Spain Guide


Córdoba Tourist Attractions Things to Do

Córdoba is a perfect destination for lovers of art, history and culture. American visitors, unaccustomed to seeing a monument more than 200 years old in their own country, find themselves completely overwhelmed by this living museum of ancient streets, palaces, Roman remains and the extraordinary Moorish mosque built 13 centuries ago.

The Mezquita (Spanish for mosque) must be your first stopping point. Many describe it as one of the great wonders of the world; it's the world's third biggest mosque and one of the most extraordinary buildings in the whole of Spain. It was constructed in the 8th century after the Moors invaded Spain and made Córdoba the dazzling capital of the western Islamic world. The mosque was the crowning glory of Muslim architectural achievement a huge and fantastic construction with its distinctive red and white striped arches and sacred mihrab (a domed shrine of Byzantine mosaics that once housed the Koran). By the time of its completion at the end of the 10th century it contained no less than 850 columns and 19 naves.

Somewhat bizarrely, the mosque has had a cathedral inside it since the 16th century with the result that the mihrab, Arab murals and Moorish architecture rub shoulders with Baroque style paintings of the Virgin Mary and Renaissance chapels! Fortunately the Christians appreciated the architectural beauty of the mosque and decided to "christianise" it rather than raze it to the ground after the reconquest in the 13th century. The Mezquita's Patio de los Naranjos (Patio of the Orange Trees) is the size of two Olympic swimming pools and contains olive, lemon and orange trees along with huge date palms with trunks five feet wide.


The Alcazar of the Christian Kings is another impressive building dating back to 1327. The fortress was commissioned by King Alfonso XI and it was later used as the base from which King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella planned the recapture of Granada (the Moors' final stronghold). Between 1492 and 1821 it served as the local headquarters of the brutal Spanish Inquisition which set about purging the country of Jews and heretics in the most bloodthirsty manner.

The fortress houses a Roman sarcophagus, some impressive Roman mosaics and ancient Moorish baths. There are beautiful walled gardens with cobbled paths winding between the colourful flowerbeds, water courses, ponds and fountains.

Be sure to take a stroll through the charming narrow streets of the Juderia (Jewish Quarter) which is one of the city's major attractions. The area is a lovely labyrinth of ancient streets and open air courtyards; the famous patios of Córdoba are surrounded by buildings with balconies and window boxes overflowing with flowers and greenery. The Juderia is also home to one of the last remaining synagogues in Spain, built in 1350 before the dire days of the Inquisition.

The city also has several fascinating museums including the 14th century Palacio de Viana which has 12 inner courtyards and rich collections of ceramics, tapestries, mosaics, paintings and firearms. The Bullfighting Museum, housed in a 16th century building in the Jewish Quarter, is packed with memorabilia of Spain's greatest matadors; there are elaborate sequinned costumes, trophies, photographs.even stuffed bulls' heads!

The Fine Arts Museum (Museo de Bellas Artes) in Plaza del Potro has many medieval Andalucian paintings along with important works by 19th and 20th century masters including Goya, Sorolla, Murillo and Zurbaran.

The city's archaeological museum, housed in a 16th century palace, is one of the most important in Spain. There are relics from prehistoric times, collections of Iberian weapons and ceramics, Roman sculptures, bronzes and mosaics and an outstanding exhibition of Arab art spanning the entire Muslim occupation of Spain.

In Calle Claudio Marcelo, next to the town hall, you can see the newly excavated remains of an important Roman temple.