Recently I had the chance to travel to Andalusia in the south of Spain, to the cities of Granada, Málaga, Seville (or Sevilla, as the Spaniards say) and Córdoba. The last of these cities, Córdoba, is the topic of today’s post and what a fine city it is to discuss.
Like many of the cities in this region of Spain, Córdoba has fallen under the rule of different groups of people throughout its history – by the Romans, later the Islamic Moors and eventually the Spanish under Christian rule. The influence of the three cultures is evident throughout the city, and can be felt primarily in the architecture and atmosphere of the city. It also boasts the second largest old town in Europe, as declared by UNESCO.
I was only able to spend four of five hours here as it was a pit stop on the way home from Seville to Valencia, but every minute spent here was well worth it. Arriving in Córdoba, we were greeted by a view of the city from across the Guadalquivir River. A short stroll across the historic Roman bridge brought me to the Puerta de Puente (or ‘Bridge Gate’). Just through the gate and to the right is the tourist centre, so I was able to grab a couple of city maps while here.
The next hour or two was spent strolling around the streets of the old town. It had that typical feel that is found in the heart of all old European cities – part magic, part history, an part awe (being from Australia, this is my usual reaction to anything European!). It’s worth a stroll around to explore these narrow streets and alleys because many surprises are hidden here, tuck away in little nooks and crannies and in the terraces and plazas.
Even in December, there were plenty of tourists here all trying to have a piece of the history for themselves, so I can only imagine how hectic and crowded it would be in peak season. Then again, Córdoba is also one of the hottest cities in Spain during the city so probably best to avoid it (not to mention the fact that they tend to show it as a flame, rather than a sun, on the TV weather map during the summer months!!!).
Lunch was tortilla (Spanish omelette) from Bar Santos, where the tortilla is literally the same height as a well baked cake. It was busy. So busy in fact that we were waiting in the queue, which ran out the door and along the street, for more than 30 minutes. Luckily the tortilla itself was so good that it was worth the wait. Once I was actually inside the bar ready to place my order, I couldn’t move, let alone take a picture, so you’ll just have to go and check it out for yourself (or google it…that works too).
After lunch, time was ticking away pretty quickly and I only had an hour or so before I had to be back on the bus. I was debating whether to go into the Mezquita de Córdoba (Mosque of Córdoba), and since I had seen so many photos of it in the past, I knew that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see it for myself.
Upon entering I knew I had made the right decision. It was SO WORTH IT. If there is only one thing you do in Córdoba, it has to be the mosque. The Arab architecture inside is absolutely incredible and the red brick arches that form the ceiling of the whole area are something special. I had never seen anything like it in my life, and photos don’t really do it justice (though I hope mine come close!).
Though, just to make sure you haven’t forgotten that the mosque is now in fact a Catholic cathedral, there is plenty of classical European-inspired religious art scattered throughout and flanking many of the walls inside the building.
Within the walls of the mosque, you’ll also find the courtyard. At this time of year, the orange trees are bursting with fruit and make for a really interesting, and typically Spanish, sight against the Arab fountains and irrigation channels crisscrossing throughout the courtyard. The courtyard is also free to enter since the ticket office for the cathedral is located in here.
Fortunately the sun was shining brilliantly the day I went, which made a nice change from the rain in Malaga and Granada the previous two days, and really helped bring out the magic of the city. Though I’m sure even with rain, Córdoba would be equally charming; besides you’re not going to get went inside the mosque, which if you ask me, is without a doubt the main reason to come here!
If Andalusia is on your travel itinerary, and to be honest no trip to Spain is really complete without it, make sure you find a few hours to visit Córdoba. Even if the mosque is the only thing you get to see (because you waited an hour in the queue for a piece of tortilla…) you will remember it for a long time to come.