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When talking about Andalusia, many will sing Sevilla’s praises or Granada’s and its famous Alhambra. To me though, it was Córdoba who caught my heart.
I think I know why this Andalusian city is so under-rated by travelers: it doesn’t have an airport. There are no commercial flights landing in this city, you would need to take your car or catch a train to come here. EasyJet has launched many flights from European cities to Sevilla, but Córdoba remains today in the shadow. That’s a big mistake, from my point of view.
I already mentioned it in a previous post, Córdoba was my favorite city of Andalusia. This city has everything one could wish for: a cool vibe, a rich history, cultural visits and other cool spots in its surroundings. As soon as we arrived in Córdoba, we really felt the Andalusian culture and we felt so at ease here. And here is why I fell in love with Córdoba.
1. The laid back atmosphere
We absolutely loved the vibe of this city and its people who are so laid back and happy. They are very open and know how to greet their tourists. I felt that they really carry on the Andalusian way of life.
We spent two entire days and nights in Córdoba and this is a very important criteria which led to the immediate success of our stay. You should not go to Córdoba just as a day trip. You should really get to experience the nightlife to be able to witness and feel the real Andalusian culture.
We had the incredible chance to walk by the Mezquita at sunset and just witnessed a marching band playing in the courtyard. I don’t know what the occasion was for, but that certainly was a good kick-start to our great evening.
It was also in Córdoba that we savored our first free tapas. The principle: you sit in a bar and order a drink. The waiter brings you the drink and a small portion of food. It can be anything from a bowl of olives, small toasts with tapenade or pâté, a plate of several hams and cooked meats, a full cheese sandwich… You do not choose what the tapas will be, it’s always a surprise but I really like the concept. You could honestly go on a pub-crawl, ordering just drinks and be able to make a full dinner for free out of your night.
2. A walk through history for free
In Córdoba, early birds get to visit the whole town for free. The main attractions are free between 8:30 and 10:30. You will probably be tired from your crazy night out, going from one bar to another, but I promise it’s worth getting out of your bed. Not only for the free visits but also to be in perfect conditions for visiting this kind of site. You are about to enter historical and sacred places and surely you cannot really absorb the aura of these places if it’s completely crowded with noisy people. It will lose its charm.
Nothing beats visiting the Mezquita, former mosque turned into a cathedral, in the early morning. Entrance is free from 8:30 to 10:00 am (save 8€). It is deeply serene at his time of the day. Only a few visitors are there and they are as respectful of the place as you are. You can literally hear each of your steps on the grounds. Try to discern the different phases of construction and gaze at those beautiful red striped arches. Take as many photos as you want and play with the different lights you can find (natural lights, candelabrum, spotlights).
After the Mezquita, we headed to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and what a good surprise ! We saw on the sign that it is free in the morning until 10:30. That was not mentioned in our guidebook. It’s so enjoyable to visit early in the morning. First, you do not have to put up with the extreme heat and second it’s very quiet and peaceful, only a few other visitors. We saw the gardeners working near the basins and spotted a few cats lying on the rocky grounds. Check-out the variety of plants in the Alcázar gardens and their cylindrical-shaped trees.
The Jewish quarter
We continued our city tour with the Jewish quarter (la Judería). Recognizable by its charming little streets with white washed houses, open patios and lots of flowerpots hanging by the windows. You can visit the synagogue for free, again. The guidebook says free for European citizens, 0,30€ for others, but once again, in the morning before 11 am, there was no one to be seen. You can enter the premises freely and wander around. The synagogue was smaller than I expected but that gave a very cosy feel to the place. It also had cute a patio with plants and lots of openings to allow the natural light to come in.
So was it worth starting your day visits at 8:30 in the morning ? Do you realize that, in one morning, in one city, you have walked by and lived through three different religions (Muslim, Christian, Jewish). Córdoba has such a rich history, a mixed architecture and it’s so pretty to just walk around in the streets to witness all that. I find this city fascinating.
3. Archeological site
I always loved History classes at school but it hit a new level when we went on the Italy school trip in 8th grade and visited Pompeii. Since then archeology became one of my geeky pastime.
Needless to say, if there is an archeological site where I’m travelling, I have to visit it. 8km from Córdoba are the remains of the Madinat al-Zahra. A palatial city that was built in 936 and stood as the capital of Al-Andalous Empire until it was invaded and abandoned during the civil war (1010-1013).
4. Good base for day trips
The Córdoba province offers a lot more than just Córdoba city. It’s also a region of castillos (castles), olive oil and typical white villages. Read my previous post about the beautiful village of Zuheros located in Andalusia’s countryside.
Also know that Sevilla and Malaga are reachable in around 1 hour by train or 2 hours by car.
So now you know why I fell in love with Córdoba. Is there another city in which you felt the Andalusian culture and history like that ? Which one is your favorite city of southern Spain ?