Get to know Córdoba, City of the three cultures and World Heritage Site by Unesco.
The Muslim, Christian, Jewish and even inquisitive footprint can only be shown in one place: Córdoba. Beyond its beautiful capital, the Cordoba geography is capable of taking us to incredible natural places and charming towns. So let’s get to know this historical city step by step.
Córdoba. From the countryside to Sierra Morena
Córdoba is located to the north of Andalusia, bordering Seville to the west, Jaén to the east, Malaga and Granada to the south and Castilla la Mancha and Extremadura to the north, more specifically with the provinces of Ciudad Real and Badajoz.
Córdoba is the fifth province in population in all of Andalusia with 781,000 inhabitants, only ahead of Almería, Jaén and Huelva. Its capital, Córdoba, has almost half of the province’s inhabitants, with 351,000 people living here.
The Guadalquivir, which is stagnant in the middle course, crosses its province from east to west and fertilizes a wide plain where the cereal, the vine and the olive tree bear fruit.
Towards the north, the Countryside curls up and reaches the last peaks of the Sierra Morena, with dense forests and intense hunting activity.
The mountainous landscape is home to a varied fauna. The province of Cordoba, which preserves traces of the Iberian, Roman and Muslim past, is rich in traditions; It has an impressive monumental heritage and its gastronomy has experienced a notable boom, recovering a varied recipe book of traditional cuisine.
History of Córdoba
It was around the second century when the Romans decided to establish an important town here that would eventually become the capital of Later Hispania during the Roman Republic. Its main ancient monuments tell us about this time, such as the Temple of Claudio Marcelo Street; the Roman bridge that is still standing and in operation; the amphitheater, one of the largest in Hispania and in the entire Empire; the Roman Theater, the Mausoleum and the palace of Maximinio Hercúleo.
Romans are also great Cordobeses, like Seneca, Lucano, Lucio Cornelio and Cayo Valerio. And Rome left its mark on the entire province, which, not for pleasure, is one of the most important in the cultivation of the vine and the olive tree. We have samples of Roman art in Baena, in the important site of Torreparedones with its forum, hot springs and market; the mosaics of Fuente Álamo in Puente Genil; the Roman cisterns of Monturque; or the Villa de el Ruedo in Almedinilla.
Córdoba maintained its traditions even beyond the end of the Roman Empire and its Visigoth successors, when the Muslims invaded the peninsula and the first of the independent Umayyad emirs ruled Al Andalus with firm will. From this time are the numerous Cordovan martyrs who gave themselves to sacrifice in the 9th century and with whom Córdoba has gained an important space in the Christian Saints, such as Eulogio, Gumersindo, Natalia, Laura, Columba or Argimiro.
And it is in these years, despite the religious closure on both sides, when Córdoba detaches itself from the rest of Hispania, and becomes the capital of the emirate, and later the Umayyad caliphate. From this time we have two of the great monuments that represent the province and the city, the Mosque and the Caliphal city of Medina Azahara.
Córdoba, on the verge of becoming owner and mistress of the peninsula, begins to be harassed by the northern tribes of the mountains of northern Hispania, which little later, become kingdoms, and later on they will diminish the Andalusian power until confining the once Muslim power in the limits that go between Sierra Morena and the south of Andalusia. Until one day Ferdinand III returns these lands to Christianity, and in Córdoba a Catholic devotion spreads and the bells replace the muezzins.
And where before the faithful prostrated themselves looking at the holy stone of Mecca, churches, altars and chapels are erected to the greater glory of God.
But from that we are left with its streets in the Jewish quarter, its fountains, its gardens, the ruins of what were once its palaces and castles. And it is that Córdoba is Christian and Sultana, Gypsy and Roman.
Strolling through its streets is to be enchanted with its architecture, and to know in the touch of the warm stone in the summer, or frozen in the winter, those characters that after having disappeared, continue with us contemplating our passing, and that is that Córdoba apart from monumental, it is statuesque. And through its streets and landings we can see San Rafael, omnipresent in his numerous triumphs; Christ between lanterns; to the Great Captain as directing his men towards the luminaries of victory; the poet Rücker; to Bishop Osio; the sculptor Mateo Inurria; the Duke of Rivas, and of course; the famous people from Cordoba from the 20th century Manolete and Julio Romero de Torres; We will meet mythological beings such as the god Pan, and we will be able to converse, that yes, rather, monologue, with those Cordobans from the Caliphate era, such as Ibn Hazm, Maimonides, Al-Gafequi, Averroes, Alhakén II, Abbas Ibn Firnas and Ziryab. And we can talk about Latin letters with Seneca, Lucano, and even with Nero, and of course update those letters with Luis de Góngora.
Córdoba is not only its most famous characters, which certainly abound, but also its people and their customs. Córdoba is the Patios and the Crosses in May, the Corpus Christi in June, Carnival in February and Holy Week in spring. Córdoba is the stockings in the taverns, the snails and the oxtail.
The city in the following centuries continued to forge itself as one of the most beautiful in all of Andalusia, but it would never achieve the splendor that it had during the Muslim era.
The capital: Córdoba
Being the entity that has obtained the highest number of World Heritage titles, it is the reflection of how Córdoba amasses a rich history that dates back to the Roman Empire, when it was designated as capital in Later Hispania; which portrays its importance throughout history.
However, its greatest cultural wealth occurred during the Muslim dominance; by becoming one of the cities with the greatest culture and opulence that spread throughout all of Europe. And the vestiges of this time are still present through the abundant mosques, baths, libraries and souks. While the urban distribution of its infrastructure was one of the most admired during the Caliphate.
Already, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Córdoba suffered the ravages of industrial and technological transformation; allowing a large number of goods and people to pass through its railway bridges. Today, visiting Córdoba represents knowing different historical points, among which are:
- Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba: Perhaps the most iconic monument in the entire city. Built in 785, this temple became one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic art. And it is that, with its cultural mix, it has become a unique piece of architectural art; since, its arches and columns shelter inside the vestiges of a Christian cathedral in the center. A truly impressive monument, which overwhelms us with the amount of detail around it.
- Roman Temple of Córdoba: In front of the town hall an impressive vestige is located: the Roman temple of Córdoba; Be careful, it is not possible to access the ruins, but it is a monument that can be appreciated from the street. Therefore, if we find ourselves in the middle of the best-known squares in Córdoba, we cannot stop taking a look at it.
- Corredera Square: We already mentioned that there are two important squares in Córdoba, and one of them is the Plaza de la Corredera. A mandatory meeting place with unique characteristics throughout Andalusia. Here festivities, bullfights, markets and even executions are organized !; Nowadays, it is the ideal place to enjoy a good meal or a drink, while we are lying on one of the terraces.
- Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs: Residence of kings and seat of the Holy Office, the Alcázar de los Reyes is another of the essential historical points, in a visit to Córdoba. Inside, you will find: the living room with mosaics, the Arab courtyard and the royal baths. Meanwhile, the gardens are lined with trees, fountains and ponds that encompass an idyllic dream.
- The Patios of Córdoba: It is the most international festival in the city and takes place every May. During its celebration, patios of the historic center of Córdoba are opened to the public, decorated with flowers that fill the city with color and aromas of jasmine and orange blossom. Likewise, the patios host flamenco shows. You will find some of the most popular in the Alcázar Viejo, Santa Marina and La Magdalena neighborhoods, as well as around the San Lorenzo neighborhood and the Mezquita area. The owners of the Patios de Córdoba participating in the contest open their patios and the public can visit them. What many do not know is that it is possible to visit patios in Córdoba throughout the year and we would almost say that outside the Festival dates is when they can best be known, because they are not so saturated with public.
- Medina Azahara: It is known as the Shining City and was raised as the capital of the Caliphate and a symbol of all its greatness and wealth. This impressive site is located about 10 kilometers from the city of Córdoba (there are direct bus connections) and is the largest archaeological site in Spain. Its two-hour guided tour is a must on your trip to Córdoba. It also offers night tours.
The history of Medina Azahara begins with Abderraman, III, and his decision to build a city on the outskirts of Córdoba, between the years 936 and 976. A city that as a whole will bring together both the administrative and residential tasks of the caliphate.
Taking advantage of the orography of the land, a city was designed based on the existing heights, where the upper terrace was occupied by the private function and residence of the royal family, as well as the governmental function.
In the lower elevation is where the city itself developed with its own services. The water supply was developed using the old canalization from Roman times. The connection with the city of Córdoba was made from three bridges that spanned the existing streams. Of these bridges the bridge of Los Nogales is still preserved.
The materials that were used in its construction tell us of the great interest on the part of the monarch to show his great power and supremacy. The celebrations of the court took place on a stage with sandstones, Portuguese marbles, ponds and gardens. The receptions in the so-called Rich Hall of al-Hakam II (961-976) with the protocol of the palace and the gardens must have been impressive.
Visit Córdoba, there are many places to explore in the capital:
– The Jewish Quarter
– The Synagogue of Córdoba
– The Hermitage of San Bartolomé
– The Royal Stables of Córdoba
– The Gate of the Roman Bridge
– The roman bridge
– The Calahorra Tower
– The Plaza de las Tendillas
– The Palace of Viana
In the Plaza de Don Gome stands this majestic palace, whose rooms are developed around twelve magnificent courtyards and a fantastic garden. The different floral species decorate and perfume every corner of the bombastic museum. The last Marchioness of Viana, Sofía de Lancaster, knew how to maintain the exquisite origin of this 14th century palace.
The multiple rooms of the Palacio de Viana house numerous collections of all kinds (paintings, tableware, mosaics, tapestries, tiles, firearms). The fabulous works of art that are exhibited in this enclosure make this visit one of the most constructive in Córdoba. The collection of guadamecíes and the great library from the 16th to the 18th centuries stand out.
A circuit through the different museums in Córdoba, including:
– The archaeological museum
– The bullfighting museum
– The Museum of Fine Arts
– The Julio Romero de Torrez museum
– The ethnobotanical museum
– The gallery of the inquisition
Tourism in the province of Córdoba
Córdoba is much more than its incredible capital, and the places that we want to show you in the province are good evidence of this. All styles, forms, traditions and cultural expressions have had and have a place in the Province and make it the best tourist destination for its varied cultural offer. The Cordoba that is not expected, that surprises and that dazzles.
Very close to Córdoba is the historical complex of Medina-Azahara, where we can see the ruins of an ancient Muslim city that has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2018.
Another of the most important historical monuments in the province is the castle of Almodóvar del Río. If you are a fan of the Game of Thrones series, you are in luck, since some scenes representing the castle of Altojardín were recorded here.
To get an idea of what nature can show us in the province of Córdoba, we can visit natural parks such as Cardeña and Montoro or Sierra de Hornachuelos.
To enjoy Córdoba is to enjoy an environment full of history that integrates a rich cultural mix, with a delicious gastronomy and a pleasant camaraderie between its regions.
Walking through its streets is to go back in time, to do it to a time when Christians, Jews and Muslims tried to live in peace. The cathedral-mosque, the Roman bridge, the Alcázar or the Plaza de la Corredera show us the best of a city that has known how to adapt to each era in history. Córdoba has 4 inscriptions on the World Heritage List granted by Unesco: The Mosque-Cathedral (1984), the historic center that surrounds it (1994), the Fiesta de Los Patios (2012) and Medina Azahara (2018).
Let’s not forget that in the province of Córdoba we can not only go back to the best times in the history of Al-Andalus, but we can also visit beautiful natural places and incredible towns that give us the best of themselves. Little overcrowded, the province of Córdoba is a unique destination in Andalusia, so visit it as soon as you can.