For your visit you need a day to be able to fully appreciate the city and its major sights while keeping pleasantly unhurried pace.
Distances are walkable in almost all cases; you may need to hire a taxi for Palacio de Viana or a visit to the Festival grounds.
Love its stunning courtyards and the vivid flowers decorating white-washed buildings.
On the other hand: Streets in the medieval town center away from Mezquita get very dark and disconcertingly empty in the evenings.
Don’t miss: Finding the beautiful Callejon de las Flores, a narrow alleyway that brims with colorful geraniums, leading to a tiny square with a fountain.
Worthy attractions: Mezquita, worth a visit all by itself.
Left for another visit: Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos; Palacio de Viana.
Last visit: May 2008.
Cordoba may not get the same type of billing as Sevilla or Granada, but it has a couple of things that are unique in the Western world, making it a great tourist destination.
Things to See
The Great Mosque, or Mezquita ♥♥♥, is the foremost of Cordoba attractions. The mighty walls hide delicate arches, more than 850 pillars of granite, jasper and marble, a dazzling mihrab, and the lovely Patio de los Naranjos.
The original mosque was built in just two years by 787 A.D. and then evolved over the centuries, blending several architectural forms. In the 16th century, a Catholic cathedral was built right in the middle of it, requiring part of the mosque to be destroyed. There are a couple of dozens of lavish chapels around the perimeter of the building, some of which are worth a look on their own merits. But its the breathtaking visual effect of hundreds of columns and arches receding into the vast confines of the building that is most memorable.
A bell tower, Torre del Alminar, stands over one of the gates to the courtyard and supposedly offers a fine view of the city from its top. Unlike in many other places all over the world, we did not find an opportunity for a climb on either of our two visits.
The old Jewish quarter ♥♥♥, to the west and north of Mezquita, is a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets with wrought ironwork and bright flower arrangements decorating white-washed houses. In no other medieval quarter in an European city you get quite the same feeling that little has changed since the 10th century, when Cordoba was the greatest city in all of Europe. Many houses own beautiful inner courtyards; if you are lucky to find yourself in Cordoba in the first half of May, during the Festival of Patios, you can tour as many of them as you like; otherwise, looking through the gates will have to suffice.
An attraction a bit outside of the city center, Palacio de Viana, boasts 13 courtyards of its own, affording you an opportunity to see them even outside of the festival period. It is open for only a few hours in the morning and then a few in the afternoon, and the schedule occasionally changes without notice. We did not manage to visit it yet because of that. (Note: The palace is a comparatively long walk away from the central area; make sure that it’s open when you go there, and consider driving or hiring a taxi.)
Some of the central streets are rather commercialized, but among the souvenir shops there are plenty of interesting craftsman boutiques, especially jewelry ones.
One other attraction that we also did not manage to see on account of scheduling difficulties is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, the palace-fortress of the Catholic Monarchs, built in the 14th century. There are also a handful of minor museums around.
Recinto Ferial, well away from the historic city center, is vast fair grounds, somewhat gaudy architecturally, where seemingly the entire city comes to celebrate its various festivals. The vibrancy of said celebrations make it a worthwhile visit, if you happen to find yourself in Cordoba on a late afternoon of a festival day.
Places to Eat
Our first visit to Cordoba, in 2004, was not yet accompanied by detailed notes on lodging and dining. I can discern that we dined at Taberna Pepe La Juderia, somewhere not too far from Mezquita. All that my notes say is that the dining room was on the roof terrace, the food was OK, but the waiters were terribly inapt, causing us a lot of amusement.
On our last visit, in Spring 2008, we only had lunch in Cordoba. We first purposefully went to a well-recommended Los Marqueses, on Calle Tomas Conde, but left after inspecting the menu. It is an upscale-ish place with visibly sophisticated atmosphere and undoubtedly pretty good food – but not at all suitable for a lunch with children.
Instead, we went to Los Deanes ♥, on the street of the same name. Less than a dozen tables in a typical pretty Cordovan patio, with a fountain, ceramic tiles and [by way of pulling the tarp over] retractable roof. Large selection of tapas for €4-7 each. Perfect for a pleasant mid-day meal. Our damage: €52 for eight different tapas, plus drinks.
As with any tourist attraction, the options for a hotel or an apartment are plentiful on major online platforms. Cordoba is not big and any location in the city center will put you within 10 minutes of walking to most of the points of interest.