I’ll be honest– I had no intention of traveling to Córdoba on my recent Europe trip. But after researching day trips from Madrid, I knew I had to explore this charming city in southern Spain. Córdoba was once the capital of Islamic Spain, and is one of the most important cultural heritage sights in the world. From the mesmerizing Mezquita to the city’s colorful patios, my visit to Córdoba was pretty much love at first sight.
Patios of Córdoba
First off, I highly suggest visiting in May! We just missed The Contest of the Patios of Córdoba (also known as the Battle of the Flowers) which is an annual two week event where families open their homes up to the public to enjoy the sights and smells of the alluring courtyards, free of charge.
The tradition of filling central patios with plants began as a way for locals to aerate their homes. Over time, people began to put more emphasis on creativity and decoration of the patios rather than their functionality. The hobby flourished as homeowners began planting vibrant flowers with irresistible scents in brightly colored pots. Of course, it was tough to keep such beautiful sights a secret from the public. Thus, the competition was born.
La Mezquita: Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
An absolute must-see on any trip to Córdoba is the awe-inspiring Mosque turned Cathedral, better known as La Mezquita. Not only is it easily the most beautiful structure in Córdoba, but it has also gained recognition as one of the most astounding attractions in the world!
Upon entering, you can’t help but notice the grand courtyard, named the Court of Oranges. It almost made me feel like I was on the set of Game of Thrones in Dorne, which isn’t surprising because Seville (where the show is filmed) is just a two hour train ride away. The large fountain located in the center spouts safe drinking water from each corner, so definitely bring an empty water bottle!
After you’re finished enjoying the courtyard, get your entrance tickets for the Mosque and the bell tower, which has a scheduled entrance time. I recommend heading up the tower first for a nice introductory view of the city. The panorama views are breathtaking!
Once I was back on ground level, I made my way over to the Mosque entrance. Suddenly, I was greeted by row after row of massive red and white striped arches. Pictures really don’t do it justice! Even though this structure stands in Spain, I almost felt like I’d been teleported to the Middle East when I was inside.
The islamic architecture and detailing blew me away. Can you imagine if this was all torn down once it was converted back into a Roman Catholic church?!
After the Mosque was conquered by the Catholics, the impressive prayer hall was built. The stark contrast of the two religious design styles somehow compliment each other perfectly.
With the most important item crossed off of the itinerary, it’s time to hit the streets. The best way to explore Córdoba is by foot or segway. My brother had been here before and made friends with a local, Rafael, who works at a shop called Córdoba by Segway. We opted for a private walking tour so we could take our time and stop for photos as we pleased– which I did quite a bit! Definitely make a point to take a tour with Rafael. He’s extremely passionate about his city, and can answer any questions you might have.
As you can see, the flower pots aren’t just confined to courtyards. Córdoba takes pride in the history of the patios, and views gardening as something that brings their community together. This can be seen in statues like the one pictured below, which represents one generation helping the next to preserve the charm of the city.
Be sure to wander beyond the gift shops and tourist traps to discover the quaint, colorful streets of the town. The Jewish Quarter is a nice place to explore.
Calleja de las Flores
Another iconic spot is the Calleja de las Flores in the Jewish Quarter. Though the flowers weren’t in their prime during my July visit, tourists flock to this spot to see the potted plants that lead up to a view of the bell tower in the distance.
I can’t remember exactly where this courtyard is located, but it’s open all year long and makes for some pretty epic photos. If you take Rafael’s tour, he’ll definitely take you here!
I somehow sniffed my way to this tea shop. The smells were all too enticing! I also stopped to sample some candied nuts at another little street shop in the city center. It’s all a bit too charming for words.
Something that might not look as appealing is this strange sight I stumbled upon in a small market. I asked what it was, and the butcher informed me that it was goat’s leg– a regional specialty– and cut me off a small piece. Although it didn’t look particularly appetizing, I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had a similar flavor to prosciutto. I probably wouldn’t eat an entire dish of it, but as they say… When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Speaking of food, be sure to try Salmorejo, which is Córdoba’s signature dish. It’s basically a cold tomato and bread based soup with serrano ham and hard-boiled eggs. It’s the perfect lunch dish for a hot summer day!
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
I highly recommend making your way to this beautiful structure. The inside houses Roman ruins including baths, but the real treat is the outdoor garden. This was my JAM! But really, there were more flowers than in Mary Poppins. I was in heaven.
A unique and historic craft of Cordoba is leatherwork. Believe it or not, but the work pictured below was made completely by hand with metals tools on a piece of leather. This ancient technique takes an unbelievable amount of precision, which is why the works are so rare. You can view this piece along with many others for free at the Leather Museum in the city center. If you take Rafael’s tour, ask him to bring you here at the end!
Another custom is horseback riding. I found this caballero riding around town before a show outside of the Alcazar. Rafael took us to the Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba to watch as caballeros practiced riding techniques with their beautiful Andalusian horses. If you have time to see a show, he said they’re incredible!
The Roman Bridge is another adored spot in the city. It was built in the 1st Century A.D., although it has been restored many times. It’s situated above the Guadalquivir River (try to pronounce that!) and is right by the Mosque. I highly recommend ending the day here to watch the sun set as birds dance above the water.
Would you visit Córdoba? Have you been there before? Let’s chat!
Shop this post: