While Spain has always been known as a Christian country, it has not always been so. There was a time in history when the Arabs held a considerable portion of the country. It was a time that we ought to learn from — when Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived together side by side, without conflict or animosity.
Such was a place was Cordoba, Spain. Cordoba is the capital of its namesake province, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. It was more than two hours away from Ronda, our previous stop, and yet it contained just as much history.
Looking Back in Cordoba
Like Ronda, Cordoba was also settled by prehistoric men, with settlements tracing back to the Neanderthal Man. It was also settled by the Carthaginians, before being governed by Romans.
Back in the 8th century, Cordoba was among the places conquered by the Muslim armies. It became the capital of the Islamic Emirate. The city returned to Christian rule in the early 1200s, and from then on went to become the city it is today with more than 330,000 inhabitants.
This left Cordoba with a rich past, reflected in the amazing jewels of Islamic architecture that it contains. It’s like being transported to the time of Aladdin and his magic carpet — only, the sand-brown buildings and exquisite designs are all too real.
A Day In Cordoba
- Mezquita. If there is one thing you should see first in Cordoba, it’s the Mezquita, open from 10AM to 6PM daily. The place is an impeccable hybrid of Mosque and Cathedral, with an amazing interior design. There was a time when Muslims and Christians used to worship together in the same spot — sadly, that time is long gone.
The Mezquita was once known as the Great Mosque of Al-Andalus. It had its origins as a Catholic church, until Moorish leaders converted it in the late 700s. In the Reconquista of 1236, it was converted back into the Catholic faith, and was elevated to Cathedral with the construction of a massive nave in the middle of an already huge structure.
The result of this history is the perfect mix between Gothic, Islamic, and Roman architectures. There is so much to see that you would feel your neck starting to strain after some time! This is the main reason tourists come to Cordoba.
Best time to go to to the Mezquita is during the mornings, before crowds start to gather. In our case, we went there in the afternoon, around 3:30. It was a Sunday, and the Cathedral is open until 11:30 in the morning, resuming at 3:30. The place was so full by then, with an overwhelming number of people. We had difficulty appreciating the beauty because the crowd was so noisy! We decided to wait until the crowds thinned, and we were able to appreciate the place more.
And then there’s more outside the Mezquita. The narrow streets surrounding it have a plethora of nice shops and cute restaurants. Another sight to behold are the Balcones — balconies and patios adorned with a rich array of flowers and greeneries. Just think of all the work needed to maintain such a beautiful display! Take a stroll around the cute streets and take in both the sights and the delectable local food. There’s no better accompaniment to strolling than eating! Just remember it can get a little busy around this area.
- Casa Andalusi. This 12th century house contains a collection of period furniture from the medieval Moorish and Andalusian times. The dreamy atmosphere surrounding the house made it feel like a totally different era altogether.
- Puente Romano. Literally meaning “Roman bridge”, this was built by the Romans to cross the Guadalquivir river. Only two of its arches remain original, survivors of the many renovations throughout history. For Game of Thrones fans, it’s a must-see as Cordoba was used as a stand-in for the Dornish city of Volantis, and the bridge played a prominent role in the shots.
- Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. This casa near the Mezquita boasts of a distinctly Moorish design and a wonderfully maintained garden. Statues, fountains, and orange trees abound, complementing the beautiful interior.
It is worth a mention that the streets of Cordoba are really narrow — park a car on one and it’s most likely going to touch both sidewalks. It’s also very easy to get lost so plan your trip really well! Even with Google Maps, it’s very easy to make a wrong turn like we did. I guess a part of the road was blocked so we didn’t notice it, and we wound up on a road just around two meters wide. We even folded the side mirrors so we don’t hit anything! It’s a good thing a local girl helped us find our way back.
During our stay, we ended up parking in the Hotel Macià Alfaros. It wasn’t cheap — 19 Euros for a day, averaging about 2 Euros per hour. We ended up shelling out 13 Euros. Also, note that the Spanish people observe the siesta custom quite strictly. We entered the patio to eat at around 4 or 5 PM, and we were told only drinks were available since it was not yet dinnertime. A far cry from back home where we are used to be served food whenever we want!
During your trip, double-check the opening and closing hours for each place you want to visit. Some of them close quite early on certain days. As for us, we just wanted to chill out so most of our time was spent shopping in the streets. It’s a great way to take in this cute town, too!
During our stay, we also ate in the El Rincón Del Gallo. We tried the Rabo De Toro Croquetas, which is one of the best we’ve had to date! The mackerel with tomato sauce and boquerones were also perfect — especially when paired with cerveza and the funny stories of the staff! It was a great way to start off any tour. As proof, we sat there for an hour and a half, just eating and drinking as we wait for the Mezquita to open again!
Cordoba really is an amazing place, another city marching on with time without forgetting its history. It was like another dimension, romantic and exciting at the same time. I recommend you spend a day here, like we did, if for nothing but the memories the place will inspire in you!