A Realistic Guide to 2023 Córdoba, and Praise for Winter Travel in Southern Spain

When I started infocordoba.com back in 2005, my goal was to share detailed, historically grounded articles about Córdoba’s significant yet complex monuments like the Mosque Cathedral (la Mezquita). At the time, tourist guides and travel articles about Cordoba were informed by the navel-gazing, provincial hyperbole that the city would publish, mired in musty, pre-democratic historical tradition…

Cordoba’s unique moment of true greatness in history passed in the 11th century, but the city is finally beginning to rise out of its status as a backwater with aristocratic pretentions. Objective information like this, with a cosmopolitan perspective, is the right step forward.

Andrew Ferren’s piece in The New York Times may even have been informed by my historical summaries on this site (with footnnotes), which I first noticed recycled in the NY Times some years ago. Particularly telling is Ferren’s description of the Mosque and the “Roman” bridge.

His 36-hour itinerary is a solid plan; it delves into the city’s nuanced history, culture, and contemporary life. I haven’t been writing much about Cordoba’s tourist scene lately (with the last two UNESCO distinctions, Cordoba no longer needs my promotion, and the locals haven’t wanted to comment the site in nearly two decades). For those of you who don’t have access to the New York Times, here are the takeaways from the article though:

NY Times: Thirty-six Hours in Cordoba

Córdoba’s Historical and Architectural Significance

The Mezquita-Catedral and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos are not just architectural feats; they are narratives in stone and mortar, showcasing centuries of religious and cultural evolution. The Roman Bridge, too, is a testament to the city’s layered past. Visiting these sites is less about spectacle and more about understanding the complex layers of history that they represent.

Culinary Insights

Córdoba’s culinary offerings, highlighted by places like Noor and Terra Olea, blend tradition with innovation. It’s not about the flamboyance of dining but about the depth of flavors and the stories they tell of Córdoba’s multicultural history.

Artistic Expression

The city’s museums, including Museo Julio Romero de Torres and C3A, might not be on the scale of those in larger cities, but they offer a sincere glimpse into the artistic soul of Córdoba, from its traditional roots to contemporary expressions.

Suggested Itinerary:

  • Friday: Begin with the Mezquita-Catedral and Alcázar, followed by an exploration of local eateries.
  • Saturday: A day for history and art, traversing the Roman Bridge and Jewish quarter, concluding with a meal at Noor.
  • Sunday: A relaxed start with breakfast options and maybe a visit to Hammam Al Ándalus or Medina Azahara.

Visiting in Winter

While Ferren promotes visiting Córdoba in winter for its milder temperatures and smaller crowds, it’s worth mentioning that any season has its charm. Winter, however, does offer a more subdued and perhaps more reflective visiting experience. I’d add, however, that tourists sometimes have trouble finding dining or activities to do on Christmas and New Years Day (bars are nearly always an option).

For more detail, read Andrew Ferren’s full piece in The New York Times Read the full article .

Five Reasons to Visit Cordoba

1. Cordoba’s Remarkable History

Cordoba was once the capital of Al-Andalus, the Moslem-occupied territories in the Iberian Peninsula during the period referred to in Northern Europe as the Dark Ages. In the 10th and early 11th centuries, it was the most powerful and influential city in Europe . Cordoba’s historic centre, declared a Universal Heritage Site by UNESCO, still reflects those Moorish times and its earlier Roman heritage.

2. La Mezquita

The  Mosque of Cordoba  (la Mezquita),  Cordoba’s Cathedral  since 1236, is one of Spain’s most visited attractions and the foremost example of Islamic architecture in Spain. In 1984 it became the first Spanish monument to be declared a  UNESCO Universal Heritage Site.

2. The Most UNESCO World Heritage Distinctions of Any City in the World

  1. The Mosque of Cordoba – UNESCO World Heritage Centre (1984)
  2. Historic Centre of Cordoba – UNESCO World Heritage Centre (1994)
  3. The Cordoba Patio Festival (2012)
  4. Caliphate City of Medina Azahara – UNESCO World Heritage Centre (2018)

Article: Cordoba, Spain Has the Most UNESCO World Heritage Sites | Architectural Digest

4. Off the beaten track and into authentic Andalusia

But there’s more to Cordoba than the Mosque and other monuments. This elegant city is large enough to offer travelers the variety of amenities they expect, yet small enough to walk everywhere. Declared a  UNESCO World Heritage Site  in 1994 (expanding on the Mezquita’s ’84 designation), it’s a city which has not lost its soul to modernity or to mass tourism ; a place where you can both relax and get the most out of your vacation in an authentic setting. In its extensive historic district and picturesque neighborhoods, you’ll emerge from the crowds into the essence of today’s Andalusia. Here you’ll find the traditions of southern Spain are tastefully combined with modernity.

5. Cordoba’s Convenient Location

Cordoba, Spain is located in the center of southern Spain (Andalusia) and has always been a strategic crossroads–today is no different for travelers who are short on time. Less than 2 hours from Madrid, Cordoba lies in the heart of Andalucía. Together with Granada and Seville, Cordoba is a must-see for tourists visiting Spain.

Trains: the  Madrid-Cordoba-Seville high-speed AVE  train line means short travel times between Cordoba-Seville (40 min) and Cordoba-Madrid (1 hr 40 min). If your flight is to Madrid or Seville, you can be at your hotel in Cordoba within a few hours. For those of you on budget flights from northern Europe, you can fly into Seville, travel to Cordoba and end your Andalusian trip in Granada, with another flight from there. Some flights from the US, and many from the UK, fly to Malaga , and there are now fast and cheap  Malaga-Cordoba train  connections. With the new motorway, it’s about a 2-hour drive from Malaga (and 1-1/4 hour from Seville). There are train and bus connections to other major cities from Cordoba.