Compact, yet bursting with history, there are some truly world-class things to do in Córdoba. Visit charming orange-tree lined squares, cool local tapas bars and one of the most important buildings in the world.
It seems our early ancestors were onto something when, in the 10th century, they deemed Córdoba the greatest city in western Europe. Home to an Islamic Caliphate, Roman influences and local Spanish charisma; a 1 or 2 day Córdoba itinerary is an ideal European weekend getaway or great day trip from Seville.
The Mezquita-Catedral is one of the most intriguing buildings in the world. The ancient ruins of Madinat al-Zahra is the only Islamic Caliphate capital ever to reside in western Europe. The wonky, cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and gorgeous patios still carry remnants of Roman design.
It’s one of our favourite places in Spain. Not only for the important historical sites, but also for the squares full of local banter, the long summer nights, the bright, white-washed streets and the intimate aging tapas bars.
Córdoba is a pint-sized treasure, but it punches well above its weight.
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USING THIS GUIDE
We’ve collected all our favourite things to do in Córdoba in order so you can see as much as possible over either 1 or 2 days. We have also included visiting information including where to stay, how to get around and some wonderful day trips at the end of this guide.
DAY 1 – OLD TOWN & HIGHLIGHTS
Witness one of the most famous attractions in Córdoba, along with some insights into the local culture that make this city one of the most interesting in Andalucía.
MEZQUITA – CATEDRAL DE CÓRDOBA
Get an early start this morning to take advantage of the free entry at the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba between 08:30 and 09:30 every day (except Sunday). Originally built in 785 CE as a mosque, it was converted to a cathedral after the Christian conquest in 1236. The mix of Christian opulence and Islamic iconography in the building is compelling. It is one of the best things to do in Córdoba, and one of the most important historical buildings in the world.
CATHEDRAL BELL TOWER
Next, head up to the Bell Tower for an uninterrupted view of the Christian cathedral punching its way through the Islamic mosque. From here the towering dominance of the cathedral serves as a reminder to the power of religion. Entrance to the bell tower is every 30 minutes.
Walk across the Puente Romano (Av. del Alcázar) for great views across the town. The bridge you see today is mostly from the Islamic period and contains the famous Moorish arches familiar across Córdoba. The Torre de la Calahorra, which contains the Museo Vivo de Al-Andaluz, is at the end of the bridge. Unfortunately, it’s a poorly assembled museum, so give it a miss.
PATIOS SAN BASILIO
Head back into Córdoba to explore the Patios San Basilio. A ticket for €5 provides access to 5 patios which are all privately owned by locals. Pick up your tickets from Calle San Basilio 14 and follow the trail of smiling locals from one patio to the next. Read our guide to the patios of Córdoba.
LUNCH / PUERTA SEVILLA
No Córdoba itinerary would be complete without an al fresco lunch in an atmospheric square. So, after the patios, have lunch at Puerta Sevilla (Calle Postrera 51) taking up prime spot in the square just inside the Sevilla Gate. It’s hearty Spanish fare, so unless you have a healthy appetite, one dish per person will probably do.
BAÑOS DE ALCÁZAR CALIFAL
After lunch, head over to the Baños de Alcázar Califal, the site of the execution of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman V in 1024 CE. It’s not the most exciting attraction in Córdoba, but the execution marked the end of the Caliphate in Europe. So, while there is not much left of the baths today, they’re worth a quick look for their historical significance.
ALCÁZAR OF THE CHRISTIAN MONARCHS
Next, head to Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs – one of the top things to do in Córdoba. The Alcázar was built by the Christians after they conquered Córdoba in 1328. The sumptuous gardens draw the most energetic gasps of pleasure from visitors. After the Mosque/Cathedral, it’s the best location to witness the Christian opulence in Córdoba.
Now explore some more of the Jewish Quarter. Start at Casa Andalusí, a house/museum full of Moroccan charm including the first paper factory imported to Spain by the Islamic empire. Next, take the short stroll to the Maimonides statue located here. One of the most prolific and influential Jewish scholars, Córdoban born Maimonides was also an astronomer and physician.
PLAZA DE JUDÁ LEVI
After meandering more of the Jewish Quarter, it’s probably time for a refreshing beverage. If so, head to Cosmopolitan Food on Plaza de Judá Levi. Despite the terrible name and even worse reviews on TripAdvisor, they have a great location in the square which is ideal for people-watching.
CASA RAMÓN GARCÍA
After the sundowner, make your way to Casa Ramón García Romero to witness one of Córdoba’s traditional crafts. Much to our surprise, this museum dedicated to leather art was one of our favourite things to do in Córdoba. The craftsmanship is something to behold.
DINNER / TABERNA LUQUE
For dinner this evening, make a reservation at Taberna Luque (Calle Blanco Belmonte 4; +34 699 80 65 60) for authentic regional cooking. It’s aging old-school Spanish decor, with aging old-school Spanish customers. The service by Antonio is warm, friendly and energetic; the cooking by Maria full of rustic, home-styled goodness. The pork with PX sauce was a particular standout, but the whole evening was sealed by the fantastic service.
If you fancy something different here are some other excellent restaurants in Córdoba.
DAY 2 – CALIPHATE PALACE & PATIOS
Explore the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of the 10th century on a half-day excursion from Córdoba, and discover more of the beautiful patios of this southern Spanish gem.
MADINAT AL-ZAHRA (MEDINA AZAHARA)
This morning head out to Madinat al-Zahra, palace of Abd al-Rahman III. It was the heart of the 10th-century Islamic Caliphate in Spain. Set in the foothills of the Sierra Morena Mountain Range, the palace was a sprawling complex stretching 1500 metres across.
Guided tours start in the modern museum which has artefacts collected from the site. A shuttle bus takes you up to the ruins. The location is 8 kilometres outside of Córdoba making it an easy half-day excursion.
PLAZA DE LOS CAPUCHINOS & CUESTA DEL BAILÍO
Back in Córdoba, stroll through Plaza de los Capuchinos containing Christo de los Faroles, an interesting religious sculpture known as Christ of the Lanterns. Then check-out Cuesta del Bailío. The old palace and church at the top of the steps is an excellent photo opportunity. Next, make your way over to Palacio de Viana, the second of Córdoba’s prime patio offerings.
PALACIO DE VIANA
Palacio de Viana was originally built in the 15th century and after 5 centuries of expansion now boasts 12 beautiful courtyards, open for public inspection. As the scent of orange and jasmine blossom fills the air, keep an eye out for hints of Arabic roots such as the ornate mosaics and water features, or the Hispanic details such as the sculptured cypress trees.
After inspecting the patios, stroll past Templo Romano (Calle Capitulares) the remains of a Roman temple with reconstructed pillars. There’s not much to see but the towers standing beside the modern buildings make a nice contrast.
Potter around the Muslim quarter before checking out the Archaeological Museum. It has a good selection of artefacts from prehistoric times discovered in the Córdoba area. The basement houses the remains of a Roman theatre, said to be the largest in Spain.
MUSEO DE BELLAS ARTES
After the Archaeological Museum, head to the Museo de Bellas Artes. The gallery contains work by Córdoban artists from the 15th to 20th centuries supported by a number of contemporary paintings and sculptures. It doesn’t contain any huge names in art, but it is a great little gallery on one of the prettiest squares in Córdoba. It’s well worth taking a look around.
DINNER / LA BOCA
For dinner try La Boca (Calle San Fernando 39; +34 695 96 18 62). While it didn’t have the earthy atmosphere of Taberna Luque (or any customers) it did have an innovative take on Spanish/Moroccan fusion dishes. The service is a little perfunctory and confusing but offers a different type of Córdoban dining in a modern stylish space.
For a more traditional setting, head a little further north to Taberna Salinas (+34 957 48 29 50 / Calle Tundidores 3) which has very traditional décor and some fine food. Their speciality is Tundidores, ratatouille with fried egg.
WHERE TO STAY IN CÓRDOBA
Córdoba is a charming compact city, so we recommend staying centrally so you can walk to all the attractions. Like many Andalusian cities, Córdoba is very cost-effective. Here are some recommendations from us for great places to stay.
Built in an old colonial-style house, this family-run hotel is in an excellent location next to the buzzing Plaza de la Corredera. The central courtyard is a beautiful spot for a simple but delightful breakfast.
Lovely boutique hotel with modern design and attention to detail, the two young owners go the extra mile with innovative breakfast. It’s a 12-minute walk to the cathedral. But in a city this pretty that’s hardly a chore.
Ten individually designed suites in natural tones include a small living space and modern bathrooms. The drawcard however are the stunning terraces overlooking the Mezquita.
DAY TRIPS FROM CÓRDOBA
Situated in north-central Andalucía, Córdoba is well-placed to take advantage of the diversity of the region. From other historic centres to Moorish fortress, here are some suggestions from us for wonderful day trips from Córdoba.
CÓRDOBA TO SEVILLE DAY TRIP
As the heart of the Christian empire in Spain, Seville is full of opulent palaces, interesting architecture and a formidable art scene. It’s also a beautiful city with great food and an energetic culture that overflows from vibrant squares. Seville is 1 hour, 40 minutes drive from Córdoba or 45 minutes on the train. For more information, read our guide to Seville.
CÓRDOBA TO MÁLAGA DAY TRIP
At just under 2 hours drive or 1 hour on the train from Córdoba, Málaga is an excellent day trip option. Apart from the beaches of the Costa del Sol, there’s Roman ruins, Moorish citadels and a gleaming central shopping district.
CÓRDOBA TO GRANADA DAY TRIP
Granada is home to Alhambra, the most visited attraction in Spain. At around 2 hours driving time from Córdoba it’s easy to spend the day exploring the palace then return. However, the university city also has a modern edge with an emerging craft beer scene and great live music.
CÓRDOBA TO ANTEQUERA DAY TRIP
Antequera is a historical town dating back to the Bronze Age with an impressive Moorish Fortress, Gothic Churches and Roman burial grounds. As a classic Spanish white village, it’s an excellent and easy day trip from Córdoba. Drive time is around 1 hour, 15 minutes.
BOOK BEFORE YOU GO
We put this itinerary together to maximise time, allowing you to see as much in two days as possible. However, many of the great things to do in Córdoba can get busy, so booking ahead is a good idea.
Skip the queues and book these tours before you go. Tickets are delivered to your smartphone.
GETTING TO CÓRDOBA
Córdoba is located in southern Spain, around 140 kilometres north of Seville. As a popular tourist destination, getting to Córdoba is straightforward.
Seville Airport is 135 kilometres away from Córdoba. There are regular flights from several European cities, therefore this is probably the most convenient airport. There is a 45 minute direct train from Sevilla Santa Justa station in central Seville which is a 20 minute bus ride from the airport. Driving is another excellent option, allow around 1 hour, 30 minutes from the airport to Córdoba.
Málaga Airport is 166 kilometres from Córdoba. Málaga has a large airport with several daily flights from many international locations. It is a 1 hour and 45-minute drive to Córdoba or 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours by train changing at Málaga María Zambrano Station.
Córdoba is part of Spain’s high-speed train services, Alvia. The service connects the major cities in Andalucía with Madrid. Some trains are faster than others, so check the details as you book. Below are the average journey times to Córdoba.
TRAIN JOURNEYS TO CÓRDOBA
SEVILLE TO CÓRDOBA TRAIN
43m | 18 trains per day
MÁLAGA TO CÓRDOBA TRAIN
49m | 10 trains per day
GRANADA TO CÓRDOBA TRAIN
1h, 22m | 4 trains per day
MADRID TO CÓRDOBA TRAIN
1h, 45m | 17 trains per day
GETTING AROUND CÓRDOBA
Córdoba is a very compact city. All the destinations in this itinerary are within walking distance with the exception of Madinat al-Zahra which is 10 km out of town. If you have your own car, driving out is easy enough, however some of the roads in Córdoba are very tight.
The easiest way to get to Madinat al-Zahra is by taxi.
Alternatively, a bus leaves from Paseo de La Victoria outside the Almodovar Gate at 10.15, 10.30 and 11:00; and returns to Córdoba at 13.30, 13.45 and 14.15. The price is €9.
BEST TIME TO GO TO CÓRDOBA
Córdoba can be a fiery Spanish town, so it is best avoided from June to September when the weather can be stifling. We suggest March to May when it’s not too hot, the gardens are lush, and the sun is beckoning those of us from more northern climates.
In particular, Córdoba springs into action during the second week of May for the Patio Festival. During the festival, a lot of the patios are open for free and the streets hum to the murmur of discussing who might take the converted Battle of the Flowers prize. This is an ideal time to spend 2 days in Córdoba.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT CÓRDOBA?
Apart from the impressive collection of interesting things to do in Córdoba, it’s also a pretty cheap city. Basic but good accommodation near the centre of town could be as cheap as around €70 per night. A top-end resort-style hotel will be upwards of €150.
An inexpensive meal at a local bar will be under €5, while a 3-course meal in a mid-range restaurant will be around €20 each. A local beer is around €1.50 for 500ml. The price of wine varies a lot, but a local bottle could be as cheap as €10 in a restaurant.
A coffee at a local market will often be €1. Like most places, an artisan coffee could be €2.50 or more.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN CÓRDOBA
Many of the attractions in Córdoba are free at certain times of the day and on certain days of the week. If you have some flexibility it’s well worth aligning your visit to save on some entry fees.
The Mezquita-Catedral has free entry from 8:30am to 9:30am Monday to Saturday, however access to the Bell Tower is €2. The Baños de Alcázar Califal and the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs are both free from 6pm to 8:45pm on Thursdays.
Palacio de Viana is free Wednesday between 2pm and 5pm.
Madinat al-Zahra, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museo del Bellas Artes are all free for European Union citizens.
HOW MANY DAYS IN CÓRDOBA?
With so many great sights in such a charming city, we recommend spending 2 days in Córdoba. However, this itinerary works for either 1 or 2 days, as the first day covers all the main attractions.
1 DAY IN CÓRDOBA
The highlights of the old town can be visited in one day, provided you’re willing to start early. Of all the things to do in Córdoba, make sure you visit the Mezquita-Cathedral, the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs, Patios San Basilio and the small lanes and alleyways of the Jewish Quarter.
2 DAYS IN CÓRDOBA
If you choose to spend 2 days in Córdoba then it gives you time to head out of the old town. Here you will find more palaces, some very good museums and more of that lovely Spanish culture. Most importantly, 2 days in Córdoba will allow enough time to visit the old caliphal capital, Madinat al-Zahra which is 10 kilometres out of town.
MAP / THINGS TO DO IN CÓRDOBA
All the wonderful things to do in Córdoba that we covered in this guide are on the below map. Save it to your device to have all the locations ready to go.
MORE READING FOR YOUR SPAIN TRIP
Andalucía is one of our favourite areas in Spain. With an excellent climate, world-class cities and beautiful nature parks, it’s a fantastic southern European destination. Here are more of our guides from the area.
Traditional Tapas & Spanish Masters – get the most out of 3 days in Seville
5 best pueblos blancos (white villages) of Andalucía
Complete Guide to hiking El Torreón in Sierra de Grazalema
Our favourite things to do in Seville
Uncovering an enlightened caliphate in Córdoba
Complete Guide to hiking El Pinsapar trail in Sierra de Grazalema