One of Andalucía’s many charming cities, Cordoba is known for its famous Mezquita Mosque. Founded by the Carthaginians and later conquered by Romans, the city really thrived under Islamic governing during the Middle Ages. A major cultural and educational centre at the time, many of its current attractions date back to medieval times.
Cordoba was known for its smooth religious and cultural diversity, Muslims, Jewish and Christians coexisting in peace. The good relations between the three major religions allowed both the Jewish and Christian minorities to prosper, demising the city with several architectural treasures of different styles.
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Walking around the historic centre is the best way to explore Cordoba. Bus routes serve most areas of the city, while taxi cabs are easy to find. Keep in mind that many of the major streets are one-way, so buses usually run down different streets on each direction.
Cordoba’s Islamic Heritage
Mezquita Mosque is unquestionably the grandest monument of Cordoba’s Islamic past. Initially a Visigothic church, it was bought by Abd ar-Rahman I, to become a mosque, and later expanded to its current size by Al-Hakim II. Today Mezquita is once more used as a Christian Cathedral, with Spanish Muslims running a campaign to win the right to pray there as well.
Included in Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, Mezqiuta complex houses a spacious main cathedral, a few dozens of chapels and a lovely courtyard. Graciously ornamented, it features several different architectural styles, from Moorish design to Spanish baroque, each added by the mosque’s ruler at different time periods.
Located at the foot of Sierra Morena, on Cordoba’s western side, Madinat al-Zahra is a 10th-century palace built by Caliph Abd al-Rahman III to please his wife. Not fully excavated yet, the site includes the palace’s remains and the ruins of the surrounding city. A brand-new museum is located near the entrance, featuring displays of how the city and palace used to look before they were destroyed by the Berbers. Large parts of Madinat al’Zahra are under restoration.
Cordoba’s Jewish Heritage
The area north-west of Mezquita is known as Juderia, since it was the Jewish zone of Islamic Cordoba. Featuring low whitewashed houses and scenic narrow lanes, it is today the city’s most picturesque quarter.
Located in the heart of Juderia, Synagoga is a lovely 14th-century synagogue, which had also once served as a medieval hospital. Today the visitor can see the beautiful decorations and inscriptions in Hebrew at the synagogue’s interior.
Close to Synagoga, stands Casa de Sefarad. Once connected by tunnel to the synagogue, this medieval house has been operating as a museum since 2008. Focusing on Sephardic customs, it hosts delightful displays on local traditions.
Cordoba’s Christian Heritage
Constructed during 14th century by Alfonso the 6th, Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is a castle which hosted the meeting of Columbus with the Spanish royals before he was commissioned to start his exploration towards India. Featuring lovely terrace gardens, Alcazar houses some fascinating Roman mosaics as well.
Close to Plaza de las Tendillas, Palacio de Viana is a spectacular Renaissance mansion, which covers a total of 6,500 square meters. Join the guided tour to admire the astonishing art and antique collection of Marqueses de Viana. Leave the interior to enjoy a peaceful moment at one of the 12 lovely patios of the villa.
If you enjoyed Palacio de Viana, pay a visit to Palacio Episcopal as well. Occupying a beautiful building of Isabelline Gothic architecture, part of this former hospital houses Museo Diocesano. The museum features a small collection of religious artworks from paintings to carvings. An indoor patio is also available within the palacio.