Spain is a little country located in the Iberian Peninsula, sharing the coast with the Mediterranean Sea and a little part with the Atlantic Ocean. The country is divided into seven different regions and the largest one being Andalucía, the southern region of Spain. Andalucía is adorned with influences from the Roman empire, the Moorish reign and hot weather! One city that played an important role during the Roman empire and the Moorish reign is Córdoba. Córdoba is considered to be one of the hottest cities, where temperatures can reach up to 100°F+ (40°C+) during the summer!
If you’re planning on visiting this little Mediterranean country, I highly recommend visiting Cordoba! It’s one of my favorite cities in Spain, with many different tourist sites to visit. The city is also big enough where you won’t get bored roaming the Jewish Quarter or the Old Center, but also small enough that you can walk almost everywhere comfortably. Before planning your trip, here’s a city guide of all my favorite things about this city and other useful tips for traveling efficiently!
Transportation (from Madrid)
Getting to Córdoba is extremely easy. Spain has a great public transportation system that allows visitors and locals to get to one area of the country quickly. Costs vary significantly, so depending on your budget here are the best ways to get to Córdoba:
Córdoba has a train station and a bus station located right in front of one another, which makes it extremely convenient! The high-speed train (AVE) takes you from the Atocha station in Madrid, directly to the train station in Córdoba in about two hours or two and a half hours! The AVE is very comfortable and cuts down your travel time by an hour and a half. Costs for the AVE are a bit more expensive, ranging from 30 euros to almost 100 euros, depending on the time you choose and when you buy. You can look for tickets to the AVE at the RENFE website, here.
Blabla car is a means of transportation that many Spaniards use throughout the country. It’s an online service that allows drivers to carpool with people who need a ride, and carpoolers help by paying gas. Usually during car rides, you share a conversation and provide company for the driver. You can create an account on Blabla Car to start messaging drivers about catching a ride with them.
Driving from Madrid to Córdoba takes about 3.5 hours, depending on traffic. To help chip in for gas, a carpool ride from Madrid to Córdoba costs around 20€. The great thing about Blabla car is that while you’re searching for a ride, the application tells you if the price, the driver is asking for, is reasonable or much too expensive. The cost of a seat will be in green (a normal price), yellow (a bit expensive) and red (extremely expensive). It’s a great way to travel if you’re traveling solo and want to practice your Spanish speaking skills!
Personally, I despise traveling by bus because I seem to always get nauseous riding on them. Plus, they always make me feel uncomfortable. If you don’t mind riding a bus, there are different buses that go from Madrid to Andalucía. Some of these buses also make stops in various cities, like Córdoba, while headed down to Málaga. Buses leave from Principe Pio Bus Station in Madrid, which is not located near Atocha Train Station. There is one bus called Socibus, that takes you directly from Madrid to Córdoba in about 4 hours. You can buy your ticket online here. Prices for the bus are significantly cheaper than traveling by train! Usually a bus ticket will range from 15-20€.
The best place to find a place to stay in Córdoba is near the old city center or in the Jewish Quarter. All of the sites are walking distance, so picking a hostel or hotel near the center is the best way to make your way around! The hostel I stayed at while visiting Córdoba is located in the Jewish Quarter and was very comfortable and welcoming.
Mayflowers Hostel is located in a small street in the Jewish Quarter and adorned with adorable trinkets and decorations! The best part was that breakfast was included in the price! I stayed in an 8 person dorm room, with towels provided and the shower was always very clean. They had a nice open area in the center of the hostel where guests can sit and talk, have breakfast, or hang out on the couches and read. The white walls and cozy decorations made this place look pristine and welcoming.
Sights To See/Things To Do
There are so many things to see in Córdoba! The city offers a taste of Moorish culture, the Roman empire, Spanish culture and even has a Jewish Quarter. The layout of the city is perfect to start from one area and make your way to the other end, which allows you to see all of the different sights. There are some tourist areas that do have an entrance fee and others which are free. The entrance fees can definitely be a pain, but I’ll let you know which ones are worth it! (;
In the center of Córdoba lies the Mezquita. This is one of my absolute favorite buildings I’ve visited in Spain. It was originally a mosque during the Muslim era of Spain. When the Catholics came and conquered Córdoba, they took the mosque and turned it into a Basilica and consecrated it, which means that no other religion can practice their faith inside. The entrance to the Mezquita is 8€, but definitely worth it. It’s much larger than you would think, and has such an interesting mix between Muslim architecture and Catholic architecture. It’s absolutely breathtaking while walking through and seeing how intricate everything is.
I recommend giving yourself enough time to walk around and really take in the Mezquita. The first time I went, I thought we’d only be in there for 45 minutes to an hour, but ended up spending about an hour and a half to almost two hours admiring the beauty! It’s truly one of the most interesting buildings I’ve seen in Spain. If you don’t want to pay the 8€, you can also go early in the mornings on Saturday (8-9am) to see the Mezquita for free. Take your time to also enjoy the Mezquita square, filled with orange tress and a fountain.
El Puente Romano
If you watch “Game of Thrones”, this bridge may actually be familiar to you! El Puente Romano, in English known as the Roman bridge, was featured in this popular TV series. The bridge was built in 1 BC by the Romans and was later reconstructed by the Moors. It’s a great place to walk and enjoy the historic old town of Córdoba in the background!
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
Another one of my favorite places in Córdoba is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. In Spanish, this means the Castle of the Christian Monarchs. It’s located near the Mezquita closer to the Jewish Quarter. There are tickets to visit this castle, but if you have a student ID you will be able to get a discount. Tickets are 4.50€ and with a student discount is about half the price. While visiting, you’ll be able to walk around the inside of the castle where you can find original tile flooring from the Romans, the different towers of the castle and the gardens.
The gardens are my FAVORITE aspect of this area! Try to go when it’s not too hot, otherwise you will be sweating uncontrollably!! The gardens have beautiful fountains and flowers to walk through, which make for perfect picture opportunities. You can also find the statues of the original kings and queens of Spain. In Spanish history, these are the kings and queens that created and united what we now know as Spain.
*History Lesson: Before the country of Spain existed, there were mini kingdoms all throughout the land. Eventually, all of the mini kingdoms were then united by the marriage of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille. That’s the quick and dirty version haha!
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter in Córdoba was once where all the Jewish people lived. They are small and humble homes, connected by cobblestoned streets and painted all white. The houses are beautifully adorned and look so quaint! They embody a sense of fresh-ness and just walking around the area makes you feel like you’re transported back into history.
To really take advantage of the Jewish Quarter, come during the month of May when Córdoba hosts its annual “Patios de Córdoba” competition. The Patios de Córdoba is a famous event held yearly for two weeks during the month of May. Houses in the Jewish Quarter decorate and adorn their homes with beautiful and exotic flowers! It’s not only a garden (because most homes don’t have grass), there are potted plants hanging from the walls, water wells from the past and even fountains! The even is free to attend, you only need to wait in line. If you really enjoyed the patio, you can also drop in 1-2€ to show your appreciation. Families will decorate their homes and open it up to the public to appreciate their beautiful patios!
If shopping is your thing, head directly to Plaza Tendillas to find all of the stores you could possibly want or need. In this area, the streets are bustling with shoppers, diners and even some small streets to sit and have a drink. Stores in this area include: Zara, Alehop, Mango, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, and a lot of shoe stores. The best time for shopping in Spain is right after the Three Kings Day, which is during the beginning of January. The sale season is called “rebajas”, translated in English as sales. Think Black Friday in the United States but not just for one day, the sale season usually lasts about 3 weeks and prices get lower and lower between the first, second and third week.
After shopping around for a while, I can imagine you’d be tired. One of the best streets to head to for a young scene and a nice tapa to snack on is: Calle Victoriano Rivera. The street is pretty narrow and in the center are all of the terraces from the surrounding bars. Here you’ll find a younger crowd, and maybe a bit older, enjoying time with their friends while having a beer and snack!
This plaza reminds me a lot of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. It is a big square, surrounded by apartment buildings and restaurants. Sometimes, the city sets up live performances in the center of the square. The plaza is also filled with restaurants and terraces. If you’re tired from roaming the city, grab a table outside, order yourself a few tapas and beers and enjoy the view. Also, people watching here is great. You may even see a few bachelor or bachelorette parties roaming around. They’re the groups dressed in hilarious costumes, probably very loud and trying to get everyone to drink with them!
Places To Eat
Where do I even begin about the food?! There are typical dishes that you NEED to try while visiting Córdoba or the surrounding pueblos. Of course there are also some great and iconic restaurants that are a must! You know your girl would hook it up. These are a few of the restaurants that were always my favorite whenever I visited the city.
Bar Santos is located right next to the Mezquita. It’s a small bar that doesn’t leave you much room to sit and dine inside. The best thing to do is take your order to go and grab a seat on the large steps of the Mezquita and people watch/enjoy the view. The bar is famous for their “Tortilla Española”, or in English known as the Spanish omelette. The tortilla española is a large and thick omelette with potatoes inside. Some recipes call for chopped onions, but I believe that’s to your own preference.
You’ll be surprised at how big the omelette is! Imagine a HUGE and thick omelette that has been cooked with chopped potatoes. I know, hard to imagine if you’ve never eaten the Spanish omelette. They are known for having the BIGGEST omelette in Córdoba and maybe in all of Andalucía! Order yourself a “bocadillo de tortilla española”, which is a Spanish omelette sub, and grab a seat in the plaza of the Mezquita or on the outside steps. You’ll be full in no time! The sub is made up of sliced baguette and a large slice of the omelette inside! That’s it! You don’t need to add any mayonnaise or condiments, enjoy it simple!
This little bar is tucked away in the students area of Córdoba city. So, you know it’ll be cheap and good! The bar has terrace seating and an inside where it’s a little cooler. If you’re headed there during the evening, try and go early to grab a spot on the terrace to people watch! It gets super crowded around 7/8pm for “snack” time that leads straight to dinner. This is THE spot for most of the students, so if you’re younger, maybe y’all can spot some eye candy.
Order yourself a caña (small beer) or doble (medium beer), and pick a free tapa! They have baguette styled pizza, which are actually really large in size. My favorite of these “pan pizzas” is the estudiante (topped off with a hard boiled egg) or the barbacoa, which is doused in barbecue sauce. A few other great deals are the hamburger special and the quarter chicken special. You can choose one or the other, with your drink for only 2.50€! Both deals come with potatoes and a slice of bread. DEFINITELY WORTH THE MONEY.
Similar to the Mercado de San Miguel, this is Córdoba’s version of the famous food market. It is a glass building located close to the main shopping plaza, Plaza Tendillas. Inside you’ll be able to find different food stands with gourmet options and a little market for fruits and vegetables. Take your pick from gourmet hamburgers, ice cream, sushi and of course wines and beers. If you’re feeling like really relaxing, you can grab a group of your friends to come with you and order a “cubo” and enjoy the weather on the outside terrace. A “cubo” is a bucket of beers to share. It usually ends up being a bit cheaper than ordering one beer at a time.
At night, the Mercado Victoria also has a club upstairs. I’ve never been, but from what I’ve heard, it gets pretty crowded and a bit pricier than the other areas. This little spot is still a great place to window shop some delicious foods. You can enjoy the park, where the market is located, and hang out with friends, bring your dogs or enjoy some time to yourself.
Food To Try & Drinks To Drink
One of my favorite things about this little country is the vast array of foods they offer. Each region you visit has a famous dish, something that they’re known for. Within all of the dishes, they all differ by season. In the province of Córdoba, there are a few famous dishes you HAVE to try! These are my favourites:
This is probably not the HEALTHIEST option out there, but it sure is delicious! It’s made by wrapping jamón serrano with pieces of pork loin, coated with egg and breadcrumbs and later deep fried. It’s usually accompanied by french fries and mayonnaise on the side for dipping. It sounds like a lot of pork, and it really is! This is the perfect dish to eat for lunch (if you don’t want to share) or ordering it with your friends if you’re out for tapas. It’s one of my favorite dishes from the province of Córdoba and if I can make one correctly, I’ll be sharing that recipe with y’all! (:
If you’ve been keeping up with this blog and what my year living in Córdoba was like, you may know that I LOVE salmorejo. I don’t even know if it’s normal to love a food this much, but there is something about how simple and filling it is that I will always recommend it to my friends and family! This dish is also famous in the Córdoba region, so before trying it anywhere else, try it in Córdoba first! It is a tomato bisque, that is just that. The ingredients are simple: tomato, bread, garlic, olive oil and salt. I’ve got a recipe on it here, so you can try it at home! It’s served cold, so perfect after roaming the hot Andalusian streets.
*Pro Tip: Don’t add a lot of garlic!!! I added 4 cloves my first time and ended up having garlic burps all night!*
Gazpacho Not a tomato bisque person? You can have gazpacho! This dish, isn’t specifically from the province of Córdoba. Gazpacho originiated within the entire Souther region, Andalucía. It is a cold soup made from raw vegetables, which is perfect to eat during the summer when temperatures can reach up to 100+°F! The interesting thing about how Andalusians eat their gazpacho is with ice cubes and is more of a drink! So, if you’re feeling hot, take a shot of gazpacho! (Probably better tasting and much cheaper than that wheat grass shot that some people pay for!).
Eggplant with honey (berenjenas con miel) Oh yes, I am such a big fan of eggplant (in Spanish: berenjena). Another traditional dish from Córdoba is fried eggplant with honey. When I first had people tell me to try this, I thought it was a little strange. I do love eggplant, but fried and drizzled with honey? To my surprise, it was a perfect snack to have before dinner and with a cold beer. The eggplant is cut into thin strips, fried and later drizzled with sweet honey. It is such a great combination! And even if you’re not an eggplant person, can we all agree that anything fried is just better?
I personally do not like vino fino, but if you’re in Córdoba, you have to try everything! Right? Go big or go home? When in… Córdoba? Vino fino is a specific type of wine made from the area of Montilla-Moriles. In English, a lot of people call it “sherry” but it isn’t technically sherry. Vino fino doesn’t need to be mixed with other wines or be fortified to reach it’s alcohol levels. This stuff is STRONG, too! You will usually be served a small (very small) glass of vino fino, which can range from 15-17% alcohol. It’s great paired with shellfish, tapas or can even be cooked with chicken. My boyfriend loves it! They say that after a few glasses of vino fino, you will have a hard time standing up! So, if you’re a lightweight (like I am) pace yourself. The taste is strong and if you’re expecting a similar taste to white wine, not quite the same, haha.
Best Time to Visit
It’s hard to say when the best time to visit is. I can probably tell you that visiting Córdoba during the summer probably isn’t the best idea. Like I said before, temperatures can reach up to 100°F in the early months of summer. Córdoba is also considered to be one of the driest cities in the area, so you know the heat is packing!
The month of May is probably the best time to visit. The entire month is packed with constant festivals and parties! The festivities begin during the last weekend of April, with the “batalla de las flores”, “las cruces de mayo” and the “cata del vino”. During the last few weekends of May are the “patios de Córdoba”, “Concurso de Rejas y Balcones”, and the main event, “La feria de mayo”! If you have the time, try and make it to all of these events! They’re unique to the city, and the patios are one of the most famous attractions. When we went, we met people from all over the world that came to see them!
The feria de mayo is also a lot of fun! If you’ve heard about “la feria de Sevilla”, this is the free and less posh version. Unlike the feria de Sevilla, where you have to be a member to enter into the “casetas”, the “casetas” in Córdoba are free! During this big party, you can find attractions, rides, and food stands. Córdobeses (people from Córdoba) will also be dressed in their traditional dresses and clothing specific to this city. You can find more information about Córdoba’s events and parties here.
Want to plan a trip to Córdoba or Spain and not sure where to start? Contact Map It Trips to help you set up an itinerary that works for your travel style! We’d love to help you set up an itinerary that covers all of the sights and activities that you’d be interested in! If you’ve visited Córdoba before, did I miss anything? Do you have any travel secrets to share? (:
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