The small, walkable city of Córdoba is a charming day-trip option for travelers in or near Spain’s Andalusia region. Since it’s often overlooked in favor of more bustling southern cities like Seville, Granada, and Málaga, Córdoba remains something of a hidden gem -- but it’s home to more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other city on Earth!
From exploring excellent examples of Moorish architecture to walking across an ancient river bridge, here are the best ways to spend a day in Córdoba, the pearl of Moorish Spain.
See The Famous Mezquita
Sometimes called the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba or the Great Mosque of Córdoba, this well-preserved building has a fascinating history. Due to the fighting between the Muslim Moors and the Spanish Catholics, the site switched back and forth between mosque and cathedral for hundreds of years.
Today, visitors can tour the stunning structure, considered one of the greatest examples of preserved Moorish architecture on Earth. There are a few options available, including a bell tower tour for 2 euros, a night tour for 18 euros, and a regular day tour for 10 euros. Catholics may also attend Mass, which is offered Monday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and Sundays at noon and 1:30 p.m.
When you tour the UNESCO-designated site, be sure to note its most famous feature, the prayer hall with beautiful columns of natural stone in a noteworthy red-and-white striped pattern.
Walk Across The Roman Bridge
Originally constructed in the first century B.C., Córdoba’s Roman Bridge spans the Guadalquivir River that winds through the city. Due to numerous restorations over the centuries, only a couple of the original arches are still intact. Be sure to walk across the bridge and enjoy the Islamic Calahorra Tower at the end.
Spend Time In The Historic Center
Due to its historic significance and well-preserved architecture, the center of Córdoba has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s the largest site of its kind in all of Europe and showcases the influence of the Romans, Jews, Arabs, and Christians on the city. You can explore the Jewish Quarter, the aforementioned Roman Bridge, the well-known Mezquita, and so much more in the historic center.
Be sure to set aside time to wander some of the area’s palaces and winding streets. You’ll be entranced by the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, one of the palaces of the famed rulers Ferdinand and Isabella. This fortress features pristine gardens and courtyards as well as stunning architectural elements.
Visit The Museums
Córdoba is also home to a number of museums. One of the most interesting is the Museo Taurino, or bullfighting museum, which explores this controversial yet key aspect of Andalusian tradition. You’ll learn about Manolete, considered one of the all-time greats, who was a bullfighter born and raised in Córdoba.
Córdoba’s Museum of Fine Arts is housed within a former hospital. It features artwork by Córdoban artists throughout the centuries. The museum is free to visit and provides a rare air-conditioned space for summer tourists.
Another Andalusian pursuit, flamenco dancing, is celebrated in Córdoba’s Centro de Flamenco Fosforito. This institution explores the history of flamenco with a special focus on the famous Córdoba-born Fosforito, for whom the museum is named.
Those unafraid to revisit the darker parts of history can head to Córdoba’s Torture Museum, conveniently located within the historic center in the Jewish Quarter. Formerly known as the Galería de la Tortura, it’s now called the Museum of the Inquisition. The museum displays many of the menacing devices used during the infamous Spanish Inquisition; it also provides an overview of the corrupt laws of the time. But be forewarned: This stop is not for the faint of heart.
Finally, the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba should not be missed. With display descriptions in both Spanish and English, this museum is free for those from the European Union and less than 2 euros for everyone else. You’ll see a large coin collection, Roman ruins, religious artifacts, and historic items from pre-Roman times to the modern era.
Experience An Authentic Hammam
A hammam, or Moorish bath, offers a more laid-back way to enjoy Córdoba and its history. Options include a traditional water journey, massage, and other inventive rituals tailored to each visitor. After a day spent walking through the historic center, you can relax and enjoy this unique cultural experience.
If You Have Extra Time
If you have extra time in the Córdoba area, there are a number of other sites to see and explore. Just 5 miles west of the city center lies the Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, which was the seat of the Moorish ruler of the area. Built in the 10th century, the Medina Azahara is another of Córdoba’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
For a bit of pampering in the historic center, consider a trip to the upscale Bodyna spa at the Hospes Palacio del Bailío. Treatments like massages, facials, and pedicures will add an indulgent touch to any Córdoba trip. Conveniently location in the city center, this boutique five-star property would make an excellent base for exploration. There are even Roman ruins in the basement and a courtyard pool flanked by fragrant citrus trees.
If you’re traveling with the family and want a break from the heat of the mountains, consider spending some time at the province’s only water park, Aquasierra. This playful diversion is about a 15-minute drive east of Córdoba and contains two large pools, a number of waterslides, and on-site dining.
Another great option for those with more time to spend in the Córdoba area is the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park. About an hour from the city, this natural haven offers outdoor activities like hiking and horseback riding.
It’s easy to see that Córdoba has tons to offer travelers. With its rich history, its UNESCO World Heritage sites, and its museums, this charming Andalusian city deserves at least a day for exploration.
Planning a trip to Spain? Check out our other articles on this great destination!