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Often overlooked in favour of Seville and Granada, Cordoba is one of Andalusia’s crown jewels. It was once the capital of Islamic Spain and western Europe’s biggest, most cultured city. Today’s visitors can get easily a flavour of its glorious past with a visit to mesmerizing monuments like the Mesquita and the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. But there’s more to the city than historic sights. Its winding streets are brimming with bars, boutiques and brilliant restaurants.
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Guide of Cordoba
Cordoba is situated in Andalusia, southern Spain. It is the capital of the province of Cordoba and the third most populated municipality in the region. For context, the city sits around 400 km south of Madrid. The northern stretches of the province are mostly mountainous and divided by the Guadalquivir River, while the south is dominated by fertile, undulating plains.
Climate in Cordoba
The climate in Cordoba is warm and temperate. August is the hottest month in Cordoba, with average daily temperatures of 27.5°C. Summer officially kicks off in June, though temperatures begin to rise in April and remain high right through the end of October. Officially, Cordoba has some of the highest summer temperatures in Spain and Europe.
Winters in Cordoba are mild. The coldest month is January, when temperatures plummet to 9.5°C. Those looking to avoid the rain should avoid travelling in November, the wettest month in Cordoba.
Cordoba was once one of the greatest cities in the medieval world. A crown jewel in the Moorish empire, the city housed some 300 mosques, palaces and civic structures, many of which remain today. It became a world-leading centre of civilization and learning, and by the 10th century, it was the second-largest city in Europe. After the Christian conquest in 1236, it became part of the Crown of Castile.
Today, it is home to some exceptional examples of Moorish architecture and the whole historic centre has been given UNESCO status.
Things To Do in Cordoba
Visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
The Mezquita-Catedral is Cordoba’s most iconic monument. Built by the Moors in 711 on the site of a Visigoth Christian church, the mosque took over two centuries to build. It was completed in 987 and then transformed into a church in 1236.
Explore the Media Azahara
Situated 8 km outside the city, the Medina Azahara (Shining City) was the administrative capital of the region under the Moors. Caliph Abd ar-Rahan built the sumptuous palace-city in the 10th century, though during the subsequent centuries, it was plundered for building materials. Visitors today can take a tour around the site and learn all about the building’s history at the small onsite museum.
Take a stroll around the Palacio de Viana
This pretty palace was built during the Renaissance period and occupied by the great aristocratic Marqueses de Viana until 1980. Today, it’s crammed full of art and antiques. The patios and gardens are particularly lovely during the spring and autumn.
Get up close to some Roman ruins
Authorities first discovered the ruins of the city’s impressive Roman temple in the 1950s. Built in the reign of Emperor Claudius in the 1st century AD, the temple is thought to have once been the most beautiful in the Roman empire. The city’s Roman bridge – Puente Romano - was also built in the 1st century, though the Moors rebuilt this with its 17 stone arches during the 10th century.
Visit the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
Less famous but no less beautiful than the mosque-cathedral, the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos was built by Castilians in the 13th and 14th centuries. Visitors can explore the 55,000 square metres of gardens, halls, courtyards, baths and library. At 9 pm every Monday, there’s a popular multimedia show featuring lights, flamenco music and dancing fountains.
Eating Out in Cordoba
Like the rest of the region, Cordoba’s gastronomy is defined by its climate, land and culture. Dishes like pinchos morunos (cumin, coriander and turmeric pork skewers) are inspired by the city’s Moorish roots, while Rabo de toro (stewed bull tail) is inspired by the glory days of Cordoba’s bullfighting scene. Salmorejo (a thick cold tomato-based soup) originated in Cordoba and is a stalwart in most restaurants onsteaming summer days.
Cordoba boasts some fabulous restaurants and food is, for the most part, very reasonably priced. Join the locals at a rustic little tavern like Paseo Iberico for plates loaded with jamon, garlicky mushrooms and local cheeses. For snails, head to El Tercio Viejo, a tiny bar with a lively terrace. Cafe-Bar Hermanos Bonillo is renowned for its legendary flamenquin (rolled cured pork and ham), a traditional Cordovan dish. Or, for a special occasion, there’s Choco. This Michelin-starred restaurant serves up seasonal dishes that showcase the flavours and aromas of Villanueva de Cordoba and Valle de Los Pedroches.
The closest airport to Cordoba is technically Cordoba Airport (ODB), though no regular or scheduled flights operate here. The easiest way to get to Cordoba is via Sevilla Airport (San Pablo Airport)(SVQ), which is located around 110 km from the city centre. The airport is served by most major European airlines and offers flights from cities across Europe. It takes around 1-1.5 hours to drive from the airport to Cordoba, or you could choose to take a bus connection to Seville city centre, followed by a 45-minute train.
Getting Around Cordoba
Cordoba is a relatively compact city and most of its main attractions can be reached on foot. The city also has a strong public transportation network. There are at least 15 bus routes, operated by Aucorsa, connecting the main attractions and out to the suburbs. If you’re planning on hitting all the sights in one day, it might be worth booking a ticket for the hop-on, hop-on tourist bus. Cordoba’s railway station is a major stop on the high-speed AVE Madrid-Seveille line and AV Madrid-Malaga line too.
However, if you’re looking to explore the surrounding area, we recommend hiring a car. Many of Andalusia’s more rural locations and small towns are not served by public transport and getting there without a car can be difficult. The city is easy to navigate with a vehicle too, with the exception of the Jewish Quarter and the area surrounding the Mosque.