different and impressive presence. The city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site. This is the only Roman temple in Cordoba with archaeological evidence and it was dedicated to the cult of the Emperor.
In the evening it was a different site though when the procession was passing through this street (Calle Capitularies) and with the Church of San Pablo (Iglesia de San Pablo) in the background, it is a solemn and sober affair. You can see the ornate and decorated floats passing through but they are kept in a different church not so far away and you are more than welcome to go pay your respects or take pictures which I gladly did.
Plaza la Corredera
Through the red-bricked streets of Córdoba unwinding and opening, we arrived at this square which is an awesome place to chill out for the locals with the buildings around converted into bars and the open area in the middle used for seating.
The square takes its history from Roman times when it used to be the Roman Forum and then it was used for bullring and you can clearly see the corridor from where the poor bull ran into the square to its death. Bullfighting is no longer allowed and I’d recommend heading there before Mercado Victoria to get a feel of local social life. It feels very rural, very cordial and very chilled out, I am ever so glad my friend took me there and the evening was spent eating pumpkin seeds and drinking cocktails. (I’m sorry but no matter how hard I try I just can’t drink beer so if that’s your thing it will be much easier).
Plaza del Potro
The way from Plaza la Corredera to Plaza del Potro has cobbled streets, old-style Moorish houses and small squares with palm trees and houses laden with bougnevalia vines with flowers half pink and half white flowers on the yellowish walls, it is so romantic and charming you just want to give up your life and stay in Cordoba.
The Plaza is relatively small and has a plinth in the middle with a statue of a Potro (colt) on the top and a few tourist restaurants around. I wouldn’t recommend eating here because they looked very touristy.
Tip: If you see any place with pictures on the food menu, skip it.
The Plaza used to be the place where cattle was bought and sold and later it got famous because of the paintings and the artists that decided to stick around. There are two art museums on each side of the square. another claim to fame for this square is its mention in Don Quixote.
Catedral Mezquita de Cordoba
Finally we reached Mezquita Cathedral and you start feeling the scale and beauty of this wonder of a building. When we arrived it was after lunch and there weren’t as many people around so we got the tickets quite easily without standing in the queue.
Tip: The street next to Mezquita cathedral has some really cool and interesting places for lunch and dinner.
This grand building is also called The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Mezquita and its proper name is Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción). This was originally a church in Roman times and when the Moors conquered Cordoba they converted half of it into a mosque and the other half remained a church until the Caliph bought the other half and the whole site was converted into a mosque. The central courtyard is designed for a mosque. I could see the structure with its solid wooden doors, the beautiful arches and the detailed calligraphic work that adorns the arches with Quranic verses on the outside towards the right outer wall next to the roman bridge.
The church tower was a replacement of a mosque style minaret and looks slightly out of place with the surroundings.. Taking the dense air in, I walked inside and the poem just kept ringing in my ears like a mesmerising chant.
In the chronicle of Love there are times other than the past, the present and the future;
Times for which no names have yet been coined…
YOU CAN FIND THE FULL POEM HERE.
The mosque is divided into sections based on the expansion done by successive caliphs with 856 columns. The arches inside are symmetrical and wherever you go you see the same jungle with their red bricks, onyx, granite and marble until you reach the middle with the cathedral nave standing in all its vengeance for Moors. It is an impressive construction and had it been elsewhere I would have loved it but standing between the mosque, I realised in an instant why the people of Córdoba think it’s hideous. It’s like someone wearing a chic evening gown and then added 10 different jewellery pieces to show off; a complete disaster.
I slowly walked towards the central arch where the cleric leads the prayer and it was just jaw-dropping beauty with so much simplicity in its surrounding you can’t stop looking at it. The detailed work with beautiful calligraphy in gold with alternating colours is covering the whole of the arch.
I sat there taking the beauty of this place in and I didn’t realise when an hour passed and the light getting mistimed with the sun moving away towards the west. I slowly picked up my tote bag and said goodbye with a heavy but content heart, I have had the privilege to live it, breath it and take it back with me in my mind forever.
Roman Bridge (Puente Romano)
The roman bridge is right behind the Mezquita Cathedral and with Calahorra tower on the far side and a statue of San Rafael in the middle. The bridge connects both sides of the city on river Guadalquivir and the views on both sides are unparalleled especially at sunset and sunrise. The bridge was built by Romans and then expanded and restored by the Moors making it one of the most beautiful bridges in Spain.
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I sat there watching the sun go down and sky turning red t orange to purple hue and the light coming on in the city lighting up the night sky. I would definitely recommend watching the sunset here.
Finally the day was over and I met my friend at Mercado Victoria to get some dinner and drinks. There were many options to choose from and you can pick and mix a variety of food here in small portions.
The market has a few bars, a shisha lounge and later at night a night club on the top floor; how handy! Later that night we headed to Glam and then rush for the gay nightlife in Córdoba and finally hit the bed at 4am.
Alcazar –> Jewish Quarter –> Puerta de Almodovar –-> Medina Azahra
I woke up and after a shower and lazy breakfast headed to see the rest of the town. Some coffee sorted my head and the pleasant walk to Alcazar brought back the tourist spirit.
Alcazar comes from the Arabic words which mean The palace and while this is explicitly called Alcazar of Christian Monarchs the design and style are very Moorish with gardens and ponds and Royal baths made in the typical Moorish style.
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The queue outside was very long for the tickets but luckily I had bought my ticket in advance so walked through and then the beautiful tour began (which I accidentally deleted pictures of and hated myself for it).
The palace, towers, Royal Baths and the beautiful gardens make it just the right place to spend an amazing few hours and finally when I’ve had my fill and felt energised, I walked to the Jewish Quarter.
Jewish Quarter (Juderia)
The Jewish Quarter of Cordoba is one of the biggest in Europe and is probably the best-preserved part of the old town in Cordoba. It is home to the synagogue and souk (market) and a walk around will tell you how prosperous the Jews were ironically during the Muslim rule. ice the Christians took hold, a lot of Jews were expelled and the downfall began. The most notable name among those who migrated was Maimonides who was a revolutionary thinker and philosopher and you can see his statue in the Jewish quarter.
The Almodóvar Gate (Puerta de Almodovar)
This gate is the only one left out of 9 built by the Moorish kings and the views around it are very beautiful. You can see the city walls and the gardens around it with a statue of Seneca on one side of the door. It is usually the entrance to the Jewish Quarter and it does give a feeling that the city centre is over because as soon as you step out tiny streets are replaced by massive ones and scale of things change dramatically.
Now I spent the rest of my time with my friend and his friends you also have the option to go see Medina Azahra which is a little out of the city centre. I’d recommend getting a taxi, uber or taking a tour there. There’s plenty of tour operators in town and I think it only takes a few hours.
Cordoba is a beautiful mix of modern Spain, Moorish past and Roman history that go together so well you can’t help fall in love with the city. The people of Cordoba especially the guys make it even more difficult to leave but it was time to pack the bags because the beach was calling from Malaga and I had to get rid of the winter pales badly, I’ll see you guys there…
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