Once the foremost city of the Western World, Córdoba was the greatest metropolis west of Constantinople and the seat of Europe’s first university. Today’s travelers love strolling the cobblestone streets, peeking through gates for glimpses of the many colorful trees, gardens and courtyards dripping with exotic foliage, blooms, and beautiful tiled fountains. Toma and Coe were my guides to this Andalusian jewel, introducing me to its dazzling historical treasures.
Half the size of Seville and smaller than Granada, the city on the river has a more intimate feel than its perhaps more dramatic neighbors. Most of the sights are within walking distance of each other, giving tourists the opportunity to explore the tempting tapas bars and Córdoba’s blossoming reputation as Spain’s gastronomic capital.
The Guadalquivir, Andalucía’s major river, meanders below and the riverfront streets are home to a growing array of lively bars and restaurants making the most of the view.
Córdoba was the center of medieval Europe and its beating heart was the mesmerizing and multi-arched Mezquita. It is also known as the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Undoubtedly one of the world’s foremost Islamic buildings, it remains a symbol of the worldly and sophisticated Islamic culture that flourished here more than a millennium ago when Córdoba was the capital of Islamic Spain, and Western Europe’s largest and most cultured city. A visit to Córdoba isn’t complete without visiting the Mezquita so definitely take the time to do so!
Picturesque Neighborhoods – Old Jewish Quarter & Calleja de las Flores
The narrow streets of the old Jewish and Muslim quarters stretch out from the great mosque: some clogged with tourist traps; others delightfully peaceful. Calleja de las Flores, quite possibly the most stunning alley you’ll ever see, turns the dark, dank concept of narrow, urban thoroughfares inside out. Take time to enjoy the winding, shade-kissed cobblestones on your quest to truly get lost. The view from the end of this street is unforgettable and you’ll struggle to find a prettier corner of the planet. The life of the modern city focuses around Plaza de las Tendillas, a little further north, where a more lively and boisterous vibe dances in the midst of some excellent bars and restaurants. A short walk from here you can see the city’s Roman past at the ruined Roman temple.
At the center of the Jewish quarter is the Synagogue on Calle de los Judios. One of only three Spanish originals, this is the only one in Andalucía! Dating from 1315, it was converted to a church in the 16th century later becoming home of the Guild of Shoemakers until rediscovery in the 19th Century. The interior includes a gallery and plaster work bearing inscriptions from the Hebrew psalms and others with plant motifs. Its beautifully restored main wall has a semi-circular arch where a chest with the Torah Scrolls used to be kept. It’s incredibly detailed and beautiful, I absolutely loved admiring the ancient craftsmanship.
Featuring delightful gardens and a Moorish bathhouse, the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos was where Christopher Columbus pitched his plan to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to look for a Western route to the Indies. A portico stands out among the Gothic jewels in Córdoba, and inside, in the Romero de Torres hall, you can admire some remarkable 16th century frescoes. The Alcazar has always been an important place in Córdoba, located right next to the Guadalquivir River. It was once the residence of Roman governors and Moorish caliphs, and then it became the home of the Spanish kings from 1328 until being donated to the church to become the center for the dreaded Inquisition. In following centuries, the castle was used as a civil and later a military prison. Nowadays, the building is a Historical Monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a beautiful place for tourists to visit in Córdoba!
I really loved my time in Córdoba, and I’ll always remember it as a city of ancient cobblestone, where the scent of orange blossom mingles with the sounds of Spanish guitars.