Once the home of Christopher Columbus, today Cordoba is an alluring city filled with impressive historical sites. The most important of these is La Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba); however, the reality is there are several fascinating things to do in Cordoba Spain.
Intrigued by Moorish history and impressed by Mudéjar-style decor, I was instantly in love with the Cathedral. It charms the imagination and brings hordes of tourists to this Andalusian town annually.
Cordoba was the capital of the Muslim-ruled Caliphate of Cordoba (from 929 to 1031), the ruling body over almost all of the Iberian Peninsula. During a portion of this time, it was considered to be the world’s largest city.
Then there was the Reconquista, and later the Inquisition and expulsion of the Jews leading to Christian rule. As a result, we find a town full of historical sites that have blended and transformed over history.
La Mezquita tops just about every list of things to do in Cordoba Spain
La Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba) is one of the most memorable places I have ever stood.
Its red and white archways captivated my attention from the moment we entered. The contrast between the Moorish architecture and Catholic artefacts blends seamlessly. As a result, the structure feels endless. It is a visual treat around every corner.
It remains the largest structure of its kind in the western Muslim world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A brief history of La Mezquita
Originally, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins stood on the site. However, in 711 AD, the Muslims conquered Spain, and for a period of time, the Christians and Muslims shared the church, each occupying half of the building.
Construction of the Grand Mosque of Córdoba began in 784 after the Christian half was purchased and demolished. Córdoba returned to Christian rule in 1236 during the Reconquista, and the building converted to Roman Catholic.
Visiting La Mezquita
La Mezquita opens daily at 10am, but if you arrive between 8.30 and 9.30am, entry is free. While we have read that early birds are asked to leave by 9.30, it was never mentioned when we visited, and we entered at the last minute. In fact, we were advised by our hotel to hurry over if want to be in free for the day.
However, while free is great on the budget, what we missed was the knowledge of a guided tour. We believe this was a mistake. The art historian guide in this skip-the-line tour brings history alive and highlights some of the more intricate features we just simply missed.
It’s the small things like learning at the time that the double arches were ground-breaking and used to give the building height. Reserve your Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral tour with skip-the-line tickets or one of these tours:
Cordoba Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
Visiting Córdoba Synagogue should be high on your list of things to do in Cordoba Spain. It is one of only three synagogues in Spain remaining after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.
Built beginning in 1315, the Mudéjar-style ornamentation of the Cordoba Synagogue is a highlight of Cordoba’s medieval Jewish quarter, one of the largest Jewish ghettos in Europe.
In it are an upper-level women’s gallery, a breathtaking prayer room with balconies, arches, and an ark for holding the Torah.
Historically, Córdoba Synagogue was taken and transformed into a church in the 16th century, only to be later rediscovered in the 19th century.
The Puente Romano (Roman bridge) is a 331-m long, 16-arch bridge spanning the Río Guadalquivir.
Originally built after Caesar’s victory over Pompey the Great, it’s undergone so many renovations and reconstructions over time that it barely resembles its Roman roots.
However, if it looks familiar, perhaps you recognise it as the Long Bridge of Volantis from Game of Thrones: Season 5.
- At the southern end of the bridge
Torre de la Calahorra (tower) at the south end is a fortified gate built during the late 12th century to protect the bridge. Today, the tower is Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus, a museum highlighting the cultural achievements of Al-Andalus. (first image)
- At the northern end of the bridge
In the second image, we are looking to the north towards the city gate and the pedestal topped with The Triumph of San Rafael de Glorieta of the Count of Guadalhorce dedicated to the archangel San Rafael, angel guardian of the city.
Walk around Cordoba at night
Although lit up and golden, we were surprised by the quiet of the night streets.
If we had arrived earlier or planned better, we would have joined an old town evening walking tour to discover the city’s World Heritage-listed landmarks as well as interesting places like Cordoba’s narrowest street, the most photographed street (Calle de Las Flores, just below), and more. Reserve your Cordoba old town evening walking tour here.
More things to do in Cordoba, Spain
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am completely enchanted by the dancer’s feet at a flamenco show and see one in just about every city. If Cordoba is your pick, get tickets for the famous Cordoba flamenco show at Tablao el Cardenal here.
- The Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs
Visit the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a former Caliphal Palace. It later became the residence of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon and the location where they met Christopher Columbus as he prepared to take his first voyage to the Americas.
- Botanical Garden
Let the lush nature and fountains relax you at Jardín Botánico de Córdoba.
- Hammam bath
Unwind with a hammam bath (a different and much more relaxing experience than the hammam bath we had in Morocco).
- Bullfighting Museum
Increase your understanding of Spain’s controversial sport at the Bullfighting Museum.
- Palacio de los Marqueses de Viana
Explore the 12 patios and fountains of Palacio de los Marqueses de Viana.
- Medina Azahara
Well preserved ruins of the former palace of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III, including an elaborate hall, large portico, the house of Yafar, and a mosque.
Where to stay in Cordoba
Note that if you stay in the old town, you will either need to park your car outside the walls and walk in, as we did or stay in a hotel with parking provided. We simply packed a tiny overnight bag for the stay, so we had little to carry.
We stayed at Hotel Mezquita, an affordable Andalusian house-style accommodation directly across the street from La Mezquita. Surrounded by historic buildings, our hotel was clean, colourful, and had a larger-than-average room for our family. While not the 4 or 5-star accommodation we usually stay at, this place was actually quite lovely and we would stay here again. Check availability and reserve your stay at Hotel Mezquita
Hospes Palacio del Bailio (5-stars)
If you are looking for elegance, then Hospes Palacio del Bailio is your spot, where you will discover a seamless mix of past and present in the heart of ancient Cordoba. The flower garden or orange tree line sun terrace are easy spots to unwind or head to the spa for some pampering. Check availability and reserve your stay at Hospes Palacio del Bailio
Final thoughts on visiting Cordoba
We loved this town and found many more interesting things to do in Cordoba Spain than we had anticipated.
If you are short on time, you will want to allocate at least 2-3 hours inside La Mezquita. You could spend the night, see the cathedral in the morning, and then move on. Or, make it a stop as you travel through.
While we definitely recommend staying in Cordoba if you are driving through central Spain, at minimum, we encourage you to visit the Cathedral.
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- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
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Which of these things to do in Cordoba, Spain top your list?
More from Spain you might like …
- Madrid Highlights: 10 Unique Things to Do in the Spanish Capital
- Northern Spain Road Trip: From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean
- Barcelona Day Trips: Dali Museum and 9 Medieval Towns in Catalonia
- Unique things to do in Seville Spain
All photos on this page are either shot by our team and watermarked as such or stock images from Depositphotos.
They all look enticing but I particularly like your nighttime photos!
I would most likely visit La Mezquita if I had only one day in Cordoba. However, it would be a difficult choice considering how beautiful the other sites are too. We passed by Cordoba on our way to Toledo some years ago when we went to Spain, but didn’t have enough time to stop and visit. I’d love to go back though.
Laura @ 48 No Interstate
Thirteen years ago this week, I was touring Cordoba and La Mezquita myself! I wish I could go back and make by 18-year-old self listen to the guide better, but I do recall being stunned by the architecture of La Mezquita and loved walking around the city with friends. This was a fun trip down memory lane for me. 🙂
These photos are stunning. I would love to take a walk around here 🙂
Julie Kemp Pick
What a great adventure spending so much time exploring Spain!
I’ve visited Barcelona, but would love to see Cordoba and Madrid!
Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos again!
Another one to add to my list of places to visit
As soon I have seen the picture I knew, our Mezquita in Cordoba!!! so stunning buildins, isnt it? The photos are spectacular!
Have a great week Rhonda!
That bridge is such interesting architecture. You make me want to visit Spain! Your night shots are stunning. We usually get up early on our travels and by after dinner, we are zonked and miss out on the city lights. Time to change that up now and then!
We saw a church with similar colours in Western Australia. It turned out to be modelled after this one.
With such an interesting history.
Rose @ Living Abundantly Now
Gorgeous photos! I would love to visit the Roman bridge.
There are interesting things on both ends of the bridge.
How i wish i can also see those you showed us! They are truly amazing and very impressive, and your photos are so beautiful. Thanks.
Oh, man…it’s so beautiful. With only a day, I’d probably just wander the streets and stare at everything. But, choosing from the above, I imagine I’d visit the cathedral.
Such a pretty place! I imagine this building took forever to construct with all the detail!
What beautiful pics. What a lovely place to visit. I would love to visit there.
I went here in 2009 and we really love to walk around La Mezquita. It is such a beautiful, historical place.
Wow! So many wonderful photos!
António Santos Gomes
Boa tarde, gostei de conhecer o seu excelente trabalho fotografico, as fotos são magicas no seu enquanto e na qualidade, Córdova é uma cidade lindas cheia historia conhecida e misteriosa, a mesquita é conhecida internacionalmente pela enorme beleza, , julgo que já existiram mais mesquitas na bela cidade, a que bem fotografou é uma mesquita dentro da outra, suas duas mesquitas, concorda?
Votos de feliz semana.
Stunning photography. I would definitely visit the church no matter how long I had. I love taking little trips with you through out the world.
Wow – just breathtaking!
Mother of 3
Such lovely photos! looks like an amazing trip.
These are truly amazing photos, what a wonderful experience!
Have a fabulous week where ever you travel….Be safe!
Wow, the Cathedral of Cordoba just got put on my bucket list. I’ve read about it before but your post really got my interest.
Nano @ Travel With Nano B.
Spain is such a stunning country. I’ve been only to Barcelona, but I want to go back for a longer period to explore its different regions. Beautiful photos, Rhonda!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
And the largest building is Catholic. Ironic. But very beautiful.
I have some friends there now. This is their second time there so I’m guessing they like Spain very much.
Great shots as always.
Have a fabulous day. 🙂
Oh I want, want, want to see all of these. Bucket list items for sure.
Jim, Sydney, Australia
Brings back great memories.
so beautiful! international art amazes me. i envy your brave travels!
LOL – we didn’t feel very brave.
Sometimes when I see such grand designs, I can’t help but wonder how many labor hours goes into creating the master piece. It is gorgeous.
There must be an enormous amount of hours that went into the creation of the mosque.
Wow. Never been – but I sure want to now.
I love it all — the architecture is truly amazing and just stunning. The ceiling is absolute art.
Everything about the place is truly amazing and just stunning.
very fantastic photos, I love its history, very amazing stories related to it.
That is impressive! It’s amazing that they built churches like that centuries ago – and that they are still standing strong. I’ve never been to Spain, but I saw plenty in England and Scotland.
I remember my parents visiting Spain years ago and going on those tours. They had an amazing experience.
There are plenty of tours that go here, but we opted to do it on our own.
Bethany the ngnrdgrl
Beautiful photos!!! I studied architectural history in college and would love to go somewhere like spain to study all the beautiful, historic architecture. Thanks for sharing with us! I’ve linked up.
There are so many places in Europe that would be ideal for an architectural study.
I have never been to Spain but would love to go. I think the picture of the altar is my favorite. So much detail. Gorgeous photos.
I’ve been to Spain (Madrid) however it was the worse experience of my life as my husband was injured in a terrorist bombing. 🙁
OMG, that is so terrible. I am so sorry to read this.
Gorgeous photos of the Cathedral. I love the ceiling photo. The photo of the alter is amazing – a lot of architecture to take in! Breathtaking, really.
It is a magnificent mosque – church.
Love the detail!
That is one interesting looking building. I love all the details. I sadly have never been to Spain. So, pictures will have to do!
Julie K Pick
I also haven’t visited this part of Spain, but would love to go! Gorgeous photos!
I like all the shots! It is beautiful! I’ve been to cathedrals in Paris and Italy. Never Spain. Thanks for sharing!
The cathedrals in Paris and Italy that we visited were all quite different then La Mezquita.
It is a gorgeous place.
That’s a beautiful place.
I have never been to Spain… (humm reminds me of a song!) but my youngest son was sent there for work and my youngest BIL was in the air force for 20 years & spent quite a few of them there. It is also where he met his wife.
I think the ‘old world’ has the prettiest architecture.
Agreed. I love the medieval architecture.
I think not, I visited Spain as a young child, but would have remembered those colorful arches had I see them.
There are so many cool cities in Spain, maybe you just didn’t go to Cordoba.
Spain is on my travel bucket list.. it’s so beautiful!
Move it to the top of your list, Spain is fabulous.
I’ve always wanted to go to Spain. Absolutely beautiful!
Just beautiful. I have been to Europe, but our tour did not go to Spain. I have ancestral ties to Spain, and would one day love to visit.
Too bad, it is a fascinating country. We spent 10 weeks in Spain.
Wow! This cathedral is so beautiful! Great shots Rhonda. Thanks for sharing and hosting.
Stunning photos! x
Great pictures! Very impressed. Spain sounds like a great destination.
I hope you get to Spain, it’s fabulous.
I’ve been there! It’s gorgeous.
These are wonderful photos!
Hi Rhonda .. I haven’t been to that part of Spain and so want to go .. and do a tour round at some stage. Those pictures are just amazing – the third one is just incredible and so fascinating to see .. now I want to go even more ..
It’s right down the centre of the country. We went from Madrid to Segovia, then Toledo to Cordoba before heading to Granada.
I have only been to three countries Japan, Philippines and China, we actually went to Hong Kong, but took a train ride through China. Love the pictures
Asia and Europe are quite different.
Tammi @ My Organized Chaos
Breathtaking!! I just love Europe!
I’ve never been to Spain.
My favorite photograph is the golden door shot. Beautiful.
I agree with you what a stunning place I bet it had a great atmosphere, last time I was in Spain was in 1986 (Which is hard to believe seeings I am only 21) and still remember it well 🙂
Have a lietastic week 😉
I would imagine La Mesquita is exactly the same in 1986.
Robin (Masshole Mommy)
Oh wow, that is breath taking. I have never been to Spain, or anywhere in Europe for any matter.
Breathtaking is the perfect word. It leaves you speechless.