The mezquita in Cordoba

Cordoba the Mezquita and Old Town

The city of Cordoba, located on the Guadalquivir river, has been a significant part of the history of Spain since Roman times. But, reached its zenith during the Islamic era when the city was the capital of the Cordoba Emirate of Al-Andalus. So, here is a bit of information about Cordoba the Mezquita and old town.

The family behind Ronda Today spent 6 nights in August 2023 discovering the delights of Cordoba. Read about our adventure here and find out the best things to do in Cordoba with kids:

Guided tours in Cordoba from Get Your Guide

No single word or phrase is adequate to describe Cordoba. The cities complexity is obvious even from a first glance, with numerous architectural periods, and the stark contrast between the Casco Historico and the modern city which live side by side. In the old town, streets are narrow and windy with small houses tucked into every available space, whilst in the modern city wide avenues and large apartment buildings stand tall.

Some history about Cordoba’s Mezquita cathedral

Cordoba’s Mezquita cathedral is of course the primary reason many people visit the city, and it is worth seeing! Even now it is still considered by many to have been the third largest Mosque in the world. The ground on which the cathedral stands has alternated from visigothic Christian church, to grand Mosque, and then in stages to Christian Cathedral.

In the year 785, construction started under the caliph Ab’d Al-Rahman I, on the site of the former Basilica de San Vicente, though what happened to the visigothic kings and nobels buried in the basilica is not known. The Ummayad’s had been expelled from Damascus and were keen to establish their authority over the Western Caliphate, so the Mezquita was always intended to be large.

Its eventual area of 24,000sqm containing hundreds of marble columns, horseshoe arches made with red and white bricks, and the spectacular ornate gold ceilings of the Mirhab with its Koranic inscriptions are awe-inspiring. Even more so when you consider that a full sized Catholic cathedral fits inside the Mezquita with plenty of room to spare.

When the Moors (Muslims) Ruled in Europe! A fascinating documentary by Bettany Hughes. A must watch!

If you are interested in the Moorish (Muslim) history of Spain, monuments like the Alhambra or the mosque of Cordoba then grab a glass of wine and a few tapas, sit down and enjoy this amazing documentary.

The parador in Cordoba

One of the most popular hotels in Cordoba is the Parador situated on the former site of Al-Rusafa, Abderramán I’s summer palace. the Parador de Córdoba is set on a hill surrounded by lush gardens with a seasonal pool. This hotel offers exceptional views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Puerta del Puente – Punte Romano

Near to the Mezquita one finds the Puerta del Puente at the northern end of the most complete of Cordoba’s Roman buildings. The Puente Romano, a 330 metre long bridge made entirely of stone and sits on 16 arches embedded into the river bed. The bridge is now pedestrianised, but until recently it had been one of the main traffic bridges in Cordoba for nearly 2,000 years. The southern end is where you’ll find the Calahorra Tower and museum.

Hotel Oasis in Cordoba

The Alcazar

Views of the Mezquita and Cordoba’s old town, as well as the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos are spectacular from the Puente Romano. In the early morning as the sun rises you can expect to take some truly wonderful photos. The sun kisses the rough stone walls of the older buildings giving them a tone not seen up close.

Alcazar Ponds

The Alcazar is now an interesting museum worth visiting. It was built on the site of a Roman fortress that had been built in order to defend the city located 1km inland.

The Moors also used the Alcazar, but it’s current design and gardens come directly from the Christian monarchs who made Cordoba their southern palace. In fact whilst Ferdinand was off fighting Granada, Isabella transferred her court to Cordoba in order to be closer to him.

Cordoba the Mezquita and Old Town Photos

Interestingly, many of the Roman frescoes discovered in Cordoba have been relocated to the walls of the chapel in the Alcazar. Also, there are several busts of Roman Gods and important Emperors. This allows visitors to admire them without risk of damaging what little remains of Cordoba’s Roman past.

Within the Alcazar, and under the main palace with the chapel, you’ll find the Royal Baths that are open to the public, though sadly in need of renovations since they are really nothing more than a series of tiny domed rooms. The highlight of your visit to the Alcazar will be climbing to the top of the keep and getting a birds eye view of Cordoba, from where you can also see the magnificent gardens.

Audio guide for Cordoba

Discover Córdoba with this audio guide and scavenger hunt. Solve puzzles and see the city’s top sights, including the Mosque-Cathedral, San Basilio’s Courtyards, and the Gate of the Bridge.

The old town of Cordoba
Fresco in Jewish Temple

Strolling around Cordoba’s old town you will no doubt enter the Jewish Quarter. It is impossible to miss since it is so close to the Mezquita and quite central to the city. Many of Cordoba’s greatest scientests were Jewish people during the Islamic period, and this is hardly surprising since Cordoba did at one time have the largest Jewish population in the world.

Very little of the Jewish heritage of Cordoba exists, except for a very small temple rediscovered in the 20th century that had been built after the reconquest, and was finally closed when the Jews were expelled from Spain. Many of the Hebrew frescoes have been renovated, and the temple is now open to the public, and can be quite the emotional place for visiting Jews.

If impressive chapels, mosques and temples are your thing, then don’t forget to stop at the Capilla Mudejar, a very small chapel with gorgeous mudejar decorations on the walls and ceiling.

Other places close to Cordoba to visit
The Almodovar Castle

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río (Hisnu-l-mudawar; “the round castle”) is a castle of Muslim origin in the town of Almodóvar del Río, Province of Córdoba, Spain. Previously a Roman fort, the current structure is of Moorish origin, in the year 760. During the Middle Ages, it underwent several renovations and reconstructions. Between 1901 and 1936, it was restored by the owner Raphael Desmaissiers, 12th Count of Torravala, under the technical direction of the architect Adolfo Fernández Casanova. The most important towers are the Cuadrada, the Redonda, and the Homenaje.

It is situated 15 miles (24 km) from Córdoba, on the left bank of the Guadalquivir.

Part of the 7th season of the HBO series Game of Thrones was filmed at the castle. It depicted House Tyrell’s home Highgarden, and also parts of Casterly Rock, the ancestral home of House Lannister.

Fantastic camping (glamping) site close to Cordoba

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