The Andalusian city of Córdoba is intensely impressive and not only due to its deep Roman and Islamic roots. BRIGHT investigates its Medieval mosques, Byzantine beauty, Catholic creations, and Renaissance relics, to provide you with a list of attractions that must not be missed on your visit to Córdoba.
Article by Victoria Wood
If you are planning a day trip to Córdoba from the Marbella area, the journey will take approximately two hours by car. Our advice – leave early as you’ll struggle to fit in everything in one day. If you opt to stay the night, there’s no shortage of luxury or boutique hotels in the city centre.
Córdoba’s colourful history offers breathtaking combinations of Islamic, Roman, and Spanish architecture as well as being steeped in religious and cultural histories through Muslim, Christian and Jewish occupation simultaneously. Here are the top destinations in the city that simply must be seen…
Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
The top of the sightseeing spots in the city goes to the awe-inspiring Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, la mezquita. This is not only one of the most poignant monuments of the Muslim world, but an architectural spectacle in its own right gaining global recognition. A World Heritage Site since 1984, the area where the Mosque-Cathedral is built has been used for worship (for varying religions) since ancient times, some of the materials from the Visigothic era’s basic, original mosque can still be viewed. Here you will be taken aback by the gradual inclusion of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style within the Christian sectors as well as the courtyard ‘sahn’, the tower and prayer hall ‘haram’. The red and white arches of the inner area are another outstanding feature within a spectacle of a construction. The mosque-cathedral is made up of five separate areas, each corresponding to the different extensions that occurred over the many years of its creation. All of them are individually incredible creations, and as a whole combine to exist as one of the most jaw-dropping religious developments in the world.
Alcázar of Córdoba
Take a tour of this idyllic Spanish castle and experience the many different attractions within the grounds: the lion tower, the tower of the inquisition, the keep, the royal baths, the tower of the dove (good luck finding this one!), the mosaics hall, the Moorish patio and baths, and the impressive 55,000 square metres of perfectly manicured gardens. The medieval Alcázar, or Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, is located in the historic old town centre right by the Guadalquivir River and close to the Grand Mosque. The fortress used to serve as a residence for Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Once a Muslim Alcázar, the building was reformed in the Baroque era yet still adopts typical Moorish designs, especially in the gardens.
Roman bridge of Córdoba
Originally dating back to the 1st century BC, the Roman bridge was built to cross the Guadalquivir river. The Calahorra Tower was built at the southern end, and the Puerta del Puente at the northern end, during the Middle Ages, though the latter is now a reconstruction. The arches are a testament to Roman engineering though since multiple restorations and expansions only the 14th and 15th arches are original. Beautifully lit at night, the bridge is well worth walking over or viewing from the South Bank.
Torre de la Calahorra
While in the vicinity of the bridge, it is worth visiting the Torre de la Calahorra. The tower at the southern end of the bridge was originally built by the moorish ‘Almohads’ as a fortified gate between two towers to defend the city. The tower was used as a prison during the 18th century and then later as a school for girls. Within the tower you can visit the Museo Vivo de Al-Andaluz, depicting life in the city from the 10th century during three cultures of Christianity, Muslim, and Judaism living side by side.
Roman temple of Córdoba
Once one of the grandest Roman temples in the empire, this temple was built over a period of forty years, entirely of marble – under the instruction of Emperor Claudius. These Roman remains were not discovered until the 1950s when the City Hall was under expansion. Archeological excavation revealed this hexastyle temple of an impressive 32 metres long and 16 metres wide.
The San Pedro Basilica, which lends its name to the surrounding barrio, is located within a beautiful plaza filled with busy restaurants and bars. A great spot for some atmospheric evening entertainment, here you will find Plaza de la Corredera which often hosts festivities and live flamenco. This is one of the best areas to experience traditional local food and drink, so head to San Pedro for some tapas-hopping and fun for the evening.
Palacio de la Merced
An architectural gem of an ornate baroque building comes in the form of the Palacio de la Merced. Originally a monastery, the palace now houses the Diputación of Cordoba. It is a work of art: having been built in the 18th century, you’ll notice coloured marble domes, a central cloister and porch, and a stunning fountain as well as there often being national and international exhibitions on site. Excavations here have uncovered ancient Roman ashlars, a baptistery, and a crypt. Be sure to take a walk through the impeccable gardens.
This day-trip guide to the most popular sights in Córdoba will most likely unearth many other impressive corners of the city that will definitely make you want to spend more time strolling through the medieval streets and trying the local fare.