One of the three largest cities in Andalusia together with Granada and Seville, Cordoba is a little more subdued than the other two. The Moorish influence is apparent everywhere in the former capital of the Caliph of Cordoba. Major attractions include the Juderia, the Jewish-Moorish district and the Mesquita, once one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world and now a Roman Catholic cathedral. Those wishing to escape the throngs of tourists should go just a few streets further into areas frequented by locals.
Secluded gardens behind the walls of the royal palace
The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, or “the palace of the Christian kings,” was originally Moorish. It was allegedly a place of execution for Christian martyrs. After Córdoba had fallen, but Granada was still under Moorish control, the castle served as a residence for Catholic kings. The gardens of the Alcázar, which were planted behind the walls in the 14th century, are especially beautiful. In summer, the pools, fountains and flower beds are open to the public until midnight.
Historic city center of Córdoba
This former Jewish quarter in Córdoba is now the city's old town. It dates back to the 10th century when a large number of Jews moved into the tolerant caliphate and settled down near the Mezquita. This period of multi-religious flourishing came to an end in 1492 when the Spanish Catholic kings took over. The Sephardic (Spanish) Jews were driven out along with the Moors. Today, Judería is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whitewashed houses with courtyards exuding the smell of flowers line the narrow alleyways. The Calleja de las Flores, where the residents have adorned their houses with flowers, is especially beautiful. The last surviving synagogue in Andalusia is also worth a visit.
Hermitage in the Sierra Cordoba
Hermits built settlements here in the heights of the Sierra Cordoba during the early Christian period. Even today, it is still a place of mystical quietude, even though only a handful of monks from the Barefoot Carmelite order still live here. The observation deck provides a lovely view of Cordoba. Those who are in good physical shape can reach the hermitage by foot. The trail from El Brillante in northern Cordoba is three kilometers in length and is quite steep.
Ruins of a Moorish royal city
This palace city exists only as a ruin, but even as such, visitors can appreciate the splendor of this carefully planned Moorish city. Starting in the year 936, around 10,000 workers spent 25 years constructing its mosque, palaces, residential buildings and gardens. The rectangular city was built into the side of a mountain and consists of three giant terraces. Chroniclers report the existence of halls and archways made of ivory, ebony, marble, gold and gemstones. Yet the city, which was mainly used to receives guests of state, only flourished for a brief time. It was captured and plundered by Berbers after just 74 years, after which it decayed and became forgotten. In 1910, Medina Azahara was discovered by archaeologists, who began excavating the ruins.
Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
Covering an area of over 23,000 square meters, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is one of the largest sacred buildings on earth. Ever since the Reconquista, it has served as the city's cathedral. Its name, “Mezquita” is related to the English word for “mosque,” and points to the building's Muslim origins. The Mosque was built on the site of a former church. After taking more than 200 years to complete, it rivaled even the most beautiful mosques of its day in Mecca, Damascus, Cairo or Istanbul. Upon entering, visitors are overwhelmed by the sight of a forest of columns and arches together with a supernaturally beautiful play of colors. The inner courtyard with its Almanzor fountain is also definitely worth a look.