Nestled in the heart of Andalusia, Córdoba feels like a living, breathing movie set. From its quiet, flower-covered patios to its spectacular mosque-turned-cathedral, its beauty is rich and complex. If you’re on a mission to visit some of the most beautiful cities in the world (and even if you’re not), this small Spanish town needs to be on your radar.
1. The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos Garden
Córdoba is home to a castle (of course), which is fascinating in its own right, but the real attraction is its garden. Wander down the soft gravel path through rows of palm trees and clusters of orange and lemon trees dripping with fruit, surrounded by thickets of roses and poppies. There’s a gorgeous pool with a fountain (and a few ducks), and a few benches where you can sit in the shade and imagine you’re the queen of the castle and this is all yours.
Nestled in the heart of Andalusia, Córdoba feels like a living, breathing movie set.
2. The Patios
Each May, Córdoba’s homes and businesses open their cool, quiet patios to the public. These little squares are at the center of many homes in the city, especially in La Juderia, the city’s old Jewish neighborhood. Residents spend all year tending these secluded gardens, artfully arranging flower pots and clusters of plants to spectacular effect, and during the patios festival you can wander in and out of the city’s secret gardens to your heart’s content.
3. The People
For some of the best people watching ever, plan your visit around one of Córdoba’s many festivals. If you go during the fair (Feria de Córdoba), you’ll see many of the city’s residents wandering the streets in dramatic, historical dress. But if you want to actually meet people, try staying in a hostel during your visit. Córdoba is home to a tiny jewel of a hostel, Córdoba Bed and Be. With clean, beautifully designed rooms, incredibly friendly staff, and bikes you can rent right in the lobby, Córdoba Bed and Be organizes outings every evening, perfect for meeting your fellow travelers and mingling with locals as well.
4. The Food
Some of Spain’s best food can be found in a small, authentic city like Córdoba. From churros con chocolate to salmejo (a thick, chilled tomato soup drizzled with olive oil and often topped with small bits of jamon or egg), Córdoba has the essentials covered. But the city’s chefs are also experimenting with tradition, and using international influences to turn classic dishes on their head.
If you’re feeling adventurous, seek out some caracoles — tiny, flavorful Spanish snails.
5. The Mezquita
You really only need one reason to go to Córdoba, and it’s this: the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba. More than a millennia ago, Córdoba was the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus, and it was during this time that a large mosque was built. A few hundred years later the city was reconquered by Christians, and this mosque was converted into a Catholic church. Normally the mosque would have been demolished and a cathedral built in its place, but the original structure was so beautiful that the new rulers decided to build their cathedral within the standing arches and columns. It’s incredibly dramatic, supremely beautiful, and worth a trip to Córdoba all on its own.
Have you been to Córdoba? What other places are on your travel wish list?
Images via Jessica Doehle