Córdoba is the city of caliphs. It is located in the heart of the Andalusian region, next to the waters of Guadalquivir River, one of the largest in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Cordoba foundation

It’s already a quite old city, with vestiges of occupation that date from 3200 BC. The population started unfurling much due to iron ore mining (copper and silver) in Sierra Morena and agriculture.

But the foundation of the city of Córdoba only happened by the hands of the Romans, in the year of 206 BC. During the Roman occupation of Córdoba, this was the capital of the Province of Betica and the largest in the whole Iberian Peninsula.

Golden Age

However, that period wasn’t the city’s golden age. This would come with the arrival of the Moors, a couple of years later, with Córdoba then becoming the capital of Al-Andalus. The construction of the Great Mosque was put in motion already with the city serving as capital. When the construction of this magnificent monument was concluded, Córdoba was the biggest city in Europe.

During this grandiose era, many people from other places would arrive at the city. They tried to know its constructions, speak to the Caliph or find a cure for a health issue. For instance, the king Sancho I de León, looked for a cure for his obesity. The city was regarded as a hub of knowledge and learning, having a 400.000-book library, whereas other European libraries only had a few hundreds…

It was with algebra, created by the Arabs, and the discoveries which derived from it, that a major mathematical breakthrough took place, prompting the construction of major Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.

Having the chance to stroll through the city was wonderful, walking on its paved streets, looking at the amazing houses with stunning courtyards, already with piped water. With the hot temperatures that could be (and are) felt during the summer, walking through Cordoba, sometimes, would represent a fresh breeze.

Given the Arab influence, the city’s trade was organised into different areas, depending on what was sold, as if it was a souk, a market.

The golden age of Córdoba ended abruptly at the beginning of the 11th century, due to internal affairs of the Arab Empire. When the Christians retook the city, the imposing monuments built by the Arabs underwent several changes.

Nonetheless, despite these changes, we can totally perceive this splendorous past while we visit the city. You will love it.

What you really cannot miss

1 – The magnificent Mosque – Cathedral

The Mosque – Cathedral of Córdoba is the most important monument of western Islam. This is the most visited space in Córdoba.

It is found in the historical centre and occupies an area of 24.000 m2. The original building was built in the 18th century, however it underwent several changes. The most important was its conversion into a place of Christian worship.

A quite interesting detail is that, for a couple of years, this Mosque-Cathedral was divided into two areas. This allowed Arabs and Christians to practice their worship in different sectors.

Use the Door of Forgiveness as an entrance, a spot where, in specific days, debts were forgiven, and let yourself be astonished by this wonder. In 1984 it was elected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and, a bit later, the whole urban complex around it received the same distinction.

Detail of the facade of the Mosque-Cathedral
Interior of the Mosque-Cathedral
Detail of the interior of the Mosque-Cathedral
Detail of the interior of the Mosque-Cathedral
Detail of the interior of the Mosque-Cathedral

2 – The Alcazar of Christian kings

In Córdoba there is an Alcazar, akin to other Spanish cities. It consists of a fortress which, in its interior, holds a magnificent palace. Originally this was an Arab palace, the residence of Caliphs.

It underwent several sorts of occupation, it filled the role of the Christian Royal Family residence, the Court of Justice of the Holy Office (Inquisition) and also as a prison.

Now it has gorgeous gardens and courtyards, among which the Mudéjar deserves to be highlighted, with its marble surface.

3 – The courtyards, squares of the quarters

The whole historical area around the Mosque – Cathedral is deeply interesting. Visiting Plaza del Potro is something mandatory, and the same goes for the Old Alcazar and the Jewish Quarter. The latter is a unique quarter, where you can find one of the few synagogues in Spain.

Take your time to stroll through those streets and lose yourself in the courtyards, they are quite beautiful indeed, having been acknowledged as a World Heritage Site.

The decoration, the colours, the architecture, among other factors, turn this into a top-notch tour.

A street in Cordoba
A courtyard in Cordoba

4 – The city of Caliphs

Medina Azahara is found approximately 10 km from Córdoba. This was a city of Caliphs, whose construction was ordered in the 10th century, during the zenith of the Moor occupation.

The legend says that the Caliph Abd-al Raman III wanted to have a city in honour of Azahara, his favourite wife. But the reality is a bit different. This caliph must have had the ambition to display the grandeur of the new caliphate, established in the West.

Medina Azahara was divided into 3 floors, 2 of those occupied by the Alcazar and the lower one being reserved for the remaining houses and the mosque itself. Around 10.000 people worked in this city on a daily basis, using marble, gold and other precious stones.

I can imagine that it would have been a really stunning city. I think a visit it’s interesting, especially if we are already aware of this tiny bit of its past.

Medina Azahara
Medina Azahara
Detail of Medina Azahara

Of course there is a lot to see and do, if you look at a map of Córdoba you will notice that there are countless attractions. But, in my opinion, these are really mandatory.

To sum things up, I emphasise the food and flamenco… What are you waiting for?

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