Why we decided to go to Cordoba? Cordoba is very popular in many Islamic history books and we’d like to see it for ourselves. Cordoba takes only 1 hour by car and only approximately 45 mins by train from Seville where we were based at, during this Andalucia trip.
What is Cordoba known for? Cordoba was once the capital of Andalusia region. It was also the most civilized city in the Europe between the 8th to 11th century under Islamic ruling. During those years, Cordoba was a multicultural city with Muslims, Jews and Christians living together in harmony at all level of society.
Cordoba was known as an intellectual centre producing great scholars and philosophers from its top university besides having the largest library in the world during its golden years. Cordoba was as mentioned by S.P. Scott in his book – History of the Moorish Empire, ‘the school of polite manners, the home of science and arts; to be regarded with awe by every Moslem, with affectionate veneration by every scholar, and with mingled feelings of wonder and apprehension by the turbulent barbarians of Western Europe.’
The decline of the Muslim empire ended with the re-conquest of the Christians in the year of 1236.
Best time to Visit? The month of May seems to be the best time to visit Cordoba as several festivals are normally held annually at this time of year. Festivals will actually start with the “Battle of the Flowers” on the last Sunday of April. Gypsy ladies will be dressed in their traditional wears and singing their way along the Avenida de la Victoria.
The Crosses of May is celebrated by the local Christians during St Cross Day on the 3rd of May and will last for 4 days. Crosses is decorated with beautiful flowers during this celebration.
The Festival of Patios will then start from early to middle of May for 10 days (normally on the second and third week of May), where the people of Cordoba will decorate their balconies and courtyards with colorful flowers to compete for the most beautiful patio contest. Approximately 40-50 balconies will normally take part in the competition and most of the private balconies will be opened to public. If you wish to visit around this time, make sure to check the tourist information.The festive season in Cordoba will later continue with the Cordoba Spring Fair which normally be held on the last week of May. Getting around and about If you’re from the train station, hop on bus number 3 and 13 to go to Cordoba city centre.
A good alternative is always by getting on the Hop On Hop Off red bus. It may cost you a bit more but you may be able to cover the whole city tour in a shorter time. This would be a favourable option for us.
However, as we drove ourselves this trip around, we had to look around for a parking area. Luckily we found one near Avenida Fray Albino on south bank of the river between the Roman Bridge and the San Rafael Bridge. From there we walked across the Roman Bridge to the Mezquita-Cathedrale.
The Mezquita-Cathedrale is quite central and only a walking distance to its nearby attractions.
There is a lot to learn and digest about Cordoba and its history and a daytrip does not do justice to it. If you are interested to get an extensive understanding within a limited time you’re here, you may contact Mr Belal Mohd Said at +34632395550 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He provides tour and talk by the Muslim native and he also an expert of the history of Cordoba and Andalusia generally. A special tour costs €20/person/hour and you may decide if you don’t want continue it the next hour. An intensive tour would cost €200 for a group of people for a compressed duration of 3 hours. And €300 for an exclusive and private tour for family or a group of people up to 7 members for the whole day. The tour fee is inclusive of the transportation to any historical spots away from the city centre.
We were very much interested to join this tour but we do not have the budget for this extra cost. Probably we will next time.
Halal Eating & Dining There are plenty of halal restaurants near the Mezquita. Most of them are located at the back of the narrow streets. It was quite easy for us as Tuty wears hijab and the Halal restaurant promoters along the main road came to approach us straightaway introducing their menu selections and the direction to their restaurant. We decided to have lunch at Laor Kebab, serving Indian-Pakistani & Turkish cuisines at Calle de las Alfayatas, 6. The kebab, durum, burgers and briyani prices here are ranging from €3.50 to €6.50. We had a generous portion of briyani and durum that day.
If you have bigger budgets for the meals, I would recommend a fine dining restaurant – El Patio Andaluz at Calle Velazquez Bosco 4. They serve Halal Spanish cuisine cooked in a separate kitchen. The ambience looks nice but unfortunately we were leaving back to Seville in the afternoon. Otherwise El Patio Andaluz would be our dinner place selection. There are many other Halal restaurants along the alleys and streets. Just walk around and you’ll find them easily.
What’s in Cordoba?
- Cordoba Mezquita-Cathedrale – This building was once the Great Mosque of Cordoba but it was later converted to be a Cathedral after the Christian re-conquest. The Islamic art and architecture of the building is still been preserved while the Renaissance style took place. The mosque was expanded several times to accommodate the growing of Muslim populations in Cordoba during the Islamic Caliphate ruling. The Mihrab of the Mezquita-Cathedrale was my favourite spot. I find serenity just by standing up facing towards the Mihrab, sailing my mind on the beautiful golden carvings of Arabic letters, mesmerizing artisan artwork of plants, water and geometric designs living up the interior of the building with excellent the manipulation of colors, light and shades. It was said, in 16 century when the middle area of the mosque was renovated into a Cathedral area, King Carlos V was quoted as saying ‘you have destroyed something unique, to build something commonplace’. The Renaissance art and architecture does however gave a luxurious impression in its own way. It would be helpful to rent an audioguide for more detailed information of each corners of the building. Click here for the ticketing details and visiting information. You may get a free visit if you come individually in the morning around 8.30-9.30am on Monday-Saturday before the ticketing booth starts operating. We arrived after 10.00 am and bought the tickets from the counter for €8.00. I don’t foresee a need to buy the ticket online or in advance for a visit here
- La Juderia –We enjoyed strolling along the now touristy Jewish Quarter. To the northwest of the Mezquita-Cathedrale along the city wall, its medieval streets have a distinctively Moorish flair to them, reminiscent of the Jews’ prosperity under the Caliphate of Cordoba. There are many little squares and bars, narrow whitewashed streets and patios with flowers, colorful mosaic tiles fountains and lovely sights. The buildings are preserved and it was almost like visiting the past. In the heart of La Juderia you may find one of the oldest and best preserved medieval synagogues in Spain. After a stroll, I’d recommend you to find a coffee shop, sit down and just enjoy people watching while sipping your coffee.
- Patios – If you visited Cordoba in other months than May, you may still get the opportunity to see the beautiful flowery patios although they are not as many as in May. Los Patios del Alcazar Viejo has 6 patios that are open to the public most of the year for an entry fee of €5.00 (hours vary but are usually 11-2 and 5-7). The patios are centered on the Calle San Basilio about 15 minute walk from the Mezquita-Cathedrale. Purchase your ticket at Calle San Basilio 22 and then simply walk to each address on their map, knock on the door, and you will be allowed to enter the patio. Each address is within a few blocks of the ticket office and has a ceramic plaque identifying it as a “Los Patios del Alcazar Viejo” member.
- Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos – This beautiful park is in a fantastic location overlooking the River Guadalquivir. It may be best to spend time here for an evening stroll and stay there for the sunset. It cost €4.50 and you can buy admission tickets in advance online but make sure to show up around the time stated in the ticket or else it will be forfeited. Enjoy the breathtaking view of Cordoba’s skyline from one of the towers, where you can get fantastic photos of the Roman bridge, Calahorra tower and Mezquita-Cathedrale’s bell tower.
- Medina Az-Zahra – Located just 7km to the west of Cordoba city centre. Rumor has it that Caliph Abdul Rahman III named it after his favourite wife, Az-Zahra. Medina Az-Zahra was built as a new capital and as a political statement of his power and wealth. Therefore you my expect an excellent engineering and architecture principles were applied for the construction of this city which lay on the slope of Sierra Morena Mountain. You can drive to the archeological site of Medina Az-Zahara or you click here () if you need to take a bus for a visit.