Pick up a guide book or peruse a website and you can find a long list of museums and places to see, but for most travelers, the greatest sites are all found within the tiny city center within the old walls that lead into the tiny Jewish quarter. Here you’ll find the second greatest Mosque in the world, one of only three synagogues left in Spain, the royal palaces, and a very special old neighborhod. I spent just under 24 hours here and it was enough for the basics. A day and a half would be perfect and two would ensure your fill of tapas and shopping.
Don’t think though that because it’s small, it should be overlooked. The Mezquita alone makes the trip worth it and it’s an easy stop in a trip to Granada or Seville. Shopping is fabulous, souvenirs are special, prices are good, and the food is incredible.
La Mezquita – Known as the second most important mosque in the world, Cordoba’s Mezquita is also considered a Cathedral and regular Catholic services are held in the center. Absolutely amazing, if you see nothing else, this makes it all worth it. Smaller and more simple than Granada’s Alhambra, the inside of this mosque is beautiful in the simplicity of the arches and columns that repeat themselves throughout the complex. It is so peaceful there. Among the Moorish columns and carvings, you’ll also see traditional Catholic chapels on the sides and the main cathedral sanctuary in the center. An interesting combination of cultures, you’ll want to get there early to enjoy it in the quiet before the rush of afternoon crowds. The concierge at our hotel across the street said that it was free to enter before 10am. It was not free at 0830, but it was not expensive either nor crowded, so I was still happy to be there early.
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Fortress of the Christian Kings) – I wasn’t impressed much with the inside of the Alcazar, but it only cost a few Euros to enter and the gardens are spectacular. It also has Moorish baths and you can take the stairs to the wall and towers as well giving you spectacular views of the city and river. Beautiful, especially in good weather, the gardens will also allow wiggly children a place to run.
Plaza Triumfo – Just behind La Mezquita is the Plaza Triumfo, which is essentially a small plaza with a obelisk in the center. It’s just a photo op, but it also leads you to the old Roman bridge, a pedestrian only bridge on which you can cross the river and enjoy the views of the rushing water.
Synagogue – Free to enter, this is just one of a small handful of synagogues remaining in Spain. Small and simple, it’s a quick easy visit that won’t take up much of your time, but will add dimension to your tour of this historical center.
Sefarad House – This museum explains the culture of the Sephardi Jews in Cordoba, explains some of the similarities between Judaism and the Islam faiths, and tells a bit of the history of the Jews in that area. Small and inexpensive to enter, the self-guided tour will take an hour or less if you read everything.
La Juderia – The old Jewish district and location of all these other attractions, the narrow windy streets are charming here and you’ll find so many wonderful shops to explore. Filigree is inexpensive and one of those special local crafts, so look for some amazing sterling silver and other nice jewelry.
“Ciudad de los Niños” Children’s Park: Located at the Parque Cruz Conde near the river, this huge children’s park and playground is open from 1000-2100 October through June and 1000-2300 July through September. Closed on Mondays.
We stayed at Los Patios, a nice little hotel directly across the street from the mosque and next door to an American burger establishment. This hotel had mixed reviews online, but we found it clean, comfortable enough, and not at all noisy. They have a nice breakfast with a 10% discount for hotel guests. The dining rooms were very nice and the staff were English speaking and very helpful. They have a nice tourist map at the front desk as well.
Bodegas Mezquita has two locations both within a block of the Mezquita. Open all day for drinks, it’s easy to pop in for something quick, but make sure you plan to dine there as well – the food is some of the best I had on our 12 day Andalucian vacation. Nice atmosphere, free WiFi, and excellent service, this place is kid friendly as well and has a non-smoking section. You can order a complete menu or just order tapas a la carte which is what we did trying many of the tapas offered and loving each and every one. The local “Moorish style” meatballs were such a big hit with my 5 year old that I had to order two servings. The artichokes are also excellent.
With two locations, you should be able to find a table, but going early always helps. The Cespedes location is one block in from Calle Cardenal Herrero that runs in front of the Mezquita’s main entrance. On the back side of the Mezquita, you’ll find the other location on Calle Corregidor Luis de la Cerda. They also run a small bar called Ziryab on San Felipe street just 5 minutes away, which, judging by their restaurant, is probably very good.
Casa El Malacara is more a bar than a restaurant. It’s very tiny, but quaint and located right at the old wall gate on Calle Judios #2. Open between traditional meal times when other places are closed, the food is quite good. We had delicious sandwiches there and drinks. “Mollete” is the sandwich. If you like Spanish ham, I highly recommend the mollete de jamon. It’s simple, but delicious!