History buffs (and a lot of other folk) will find plenty of things to do in Cordoba, Spain.
Cordoba is one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, and the perfect place for a culture-filled city break. Just walking around the city’s historic old town is endlessly fascinating, as you discover hidden plazas and ancient buildings around every corner.
Of course, the most impressive of these monuments is the Mezquita, an awe-inspiring mosque that should be on every traveller’s bucket list. With its repeating red-and-white arches, and beautiful Islamic artworks, this building provides a fascinating window onto the past glory of Moorish Spain.
When you’ve finally had your fill of sightseeing, another of the top things to do in Cordoba is to stop for a drink or some tapas in one of the city’s many lush courtyards. These secluded spaces, also known as ‘patios’, are to be found across the city and make excellent spots to relax and unwind after a busy day.
Later on, you could find yourself attending an exciting flamenco show in Cordoba, or dancing the night away in one of the city’s many bars or nightclubs.
With awesome shopping opportunities, a range of fantastic museums, delicious local food, and thousands of years of history to explore, Cordoba is a must-visit Spanish city.
In this article, I’ll be covering some of the absolute best things to see and do in Cordoba. And believe me, there’s a lot to choose from!
But first, let’s quickly go over some details about when to visit Cordoba, and some of the best places to stay while you’re here.
When to Visit Cordoba
As a rule, winter in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia is like spring in other regions, with mild weather and plenty of sunshine.
The summer months from June to September can get brutally hot here, so if you are sensitive to 40° C/90° F temperatures then you might want to consider visiting during winter or spring.
The weeks surrounding Easter, or Semana Santa, can be very hectic, so if you want to avoid crowds you shouldn’t visit between Palm Friday and Easter Sunday. Overall, the periods between January to March and October to November are perfect times to visit Cordoba if you want to dodge huge crowds and scorching sun.
Where to Stay in Cordoba
Bed & Be – Best Budget Hostel in Cordoba
Bed & Be has to be one of the coolest hostels in Cordoba, as well as one of the city’s best value places to stay. The rooms are clean and modern, with plenty of amenities such as air-conditioning and WiFi. The hostel also boasts a rooftop terrace offering fantastic views over the city.
Bed & Be makes special efforts to entertain its guests, with free sangria nights every other evening, as well as free night-time walking or cycling tours of Cordoba’s best tapas restaurants. Staff are friendly and welcoming, and will help you to plan your visit to Cordoba. Overall, this is a wonderful place to stay when exploring this vibrant Andalusian city.
Patios de Cordoba Hotel
Located within easy walking distance of Cordoba’s beautiful Jewish Quarter, the Patios de Cordoba hotel is the perfect option if you are looking to splash out.
This hotel is built around not one, but five traditional Cordoban patios – beautiful tiled courtyards where you can catch the sun and enjoy a drink. With a good-quality breakfast, comfy rooms and helpful staff, the Patios de Cordoba is a calm oasis in the centre of the city.
Things to Do in Cordoba
Visit the Mezquita – Spain’s Most Monumental Mosque
The Mezquita is the jewel of Cordoba, and has rightly been listed by UNESCO as one of the most outstanding examples of Islamic architecture anywhere in the world. The vast building is famous for its rows of double arches, built in white stone and red brick, which stretch off into the distance as far as the eye can see.
Inside, you’ll find intricate geometric patterns, flowing calligraphy and many other relics of the once-powerful Umayyad kingdom. You’ll also learn the fascinating story of how successive rulers expanded the mosque, and how the Christians reinvented it as a catholic cathedral in the Middle Ages.
Overall, this is one of the historical highlights of Andalusia, and definitely one of the top things to see on a visit to Cordoba.
Things to Do in Cordoba – Explore the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
Another of Cordoba’s most fascinating historical buildings is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. The building started its life as a Moorish palace in the 8th century, and was rebuilt into a majestic fortress after the Christians recaptured Cordoba a few centuries later.
The fortress was subsequently used as a base by the Spanish monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, and was even the place where Columbus first pitched his voyage of discovery around the world.
But the best thing about the Alcázar has to be its Moorish-inspired gardens. Filled with trickling fountains, colorful flowerbeds, citrus trees, and fishponds, these gardens are the perfect place to retreat from the Andalusian heat.
Stroll Across Cordoba’s Roman Bridge
Yes, that’s right – as you’d expect from the name, this bridge over the Guadalquivir River was originally constructed by the Romans in 1st century BC, although it has been rebuilt and expanded several times over the years.
This bridge is a great place to take a stroll when in Cordoba, as you can get some wonderful views out over the old town and the awe-inspiring Mezquita.
At the far end of the bridge you’ll also find the Calahorra Tower, a Moorish defensive monument that was later expanded by Spanish rulers.
The tower is home to the Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus, a museum that teaches visitors about the culture of the ancient Al-Andalus kingdom, where Christians, Jews and Moors lived side-by-side.
Things to Do in Cordoba – Enjoy Flower-filled Patios
Walk around Cordoba and you’re sure to stumble across some of the city’s famous patios. These courtyards are a key feature of Cordoban architecture, and are traditionally decorated with colourful flowers and elaborate tilework.
Many of these secluded courtyards are privately-owned – but once a year, the owners gather together to open their doors to visitors during the exuberant Patios de Cordoba festival. The event takes place in the first two weeks of May, also sees a number of dancers and singers performing in the streets to add to the festivities.
If you’re not in the city when the festival is running, don’t worry; there are still plenty of chances to enjoy some of its traditional patios. One of the best places to visit in Cordoba is the centuries-old Viana Palace, which is home to 12 courtyards, each more lush and peaceful than the last.
Watch a Flamenco Show in Cordoba
Flamenco dancing has its roots in the Andalusia region, and this whirling, stomping, exuberant dance is a must-see during your trip.
One of the best places in Cordoba to enjoy the magic of flamenco is at the Tablao el Cardenal, situated in the city’s historic centre. This long-running venue puts on an authentic flamenco performance, with a cast of nine different artists who take you on a journey through different dance styles.
You could also head to the Baños Arabes, for an intimate flamenco show in what used to be Cordoba’s Arabic baths. The room only seats around 20 people though, so advance booking is recommended.
Things to Do in Cordoba – Eat Some Traditional Spanish Tapas
Many of Cordoba’s patios have been transformed into secluded restaurants where you can relax and enjoy some excellent tapas.
One of the best restaurants in Cordoba is the Bodegas Campos. This old building boasts a range of luxurious courtyards, and is a great place to try traditional Cordoban fare including ox tail stew (rabo de toro).
You should also check out the Tabernas Salinas, a small and atmospheric bar located next to the Corredera Square. While here, make sure to order another local speciality: fried aubergines drizzled with honey. Yum.
Of course, wherever you go for a meal in Cordoba, you shouldn’t miss out on ordering a glass of sherry. This sweet, fortified wine originates from the nearby city of Jerez de la Frontera, and is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing evening meal on one of Cordoba’s outdoor terraces.
Marvel at Cordoba’s Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum is the best place to visit in Cordoba for a chance to marvel at the rich patchwork quilt of the city’s past.
The museum contains lots of fascinating exhibits that show you how the Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians all left their own unique mark on this historic city. It also includes rare treasures, such as the Iberian Lion of Nueva Carteya, and a Roman sculpture of the god Mithra.
The Archaeological Museum lies next to the Plaza de Jerónimo Páez, a beautiful and tree-shaded square where you can relax and enjoy a coffee or a cold beer.
Discover the Museo de Bellas Artes and Museo Julio Romero de Torres
For a taste of Spanish art and culture, you should pay a visit to Cordoba’s Museo de Bellas Artes. This gallery is dedicated to showcasing fine works of art from Cordoba and the surrounding region.
There are some excellent historic paintings here, showing how the city appeared through the ages, as well as a range of modern artworks on the top floor.
However, the real star attraction here is the Museo Julio Romero de Torres, which lies nearby across a small courtyard. This gallery is dedicated to the local painter Julio Romero de Torres, who was famed for his charismatic portraits of Spanish ladies.
Julio Romero’s paintings of flamenco performances and bullfights shouldn’t be missed, as they provide an intriguing snapshot of traditional Andalusian life.
Things to Do in Cordoba – Relax With a Drink in Corredera Square
Lastly, you couldn’t leave Cordoba without a visit to the Corredera Square. This large plaza, located to the east of the old town, is surrounded by a grand red-and-white façade.
In nice weather, the whole square becomes one outdoor dining area, with cafes and restaurants setting out tables and chairs to catch the sun.
While the food here may be squarely aimed at the tourist trade, this is still a good spot to enjoy a nibble and a beer while admiring your surroundings. The charming red-and-white balconied apartments also make this one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in the city.
Final Thoughts on Cordoba
There are just so many things to see and do in Cordoba, that I couldn’t have hoped to fit them all in to the above article. Hopefully I’ve given you a taste of why Cordoba is one of the best places to visit in Andalusia, Spain, and even the world.
Whether you’re exploring ancient buildings, relaxing in lush courtyards, tucking into delicious tapas or enjoying a thrilling flamenco performance, this really is the perfect city break.
But don’t take my word for it – book a trip to Cordoba and explore this world-class city for yourself!
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