Top Reasons Why You Should Visit Córdoba, Spain, at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Córdoba is home to some remarkable ancient gems, such as the Roman bridge in the historic centre
Córdoba is home to some remarkable ancient gems, such as the Roman bridge in the historic centre | © Jacek Sopotnicki / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mark Nayler
25 July 2021

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.

Soak up the city’s centuries-old history

Mosque, Historical Landmark, Cathedral, Architectural Landmark
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Cordoba, Spain Mosque-Cathedral.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Nowhere is Andalucia’s Moorish-Christian heritage more powerfully on display than in Córdoba, with the star attraction being the Mosque-Cathedral, the only building of its kind in Spain. It features a 16th-century cathedral built in the middle of a 10th-century mosque. Other key sights include the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos – a palace built among the ruins of a Moorish fortress in the 14th century – a 16-arched Roman bridge and the remains of one of the greatest temples in the Roman Empire.

Discover the remains of Andalucia’s Medieval capital

Ruins
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Upper Basilical Hall in the administrative area of the 10th century fortified palace and city of Medina Azahara, also known as Madinat al-Zahra, Cordo
© Classic Image / Alamy Stock Photo
Throughout the 10th and 11th centuries, Córdoba was the most sophisticated city in Western Europe and home to the Medina Azahara, an administrative and residential complex and the capital of Moorish Spain. Although only representing about 10 percent of the original, today’s ruins still give you an idea of the original layout of the palaces, mosques, offices and gardens. They lie 8km (5mi) west of Córdoba and are accessible by car or a bus that runs from outside the Alcázar.

Bask in the southern Spanish sunshine

Architectural Landmark
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Córdoba - jean-baptiste-d-kU1iE5IVFW0-unsplash
© Jean-Baptiste D. / Unsplash

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.

Venture easily to nearby cities such as Seville

Historical Landmark
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Plaza de Espana with canal and bridge, Maria Luisa Park, Seville, Andalusia, Spain, Europe
© Neale Clark / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Experience the vibrant ferias

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
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Courtyards Festival of Cordoba 2016 - La Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba. G1X44C
© M Ramírez / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Dive into the local bar scene

Bar, Spanish
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Potato omelette in Bar Casa Santos. Cordoba City Andalusia, Spain, Europe
© Jerónimo Alba / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Explore the largest old town in Spain

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Calleja de las Flores
© Benny Marty / Alamy Stock Photo

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).

Sample Córdoban cuisine

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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closeup of a man with an earthenware bowl in his hands with fresh made spanish salmorejo cordobes or porra antequerana, a cold tomato soup topped with
© nito / Alamy Stock Photo
Several of the most famous dishes in southern Spain originated in Córdoba, making it a must-visit city for foodies. Try salmorejo – not to be confused with gazpacho – a cold, refreshing soup of tomato, olive oil, garlic and breadcrumbs, topped with chunks of jamón (dry-cured ham) and hard-boiled egg. Alternatively, bite into flamenquin, a croqueta-like, deep-fried roll of ham, pork loin and cheese, or rabo de toro, bull or oxtail slowly cooked in a red-wine sauce.
These recommendations were updated on July 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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