Bridge, Cordoba, Spain

Córdoba: A Few Highlights

I moved to Granada in September 2011 and I am wholeheartedly ashamed to admit that it took me a whopping six months to visit the neighbouring city of Córdoba. I attribute this to three reasons:

  1. The trip was just too easy to put off, considering it was so close. Very bad excuse, I know.
  2. Granada isn’t a place you want to leave in a hurry, and I won’t deny that I may have got a little bit too caught up in the magic of it all.
  3. With a deep-seated snowboarding addiction like mine, the lure of the even closer Sierra Nevada was often too compelling, so almost all of my long Puente weekends during the winter months were spent here instead.

With spring in full swing, however, I eventually got my act together and booked my seat on that bus. I was going to Cordóba at last! Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a friend to stay with for the weekend, thus, research carried out beforehand had been pretty minimal based on the assumption that there would be a perfect itinerary waiting for me when I arrived (this was naïve and sloppy of me and I learnt my lesson). All I did know was that there was a massive mosque, a bloody great big bridge and immense heat. Still relatively dazed by the sheer magnetism of Granada, I hadn’t really banked on seeing much to write home about.

cordoba Córdoba: A Few Highlights

Me standing in front of La Puerta del puente romano, Córdoba

Well, I did, and I did actually write home about it. Now, I’m jazzing that letter up and writing to you about it, though after reading this smashing, beautifully photo-illustrated post on the city by Liz over at Young Adventuress I hardly feel I’ll be able to say it better, so I’ll try and keep it brief. (328 words and counting…)

La Mezquita

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The gold and red arches inside La Mezquita. Click here for a waay better picture!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Córdoba’s most alluring treasure, or indeed with the Spanish translation of the word, this is that massive mosque I alluded to earlier. We’ve all seen mosques before – there are at least three in every major city back in Britain – but this one’s an architectural cut above the rest.

The history of La Mezquita is a complex one. It began life as a Catholic Christian church around the year 600 but was converted into an Islamic temple of prayer in 784 after the Muslims sieged the city. A number of drastic, mosque-befitting modifications were made over the next 200 years or so before the ancient edifice was finally completed in 987. Years later, in 1236, Cordóba was liberated of Islamic rule by King Ferdinand III following La Reconquista (the reconquest) of the city, paving the way for another era of change. Three Catholic chapels were added, a new nave symbolic of the renaissance erected, and the minaret at the heart of the structure was transformed into a Bell Tower*.

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The Bell Tower that once was the minaret

So, La Mezquita is in fact a Catholic Christian Cathedral, where Muslims are not officially permitted to pray. In 2010, a group of young Austrian Muslims on an organized tour caused a stir by kneeling down to pray inside the tourist-packed Cathedral and then attacking and subsequently hospitalizing two security guards after they were asked to stop.

Anyway, take one look at La Mezquita and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. I said I’d keep it brief, and I’m not doing such a great job of that so far. Let’s move on.

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Ceiling of La Mezquita

The Alcázar Palace and Gardens

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The Alcázar Gardens

These Moorish grounds were built in 1328 by Alfonso XI after the La Reconquista and have also undergone periods of radical change, though at no point has the untold beauty of them ever been affected. When Springtime comes, the contrast in colour is quite extraordinary; plush green trees and blossoming pink flowers combined with the sandstone palace walls and the deep blue sky backdrop is sure to have any photographer salivating behind their lens.

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The palace was once home to Ferdinand, the aforementioned King, and his Queen, Isabella, who has her own effigy sitting pretty atop a marble fountain in the centre of Granada. A lazy walk through this multihued maze is a must on anybody’s itinerary.

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Hookah Bars

In keeping with the Moorish theme, you may or may not want to spend half an hour or so huffing away on an ornate hookah pipe in one of Córdoba’s numerous Hookah Bars (or ‘Shisha Bars’ as we Brits say). Many of these foggy enterprises boast menus longer than a cut-price Chinese takeaway’s, and some of the tea and tobacco available when I visited were odd to say the least; ‘Dragonfly’, as I recall, was the most intriguing. Or perhaps it was ‘Dragonfruit’. Should have written it down. In any case I opted for the safe route, and went with the blueberry tobacco and a cup of vanilla tea. How bold of me.

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Moorish Tea

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Puffing on ma shish pipe

Food

Southern Spain has long been a hub for exquisite traditional eats and Córdoba is no exception. In fact, many will argue that the city has produced a great deal of the region’s finest gastronomy. Churrasco Cordóbes (Grilled Iberian Pork fillet served with green and red Arabic sauces) and Estofado de Rabo de Toro (Bull’s tail stew) are two particularly noteworthy examples. I tried the latter during my visit and loved it. Chewy, but tasty and wholesome. Very wholesome.

rabo de toro Córdoba: A Few Highlights

Rabo de Toro  (Source)

My friend was also kind enough to take me to the alleged birthplace of tortilla, Bar Santos, by the cathedral. I was skeptical to say the least but birthplace or not, this tortilla, after a mere nibble, was on my life the best I’ve ever had- not to mention the largest. I’m no food critic but I’ll throw some lingo out there to give you an idea: enormous, warm, buttery, flocculent yet sturdy…

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The Tortillanic

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Cordóba is also where I first tried Churros and Chocolate- a gastronomical near orgasmic experience that I will never forget, though I believe this sweet-tooth indulging dish can be sampled just about anywhere in Spain.

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Heavenly churros and chocolate

The Zoo

At first I just didn’t believe the pamphlet. “What’s a zoo doing in Cordóba?” I asked my friend. She shrugged. She didn’t know there was one either. It did seem a little out of place , but after two and a half days of exploring nothing but ancient mosques and palaces, the thought of ogling a few swinging orangutans was rather appealing. And I love the zoo anyway! So off we went, and it was bloody great fun. There was a tiger and everything. Polar Bear didn’t look too happy though**.

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Tres monos

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Elefante

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Hipo

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Don’t know this one in Spanish

There is, of course, a whole load of other things to see and do in this unique and gorgeous city, but I did say I would be brief. Fail. Perhaps you’d like to fill in the blanks. What else is worth seeing in Cordóba?

*All info was taken from Wikipedia at the time of publishing

**joking (as in there aren’t any Polar Bears, not that he/she was happy to be there)

Practical Info

La Mezquita

Opening times:

10.00h – 19.00h Monday-Saturday

08.30h – 10.30h and 14.00h -19.00h Sundays and National Holidays

Entrance:

Adults- €8

Children between 10 and 14 years- €4

Children under 10 years- Free

Best to visit as early as possible to beat the queues and get the best photos.

The Alcázar Palace and Gardens

Opening Times:

May and June- 10.00h -14.00h & 17.30-18.30h

July and August- 08.30h -14.30h

September to 14th October- 10.00h – 14.00h & 17.30h -18.30h

15th Oct to 30th April: 10.00h – 14.00h and 16.30-18.30h

Mondays Closed

Entrance:

€1.87
Fridays Free

Córdoba Zoo

Opening Times:

November – February: 10.00h – 18.00h

March, Sept, Oct: 10.00h – 19.00h

April – June: 10.00h – 20.00h

July – Aug: 09.00h – 14.00h

Entrance:

Adults: €4.50

Children between 5 and 15 years: €2.00

Students & Seniors: €2.00

Children under 5 years: Free

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9 thoughts on “Córdoba: A Few Highlights”

  1. Córdoba is definitely one of my favourite cities – there is always something new to see :)

    Did you know that the statues of Ferdinand and Isabella in the Alcazar are in fact talking with Christopher Columbus before his epic voyage of discovery?

    Totally agree with you about the tortillas in Bar Santos!

    1. I had noted the alcazar as a place I wanted to see….alas, there just isn’t enough time to do everything. next time for sure! didn’t know that about the statues either, such a wealth of information are you my friend ;)

  2. Great post Josh! Thanks for the mention about my Córdoba in color post, it looks like you had an amazing time in Córdoba! How bad is it that I didn’t know there was a zoo?!

    Looking forward to reading more of your adventures :)

    1. Hey, you’re welcome! You clearly have quite the knack for taking photos!

      I’ll be heading back when it warms up a bit I think, mostly so I can hunt down those street-sign like tags you posted about! Do you know the name of the guy that does it? It’s like Cordóba’s version of El Niño de las pinturas!

  3. Wowee! Excellent post full of great tips, facts and photos. and the alleged birth place of the tortilla? nunca lo sabía, qué interesante. that’s one ginormous tortilla up there, yowsa! I’m going to have to bookmark this one for my future trip to Córdoba. It’s also one of my favorite cities and I can’t wait to go back!

    1. Pleased you found the post so useful. That’s why I wrote it after all! I was only there three days so could have done so much more. Probably spent a little too much time at Bar Santos- that tortilla is pretty immense!

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