Most of the sites listed are within the ancient city, with perhaps the exception of the Medina Azahara, and are within easy walking distance. In addition to the specific attractions, I recommend you walk through the little streets of the Jewish Quarter, to the west and north of the Great Mosque.
The Cordoba’s mosque
The most famous attraction in Córdoba is its incomparable mosque, with its forest of 1,300 columns crowned by Islamic arches made of white and red bricks that are the symbol of Córdoba. It is necessary to spend at least a couple of hours to appreciate the details. The mosque was built in 786 by Emir Abd Al-Rahman I and expanded several times until, after the Christian Reconquest of Córdoba in 1236, it was immediately converted into a church and, four centuries later, into a cathedral, a status that it currently retains under the official name of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. It is possible to climb the bell tower (I recommend it!) to have an excellent view of the surroundings and the neighboring Courtyard of the Orange trees.
The Courtyards of Cordoba
Something to see in Córdoba yes or yes are its patios, as aesthetic as functional, offering an essential shelter for the dry summers of this part of the peninsula. Traditionally decorated with colorful flowers in hanging pots and, in some cases, with fountains, whose origin goes back to the status given in Moorish culture to refreshing environments with water fountains,
Many houses have their patio doors open (if so, you can go inside to snoop), but the best time of year to visit them is by far the second week of May, during the Festival of the Patios. At that time, local families open the doors of their patios to visitors from all over the world and Sevillanas are danced in the streets.
Perhaps the most famous patio, and one that you should not miss, is the Courtyard of the Orange trees (from where you can take good photos of the mosque), which is accessed from a door around the corner of the mosque, free of charge. Inside, there are symmetrical rows of immemorial orange trees, like a public park.
The roman bridge
The views of the Roman Bridge at sunset are great, but more important are its history. With its 16 stone arches, it crosses the Guadalquivir River, which today is shallow but once linked the Roman town with the Atlantic. It was part of the Via Augusta from Rome to Cadiz, and for twenty centuries, it was the only bridge in the city. Since its construction in the 1st century BC, it has been rebuilt several times while faithfully preserving its style. Today, it is a pedestrian bridge. On one side, it has a triumphal arch that opens a path across the river to the Torre Calahorra, described below.
A good photo is from the south bank of the river, encompassing the 16 arches of the bridge with the background of the Great Mosque. If you are a serious fan, you may know that the bridge appears in the fifth season of Game of Thrones.
The Calahorra Tower
The fortified gate located at one end of the bridge is the Calahorra Tower, one of the gates of the medieval citadel, built in the 12th century, and which today houses the Al-Andalus Museum, which is the ideal place to learn about the history of the coexistence of cultures in the city.
Today the tower looks just as Henry II of Castile left it in the 14th century. He reinforced it just in time because in 1369 the city was besieged by his own brother, Peter the Cruel, who was unable to overcome the obstacle.
The Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs
Its name is already a syncretism, like the whole history of Córdoba, since alcazar (al-Qasr) is the Arabic word for fortification. Built in the 8th century as the residence of the caliph on the site of a pre-existing Visigothic fortress, over the centuries it became the residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, as well as the headquarters of the Inquisition.
Although the fortress contains Roman artifacts (notably a sarcophagus and a mosaic) and two towers, the main reason to visit the Alcazar is its fountains and gardens, which are 55,000 square meters in size.
The Jewish quarter
To the north and west of the Mezquita is the Judería sector, a neighborhood that was consolidated in the late middle Ages and is one of the few remnants of the leading Jewish presence in Córdoba during the Caliphate. It is another of the must-sees to see in Córdoba.
Although the Jews were expelled in 1492, the area maintains the urban layout that it had as a ghetto centuries ago. Maimonides, the famous 12th-century physician, rabbi, and philosopher who has a statue, was born here. You’re going Torun into it sooner or later in the maze of little streets.
Today, the area is home to a synagogue that is one of only three from that period left in Spain. It was built in 1315 in the Mudejar style and, after the expulsion; it was a hermitage, a hospital and a nursery school. The size of the synagogue does not reflect the size of that community, since there were constructive restrictions so that no synagogue would outshine the splendor of the surrounding Catholic temples.
The Jewish quarter and the synagogue are two must-sees in Córdoba, and one of the most photogenic areas is the Alley of the Flowers.
There are those who say that Abd-ar-Rahman III’s main motivation for building a new capital of the caliphate to the west of Córdoba was to ignite the envy of the rest of the Islamic rulers of the world. After 25 years of construction, it only served its purpose for 65 years, and was looted by the Berbers, and forgotten until its gradual restoration in 1911. Today it is possible to visit a mosque, government offices, baths, the residences of dignitaries, gardens decorated with ornate marble and various military structures.
The Viana Palace
This sumptuous mansion in the Santa Marina district works as a museum and has 12 patios, one more charming than the other. It has a Renaissance façade, but the complex dates back to the 14th century. The entire property passed from generation to generation until the family donated it to Cajasur Bank in the 1980s. It is possible to tour the mansion and observe the collections of art and antique furniture.
Entrance fee to the palace and courtyards, €8, and €5 for the courtyards only. On Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., you can visit the Palace of Viana for free.
Imagine that you are the director of an archaeological museum and while you are digging to expand the museum you find a Roman theater. This happened in the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba in 1994, and the remains found belong to nothing less than the second largest theater in the Roman Empire. It was built in the first century in the highest part of the city, taking advantage of the slope to build the stands, with capacity for 15,000 spectators. It was severely damaged by an earthquake and, during the Middle Ages, the Palace of the Páez de Castile was built on top of it, which has housed the museum since 1959. From the museum, it is possible to visit the Roman theatre.
As for the museum itself, although it includes all historical periods, the rooms dedicated to the Iberian and Roman periods stand out. What piece can’t you miss? The Iberian Lion of Nueva Carteya , from the 4th century BC, which was discovered by chance while a highway was being built. It is one of the most daring artistic manifestations of the pre-Roman peoples that speak of the afterlife beliefs of the Iberian peoples. Something we know very little about, right?
If with so many Moorish arches and synagogues you couldn’t quite remember which country you were in, Corredera Square reminds you that you are still in Spain. It is a classic Castilian square, created in the 17th century by the architect Antonio Ramos Valdes. Like the vast majority of Spanish parade ground, it is surrounded by arches. Bulls were run here and, furthermore, it was the seat of the market. Today it is an area of cafes; it offers good shade in summer, and sometimes concerts.
If you are traveling with your family and you are wondering what to do in Córdoba with children, a good option may be Aquasierra, the only water park in a region without access to the sea and where the subtropical climate makes the mercury jump 40 degrees in summer. . It has massive slides, a giant pool and an artificial beach. If you are going to spend several days exploring the city, it may be a good idea to mix it up with a day at the “beach”. It will not be the typical attraction to see in Córdoba but it will not deny me that, with so much heat, it tempts even the nerdiest in history.