Strategically located on the north bank of the Guadalquivir River, Cordoba was the Roman and Moorish capital of Spain and its old quarter, clustered around its famous Mezquita (mosque), remains one of the country’s grandest and most intimate examples of its Moorish heritage. Cordoba was a medieval city famed for the peaceful and prosperous coexistence of its three religious cultures – Islamic, Jewish and Christian. Cordoba’s artistic and historical treasures begin with the mezquita-cathedral (mosque cathedral) and continue through the winding, whitewashed streets of the Juderia, the jasmine geranium and orange filled patios and the Renaissance palaces.
Where to Stay in Cordoba
Cordoba merits 2 days and 1 night. The town is small enough that the main sights are no more than 10 minutes walking distance from practically anywhere in the old town. My top hotel affordable recommendations are:
NH Amistad Cordoba – A lovely, central hotel known for it’s amazing breakfast options. Slightly pricier but the rooms are worth it.
Eurostars Patios de Cordoba – Perfectly located away from the hustle and crowds in the Jewish Quarter yet within a quick walk to the main sites. This is a uniquely classic Cordoba option, as the Eurostars hotel has beautiful patios for you to relax with a drink during the afternoon siesta.
Hotel Riviera – a bare bones, but inexpensive and clean hotel. It’s centrally located behind a main street with lots of restaurants and food nearby. About a 10 min walk from the Mezquita.
Top 5 Things to Do in Cordoba, Spain
After spending 3 days in Cordoba, I compiled a list of the best things to do in Cordoba, Spain based on my experience! First up are the true standout sights, followed by some options if you have additional time in tow. At the end, I included additional sight suggestions if you have more than 3 days to spend in Cordoba as well as suggestions for where to eat, featuring the top tapas bars and restaurants in town.
1 | Mezquita
€8 | Mon – Sat 10-7, Sun 2-7
Built between the 8th– 10th century, Cordoba’s mosque is one of the earliest and most beautiful examples of Spanish Islamic architecture. Enter the Puerta de las Palmas (Door of the Palms) where 850 columns rise before you. Al Hakam II built the beautiful mihrab (prayer niche), the Mezquita’s greatest jewel. Make your way over to the qiblah, the south facing wall in which the sacred prayer niche was hollowed out. In front of the mihrab is the maksoureh, a kind of anteroom for the caliph and his court.
Sher’s Tip: During the day, the Mezquita can fill up with people and tour groups, making it difficult to get good shots without people, not to mention the entrance ticket isn’t cheap. However, early (8:30am-9:00am) before mass, the cathedral opens up free to the public while workers prepare for service. It is the best time to go because not only is it free, there is nobody around and you might get to hear the organ player warming up.
2 | Calleja de las Flores
Free | 24 hours
This is the textbook cover image of Cordoba found on every guidebook and for good reason! You’d be hard pressed to find prettier patios than those along this tiny street, a few yards off the northeastern corner of the Mezquita. Patios are central to Cordoba’s architecture in the old quarter, an homage to the Moorish rulers of the ancient city, who honored the sanctity of the home and the need to shut out the fierce summer sun.
Sher’s Tip: This is a narrow alley that practically every tour group crowds into. Go early or late for an unobstructed view. I stopped by early one morning and after dinner on a different night, to capture a day and night view.
3 | Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
€4.50 | May – Sept Tues –Fri 8:30-7:30, Sat 9:30-4:30, Sun 9:30-2; Oct – Apr Tues – Sat 8:30-7:30, Sun 9:30-2:30
Built by Alfonso XI in 1328, the Alcazar is a Mudejar style palace with splendid gardens. The palace is really more of a fortress, bare bones and built for military usage. This is where, in the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs held court and launched their conquest of Granada. The most important sights are the Hall of the Mosaics and a Romans stone sarcophagus from the 2nd or 3rd century. The gardens are the true highlight here!
Sher’s Tip: This is right behind the Mezquita. Go first to the cathedral, spend about an hour, and you’ll make it to the Fortress of the Christian Monarchs by 9:30, early enough to arrive during the free entry period!
4 | Palacio de Viana
patios €3, patios and interior €6 | Tues – Fri 10-7, Weekends 10-3
This 17th century palace is one of Cordoba’s most splendid aristocratic homes. Also known as the Museo de los Patios, it contains 12 interior patios, each one different; the patios and gardens are planted with cypresses, orange trees and myrtles. Inside are a carriage museum and library.
You can buy either a ticket for the interior, to tour the 16th century estate, or a combined ticket to see the beautiful flowers in the outdoor patios. The grounds can feel a little disjointed, as the palace was once individual houses that were then combined after a seller bought out his neighbors. The gardens are the true highlight here!
Sher’s Tip: If you miss the Patio Festival in May, this is a great museum to stop at as it gives you a glimpse of what the beautiful patios and courtyards look like. If you’re in town for the Festival, you can skip this museum. You’re probably all patio’d out already, ha.
5 | Roman Bridge
Free | 24 hours
This ancient bridge still stands on its original first century AD foundation, pointing a direct path to the Mezquita. Although it’s a small, relatively unimpressive bridge compared to say, Paris’ Pont des Arts, it’s worth it’s weight in historical significance. This bridge established Cordoba’s strategic importance in Andalusia and one of its fortified gates was converted to hold the Museum of Al-Andalus Life.
Sher’s Tip: The bridge was converted in 2009 to a pedestrian walkway. Go for a walk or bike ride at sunset, where you’ll mingle with lots of local Cordobans out for their post dinner stroll. You’ll also have an impressive, beautiful view of the Mezquita mosque and cathedral lit up at night!
Other Worthwhile Sights
The top sights I recommended above are easily doable with just 2 or 3 days in Cordoba. If you love Spain and have more time, here are some smaller but equally beautiful sights to check out while you’re in Cordoba.
Torre de la Calahorra
The tower on the far side of the Puento Romano (Roman Bridge) was built in 1369 to guard the entrance to Cordoba. It now houses the Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus ( ‘Land of the West’) with films and guides on Cordoba’s history. Climb the narrow staircase to the top of the tower for the view of the Roman bridge and city on the other side of the Guadalquivir.
€4.50 incl audio guide | daily May – Sept 10-2 and 4:30 – 8:30; Oct – Apr 10-6
Museo Julio Romero de Torres
Across the courtyard from the Museum of Fine Arts, this museum is devoted to early 20th century artist Julio Romero de Torres who specialized in mildly erotic portraits of demure Andalusian temptresses.
Tues – Fri 8:30 – 10:30 | mid-June – mid-Sept Tues-Sat 8:30-2:30; mid Sept – mid June, Tues – Fri 8:30-7:30, Sat 9:30-4:30, Sun 9:30-2:30
The lively Plaza Juda Levi, surrounded by a maze of narrow streets and squares, lies at the heart of the Juderia and is for great people watching. Best experienced in the morning with minimal crowds.
Built in the foothills of the Sierra Morena by Abd ar-Rahman III for his favorite concubines, al-Zahra, this once spending summer pleasure palace was begun in 936. The Madinat was sacked in 1013 and parts have been reconstructed. No public transportation but a tourist bus runs 2x daily (3x on Saturday) and the tourist office can provide details of stops and schedules.
€1.50 | Tues – Sat 10-6:30 (to 8:30 May-mid Sept), Sun 10-2
Museo de Bellas Artes
Hard to miss because of its deep pink façade, Cordoba’s Museum of Fine Arts, ina courtyard just off the Plaza del Potro, belongs to a former Hospital. The collection includes paintings by Murillo, Goya, Sorolla, etc.
Iglesia de San Miguel
Complete with Romanesque doors built around Muedjar horseshoe arches, the San Miguel Church, the square and café terraces around it and its excellent tavern Taberna San Miguel Casa El Pisto, form one of the city’s finest combinations of art, history and gastronomy.
Where to Eat in Cordoba – Best Restaurants
Cordoba is a classic Spanish town, with later lunch and dinner times than you may be used to. Lunch is typically from 1-3pm, with a siesta until 6pm, and dinner from 9-11pm. Some of the best tapas and restaurants in town include:
- El Potrillo Español – It’ll be you and a handful of boisterous locals in this rustic little tavern run by one-man-band Argimiro. Get a plate of jamón, perhaps some local cheese and throw in an order of grilled garlicky mushrooms | Calle Lucano, 19
- Gastrotaberna Macsura – A modern restaurant and bar serving tasty local food. If they’re on the menu when you go, try the coquillas (small clams) and ortiguillas (sea anemones) here. They have an outside terrace | Calle Cardenal Gonzalez
- Regadera – If you’ve only got a day (or an afternoon) and you’re wondering where to eat in Cordoba: Regadera should be high on your list. The menu mixes tradition with innovation, and everything has a light, modern touch. Delicious | Calle Ronda de Isasa
- Garum 2.1 – With its bright and breezy bistro style atmosphere, Garum 2.1 turns out inventive version of Cordoban classics. The salmorejo with sherry and the bull tail stew are excellent. They even do a bull tail churro, if you’re feeling post-modern | Calle San Fernando, 120-122
- Las Piconeras – tapas bar, everyone likes the paella entree for two at just 11 euros | Calle de Corregidor Luis de la Cerda, 73
Save this post by pinning it for later or read the full series of Spain guides:
Spain Itinerary and Travel Guides
Spain and Portugal Itinerary Advice for 10 Days
How to Experience the Best of Andalusia (Southern Spain) in 1 Week
Andalusia Blog Posts
Spain’s Best Hidden Attraction: The Cordoba Patio Festival
5 Unforgettable Things to Do in Cordoba, Spain
Quick Guide to 48 Hours in Seville
Know Before You Buy: Alhambra Tickets for Granada, Spain
Where to Eat Tapas in Seville – 3 Must Try Spots
Spending the Perfect 3 Days in Granada, Spain
Read more: Have 3 days in Barcelona? Here’s what to see.
Follow Sher She Goes on