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  Responses to Reader Questions about travel to Cordoba, Spain  

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Getting to Cordoba | Buying Cordoba monument tickets online | Luggage storage at Cordoba Train Station | What to see on Mondays in Cordoba | Train Schedules | Purchasing RENFE train tickets on the internet | Getting to Medina Azahara |

Q. What's the nearest major airport, and how would I go about making my way to Cordoba from there? - Phillip

Public transportation is very good in Spain and, in my opinion, reasonably priced.

If you're coming from the UK, you can fly into Seville, Granada, Madrid or Malaga. If you are looking for culture and authentic Spain, Malaga is the least recommendable point of entry (unless you hire a car and drive up out of the Costa into the pueblos blancos of the Sierra de Ronda, to Seville and then to Cordoba).

If you're coming from the US, the most common point of entry into Spain is Madrid's Barajas Airport. Once you have made it past passport control (Americans, don't stand in the EU Only line), picked up your luggage and walked past the customs inspectors, get a taxi by standing in line at the official taxi stop. Taxis to downtown Madrid are about €25, and if you are tired, I recommend a taxi over slower bus/subway transportation to the city center, because who would want to lug his suitcases around any more than necessary?

The taxi ride is about 20 minutes in regular traffic, but you need to budget an hour for train connections. Whether you go straight to a central Madrid hotel or to the Atocha Train Station to take a AVE high-speed train south to Cordoba or Seville is the question. I usually just pass through Madrid, but whether you go directly to Cordoba depends on your goals, your time frame and your stamina. You need to beware of the temptation to check off as many cities as possible, but if you haven't seen Madrid before and are interested in what this big city has to offer, you might see some museums and get a good night's sleep before moving on.

My personal first choices for your first trip to Spain are Madrid, Cordoba, Seville and Granada, with 2 nights in each so that you don't spend more time traveling between places than actually in the city. If you have more time, you can add a night or two to those and expand your itinerary to other towns and cities in the "vicinity", like Toledo, Ubeda & Baeza and Ronda. But don't get too ambitious--it's not the quantity, it's the quality. You can spend a lifetime exploring Spain. A good option is to hit the big cities like Madrid and Seville first, and then take a more relaxing break in Cordoba before making your way over to Granada and back to your exit airport.

More in Traveler Tips about Airports, Trains Schedules and Car Rentals: Getting to Cordoba Spain . Top

Q. Where can I buy tickets online for the Mezquita in Cordoba? - Nelson

Thanks for your question. Actually, Cordoba is a little backwards in terms of business and institutional use of the internet, so there is no way to purchase cathedral entrance tickets online. The good news is that there is no reason to do so, and that buying them online would take you longer than just walking up to the ticket window. You can buy tickets on the north side of the Orange Tree Courtyard for 6.50 euros.

I noticed last week that they have started renting audio guides from another booth next to the ticket booth.

Over a million people visit the Mosque a year, but I have never had to wait for more than a minute or two to get a ticket. We're not talking about the crowds one sees at the Alhambra, where you definitely need to buy your ticket ahead of time if you want to get in.

Another thing is that you will not be pushed along during your visit, but are free to roam around till your heart's content, except on Sunday, when the first visit is limited to 9:00 - 10:15, and the cathedral doesn't open again until after mass (2:00 - 7:30 pm). Weekdays and Saturdays the schedule is 10am-7:30pm. Top

Q. I want to store my luggage at the Cordoba train station and visit the city before continuing to Seville. Is there a luggage storage service at the Cordoba train station? What are the sights I must visit if I have only 1 day? - Cecilia (Hong Kong)

Updated April 17, 2008: The luggage storage service at the Cordoba train station has been closed for "security reasons" and will probably not be re-started. This is bad news for day trippers with luggage, however, there is a smaller left luggage service just across the street at the Cordoba Bus Station (out the back door of the train station).

To find the Left Luggage room there, enter through the front door of the Bus Station and turn right.  Go all the way down to the end of the cooridoor and you will find a small door on the right marked "consigna".  Outside the door there is a vending machine to buy tokens, and you can ask the security guard for assistance.

Inside there are only about 20 lockers.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a measuring tape with me, but I took some aproximate measurements using my umbrella as a guide.  The lockers are quite deep, but the doors are too small for most medium-size and large-size rigid luggage.  My low estimate is that the actually opening is 52cm high and 30.5cm wide.

In May (high season), the security guard told me that the lockers are all full by 9:00 to 9:30 am.  No luggage may be left outside the lockers.

It's a shame to just spend a few hours in Cordoba, but if you are in Cordoba for a short time only, I recommend the Cordoba historic centre walk. Instead of taking a taxi to the historic centre, you might want to get a taste of modern Cordoba, taking a stroll through the Jardines de la Agricultura to Ronda de los Tejares Avenue, south along Gran Capitan Bulevard to San Felipe street, and through the streets to the Puerta de Almodovar, where you will begin your visit to the Jewish Quarter, followed by the Alcazar and the Mosque. (From there you may extend your walk to Potro Square and return to the train station via La Feria street, Capitulares street, Tendillas Square and Cruz Conde street back to Ronda de los Tejares). Alternately, you could walk through the park from RENFE station to the Puerta de Almodovar. Top

Q. I have only one day to spend in both Cordoba and Seville, and that day is  a Monday. Are most of the sites closed on that day? How about the walking tours of the old city - are they available on Mondays? - Frumie

Timetables for monuments change, depending on the season. As of September 5, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00-19:00, and on Sunday and holidays from 09:00 to 14:45 and from 14:00 to 19:00. Personally, I think that the Mosque alone is worth making your short stop, combining it with a leisurely walk around the historic centre. Considering the amount of territory you want to cover in one day, you may need a break from the rush of intense sightseeing, and Cordoba is the perfect place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of southern Spain.

If you want to see museums, you should know that on Monday other main well-known attractions in Cordoba, such as the Alcazar, the Synagogue, the Julio Romero de Torres Museum and Medina Azahara are closed. However, if you plan to see both Cordoba and Seville in one day, you will not have time to see many of these things anyway.

I suggest that you start with the Mosque and then talk a walk around the Jewish Quarter and back, skirting the Alcazar (the Cordoba historic centre walk). If you still have time, and want to fit in some museums, you can cross the Roman Bridge to the Calahorra Tower, now the Museum of the Three Cultures, which is open every day (10:00 - 14:00 and 16:30 - 20:30). Also, next to the Mosque is the Diocesan Museum (Monday - Friday 9:30 - 15:00, Saturday 9:30 - 13:30, Sunday closed), a lesser-known art museum. One interesting museum in Cordoba is the Viana Palace Museum, open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 14:00 (Sundays and holidays closed), but you will have to plan for 2-3 hours to get there, get into one of the guided visits and get back. Normally, I would suggest walking there, but in your situation you will probably want to use a taxi to get to Viana Palace, saving what little time you have.

If you spend the night in Cordoba, The Cordoba Tourism Consortium runs evening guided walks during the warmer months starting at 9:30pm (duration: 1 hour, 30 min). They include a tapa and a drink. Information is available in your hotel, at the tourist information booth in Tendillas Square and in the Campo Santo de los Martires office, opposite the Alcazar. Top

Q. Do you know what time the AVE leaves Cordoba for Madrid on Sundays? I tried to find the train timetables on Renfe's website but couldn't. - Kelly

More than one have had that problem. Once you get into the English train schedule section (the tiny little British flag), you can select Cordoba or any other city as your departure city and popular cities like Madrid, Seville, Granada or Malaga as your destination. Optionally, choose a date. There server will pull up a long list of trains, some of them which run only on weekdays. Unfortunately, they haven't bothered to create an English version of their data, so much of the information is in Spanish, and abbreviated. At the bottom of the timetable where you don't normally look, they have included the day abreviations (D=domingo=Sunday, etc.), but you also need to know the following: = from the date of ... to ... (train only runs during that time period), diario = daily. Here are Renfe's current train schedules: Cordoba - Madrid, Cordoba - Seville, Cordoba - Malaga . At the bottom, you can click on return schedules for the same line, and at the top of these pages you can launch new schedule queries (turn off your pop-up blocker to access the pages from here. I do not use pop-up ads). Top

Q. How can a purchase RENFE train tickets for Spain online?

Good news and bad news. RENFE has made online, advanced purchase of train tickets available, but when I visited it, it wasn't as user friendly as one would hope. First of all, it is not accessible from the train schedule pages, as is the Spanish version. In theory, you will be able to reserve up to 62 days in advance for long-distance trains like the AVE and Talgo, and 15 days for regional trains. When you make the purchase, instead of entering your Spanish National Identity Card number (DNI), use the first 8 digits of your passport number. For more info, see RENFE ticket sales - You can also reserve by phone up to 48 hours in advance. Let me know how it goes for you-it will be a real advance for travelers in Spain. Meanwhile, I have am corresponding with RENFE, letting them know that they have a bad link to the ticket purchase option, and that it is not accessible from the train schedules.

We would really like to visit the archeological site Madinat al-Zahra (which I think is called Medina Alzahra perhaps in Spanish?). I haven't been able to find out anything about logistics for that. Can you help? Deborah (Oakland, California)

That's a great question. A lot of people miss seeing the city-palace that was once the capital of the Ummayyad Caliphate, because it is a short drive from of Cordoba. There's a new bus to Medinat al-Zahra (Medina Azahara) that leaves Tues-Fri at 11:00am and comes back at 1:30am (2 1/2 h after departure).  The Consortium has put a €5 package together that includes a illustrated guide and a video en route. The entrance fee is not included. On Saturday, Sunday and holidays there are 2 buses, leaving at 10:00am and 11:00am respectively.

Information and reservations can be made from your hotel and from tourist information offices in the Train Station, Tendillas Square, Campo Santo de los Martires (across from Alcazar), Potro Square and calle San Basilio, number 50. The bus departs from the Alcazar bus stop next to the river and on Paseo de la Victoria Avenue, across from Jardines de la Victoria (Duque de Rivas).




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