On my way to Seville from Barcelona, I decided to spend a day in this not so sleepy town of Cordoba. The city has a history dating back to 152 BC when it was a Roman Settlement. From Muslim Invasions to Christian retrieval, Cordoba has seen it all. The city now stands proudly on the northern bank of one of the largest European rivers, Guadalquivir. It is also declared the UNESCO World Heritage City. Cordoba is not just for history buffs, its narrow cobbled lanes flanked by sparkling white Moorish houses make it a fairytale town of Spain. All these houses are decked up with the vibrant flowers during the spring flower festival. The indigo designed Moorish tiles just give them a perfect Cordovian look, as I felt.
Here is my personal recommendation of the Best Free Things to do in Cordoba
Explore The Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba for Free
Of course, most people come here for this gigantic mosque standing on 850 white and red striped pillars. The Mosque was once the site of a Roman Temple which was then converted into a Cathedral with the spread of Christianity. On arrival of the Moorish rulers, the Cathedral was demolished to pave way for a Mezquita (mosque). The mosque was a gradual expansion during the reign of different Moorish Caliphs. Thus, its construction did aim for making it the largest mosque.
I had only seen this one picture of Cordoba before planning for this little town. And guess what! I had many more surprises in store for me.
On the Southern wall of this biggest mosque in Europe is a Mihrab. Mihrab is a niche Indicating the direction of Mecca, towards which the followers face while praying the Almighty (Allah). The Mihrab is not an ordinary one. It has bright geometrical designs and the inscription of the holy Quran dazzling in golden fonts. Perhaps, the glittering gold made it easier to read in this otherwise dark building. Some of the important artefacts of the then Muslim rule are also exhibited along the wall.
In the centre of this never-ending maze-like mosque is a Cathedral with a white dome soaring high in the sky. The height of the cathedral was an intentional construction to show the supremacy of Christianity against this large mosque. If you end up visiting it on a Sunday Morning, you can witness a wonderful Music creation by the Cathedral band accompanied by the prayer songs of the choir groups.
Currently, the cathedral and the mosque co-exist in the same building. However, the mosque isn’t used for any prayers.
- The entry to the Mosque is Free from Monday to Saturday between 8:30 to 9:30 am. If you want to be the first one to enter the Mosque, ensure to reach there by 8-8:15 am. If you can wake up earlier, the cobbled streets decked up with pink and blue flowers would be all for you to photograph.
- If you cannot reach by 9 am, you need to purchase an entry ticket of 10 Euros.
The Patios at Alcazar of Cordoba for Free
The Alcazar is the Palace that was built by Alfonso XI after the re-conquest of Cordoba to mark the end of the Moorish rule. The exterior, as well as the interior, look more like an exquisite fortress. The most captivating site is from across the ethereal garden that covers the ground of the Alcazar. The interior has much of the history to tell and a Mosaic Hall to see. Many ancient Roman artefacts are exhibited inside the palace. You can also see a stunning view of Cordoba’s skyline from one of the towers.
Moreover, it is the same place where Christopher Colombus’ plan to find a new route to India was flagged off by the then Spanish Monarchs.
Tip: You can definitely skip the palace entry if you are not much keen. You can enjoy the garden of the palace for FREE if you come anytime between 8:30 am to 9:30 am. After the mentioned time, you will have to pay an entry fee of 4.50 Euros.
Walk like Starks on a Game of Thrones Site
The Roman bridge located right in front of the Alcazar and the mosque dates back to 1st Century BC. The same bridge with Moorish arches was a shooting site of Game of Thrones where it is pictured as the Long Bridge of Volantis (Season 5). The tower on the other hand of the bridge is a museum in which you can climb up for a majestic view of Cordoba. However, as per me, the best view is to enter the garden on the right side of the bridge and enjoy the stunning reflection of the city glittering with the sun-rays.
You can also meet and converse with many locals and musicians on the bridge which is converted into a walkway bridge.
Get Lost in the Lanes of Cordoba for its Patios
The Moorish Caliphs gave much importance to beautiful houses that resemble the gardens of heaven. Each quarter in Cordoba has rooms on its periphery and at the centre lies their ‘Patios’ or courtyard gardens. The quarters are whitewashed in dazzling white. The flowerpots punctuated on these walls thus give it a look of a white carpet studded with flowery dots. Almost every café, brewery and lanes are decked up with these lovely flowers right after the onset of spring. If you are not in Cordoba during its flower festival, you can just randomly roam around the streets of Cordoba and enter any of the patios after the house owner’s permission. Apart from this, the following spots are always studded beautifully giving you an idea about the look of the houses in Cordoba during its festival.
- Calleja De Las Flores: It is a cute little lane roofed by Moorish style arches. The location is very famous as it is nearby the mosque. Almost every tourist in Cordoba visits this lane, and thus you must wake up early to avoid this crowd. Despite being touristy it is really worth it to visit it just once.
- Palacio De Viana: Those who aren’t lucky enough to visit Cordoba during its flower festival has an option to visit Palacio De Viana which remains open for public. However, it will cost you to visit the interiors and the 12 Patios designed in different patterns.
Have a Brunch with Beer at Plaza De La Corredera
Plaza De La Corredera was a former arena for bullfights in Cordoba. The rooms which are now either closed or converted into cafés were earlier meant for the bulls. Other floors which are now private homes of people were balconies for the audience. On a Sunday morning, this place turns into a haven for foodies. A little food market comes up at the very place in the morning. You can also visit this at any time of the day for some local cuisine and beer in the cafes on this square.
Visit an Excavated Roman Temple of Gargantuan
This isn’t much of an enchanting site. Nonetheless, it gives you a glimpse of the early pre-Christian era in Cordoba. The ruin is supposed to be a 1st Century remains. It is supposed to be one of the many important Roman temples. Today, the site lies neglected, away from the main old city of Cordoba. Not many tourists visit it but it still can be called an important historic excavated site.
Barge into the Beautiful Patios of Cordoba
The beginning/mid of May marks the full-fledged rule of Spring in Cordoba. The Moorish rulers, who emphasized much on beautifying courtyards and houses with fresh flowers, can be thanked for the patios of Cordoba. The patios are the backyard gardens in the houses of Cordoba. Each house proudly flung opens its gate for visitors from all around the world. This is the only time you are allowed to enter all the beautiful houses of Cordoba without any permission. From lovely orange trees to wildly blooming bougainvilleas, the courtyards looks like a little heaven on earth. All windows, balconies, verandas in the city seem to be the blossoming cradles.
There is also a Cordoba Fair in the bank of Guadalquivir in the end of May.
If planning the Spain trip is in your hand then you must check the festival dates before heading to Cordoba.
Best Time to Visit Cordoba
- If you wish to avoid the crowd and peacefully explore this city then springtime just before the Flower Festival is thrown open is the best time to explore Cordoba.
- If you wish to see the main highlight of Cordoba, the Flower Festival, then you must check the festival dates before planning for it.
- The tourist centres at the bus station may advise you to take their bus tours or paid walking tours. This is absolutely not needed even if you are in Cordoba for a short time.
- Free Walking Tours, based on a tip or a little donation, are organized daily beginning from near the mosque. If you really need a company, you can join these tours or else, the internet is flooding with the information on Cordoba.
- Best local cuisine options for vegetarians are Salmorejo ( A thicker version of Gazpacho), Berenjas Frietas (Eggplant fries with honey).
- If you are keen on carrying a souvenir back home then the lovely ‘number tiles’ of Cordoba would be the best and useful thing you can buy here.
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