Sometimes overlooked as a city-break destination in favour of Granada or Seville, Córdoba is one of Andalucia’s most fascinating cities. From its unique Feria de los Patios to the mighty Mosque-Cathedral, the city’s cultural and historic offerings mean it deserves a place on everyone’s bucket list.
Home to the largest old town in Spain and the only city in the world to have four Unesco-protected sites, Córdoba is a must-visit for any traveller. Every May, it’s also the setting for the Feria de los Patios, the flower-centred festival celebrated nowhere else in the country. Here’s why you should visit Córdoba at least once, from its unique historic attractions to an exceptionally varied bar scene and warm, sunny climate.
Córdoba’s warm climate and low annual rainfall make it a great year-round destination. The best times to visit are spring and autumn when you’re guaranteed temperatures of around 25C (77F) and almost no rain. The only time to really avoid visiting is in August when Córdoba lives up to its reputation as the hottest city in Spain, even beating sweltering Seville; temperatures frequently exceed 40C (104F), making sightseeing virtually impossible.
Córdoba is a destination in its own right. However, it’s so well connected to the rest of Andalucia that it could be a day-trip option if you’re staying somewhere else. As one of the region’s Big Four, it’s within a two-hour journey (maximum) of the other three: Seville, Málaga and Granada. If you’re flying into Madrid, Córdoba is just a 90-minute ride away on the AVE, Spain’s high-speed train service.
If you visit Córdoba in May, you can experience a feria (festival) held nowhere else in Spain. Running for the entire month, the Feria de los Patios showcases the internal courtyards of the oldest houses in the city, colourfully decorated with plants and flowers. Other unmissable celebrations include the processions of Holy Week (Semana Santa), the Crosses of May (Cruces de Mayo), in which flower-strewn crosses appear throughout the city, and the Feria de Córdoba, a week of flamenco, bullfights, eating and drinking held in late May and early June.
One of the best ways to get to know Córdoba is to spend an evening bar-hopping around the historic centre, where you’ll find old-school haunts as well as modern, creative tapas joints. For a dose of time-honoured Córdoban charm, head to kiosk-size Bar Santos opposite the Mosque-Cathedral; it serves the best tortilla (Spanish omelette) in town. Next, stop by Bar Santa Marina, where bullfighting photos adorn the walls; it’s opposite the church of Santa Marina. More contemporary hangouts lie on Calle San Fernando.
Virtually all of Córdoba’s oldest quarters are Unesco-protected, and when combined, they constitute the largest old town in Spain. This area contains the separate neighbourhoods of Judería, a maze of cobbled alleys that was once the city’s Jewish quarter; Santa Marina, nicknamed the Barrio de los Toreros because of its deep connection with bullfighting; and the bohemian, bar-packed district of San Pablo. The historic centre is also home to one of the prettiest streets in Spain, the Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers).