Anne Pinder has submitted this fabulous post for us today – thank you, Anne.
Roman, Muslim, Jewish and Christian, fabulous Córdoba has lots to see and lots of personality, but somehow this city is often overlooked in favor of the showier Sevilla or Granada.
If you haven’t visited Córdoba, put it on your list. Better yet, start planning your trip for the near future. Here are some tips to get you started.
Córdoba’s Must-See Monuments:
Mosque-Cathedral. The oldest part is from the late 8th century; enlarged three times, the current cathedral was added in the 16th century. Audio guide is ok, take an ID (keep the receipt handy to pick up ID after visit!). You can climb the tower (built around the original minaret), but space is limited so you might have to wait.
Baños del Alcázar Califal / Baths from the original Alcázar fortress. 10th – 11th century. Very interesting, model / map explaining the importance of baths in Muslim culture, Córdoba’s center city in Muslim times, and how these baths fit into overall urban layout.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos / Fortress of the Christian Kings. Second fortress, 13th century. While this is a must-see, I was a little disappointed, lots of site is closed off and the signage inside is minimal (get a pamphlet to learn more, 3 euros). What’s good: Very nice view from the one tower you can climb, pretty courtyard with foundations of previous building, baths (different from ones above), Roman mosaics in the old chapel, fabulous gardens.
Wandering: a true must-do in Córdoba! The part around the mosque-cathedral is always very crowded, try to get a bit farther away: streets Judios, Almanzor and Romero and their side streets are all nice. Don’t worry about getting lost; signage is pretty good and any local can point you back to the mosque-cathedral.
Got more time? See these:
Synagogue. Not very big but good to see as compare/contrast with Toledo and as part of the Three Cultures theme.
Caballerizas Reales / Royal Stables. 16th century. There isn’t a lot to see (empty stalls, some old buggies) and opening hours are short but I liked this – it’s probably a must-see for anyone horsey. Horse show several times a week, get more info or buy tickets at http://www.caballerizasreales.com/index.php
Archaeological Museum. Maybe too panel-intensive for young kids, but lots of info and well laid out. Panels in English, too. Building is on top of a Roman theater, don’t miss the excavations in the basement.
Other sights: various typical houses with permanent exhibits, pretty patios (peek in!), Roman bridge, ruins of Roman temple, old city walls and city gates.
Getting there: Córdoba is on high-speed AVE train route to Sevilla or Málaga, less than two hours from Madrid. To get the best ticket price buy early, or if traveling with family / friends consider getting the “tarifa-mesa” (table rate), a considerable savings when buying four tickets facing each other over a small table.
How long to stay: Three days to see just about everything in a relaxed way, two days missing some things or hurrying. If terribly pressed for time, Córdoba could be one-day trip from Madrid by high-speed train, or a stop-off on the way to Sevilla (even if travelling by train), but that would only allow the top sights, and almost no time for wandering and soaking up the atmosphere.
Tip: Luggage lockers (consigna) in the bus station, just across the street from the train station. Dump your bags during the day to explore unencumbered before afternoon or evening departure.
More information: Córdoba city website is very good, helps you plan almost everything before you go: http://english.turismodecordoba.org/index2.cfm . Tourism offices in the city: at train station and on side street between mosque and Roman bridge.