A Day Well Spent: Cordoba, Spain

White houses, flowers cascading out of windows and immense charm is how I will always remember the southern Spanish city of Cordoba. It was everything I imagined Spain to be. It made me want to grab a great book, sit in a plaza and enjoy Spain for everything that it is.

With Cordoba being such a small city, we only dedicated one night and one day for our visit. I think a night in Cordoba is a necessity because the city illuminated at night is breathtaking. Cordoba is home to the Mezquita, a Moorish mosque over 1200 years old with a Catholic cathedral inside. Luckily, after we arrived to our hostel Thursday evening we decided to explore the city a little and stumbled upon the Roman bridge and Mezquita lit up at night. It was so breathtaking that I just wanted to sit on a park bench across the Guadalquivir River and never leave.

The Roman bridge and Mezquita

The following morning we woke up early to visit the Mezquita. I read in a book that if we visited the Mezquita before 10:00am we would get in free, however you only got in free if you went to mass that started at 8:30am, so we had to pay the 8 euro entrance fee that was well worth it. The Mezquita is a UNESCO world heritage site and rightfully so. Construction began in 784 AD on the mosque part of this magnificent structure. It is full of 850 blue and red columns with red and white-stripped arches. The ceilings are low at 30 feet and the lighting is rather dim. The first step into the mosque is overwhelming due to its great size and mirror like repetition of columns. The Mirhab, a Muslim equivalent to a high altar, was beautiful and intricate. Three thousands pounds of glass tile were used to construct decorate mosaics in this area along with carved Arabic words. The ceiling was something to crane your neck at due to its intricate detail. The prayer leader would face the niche/wall and read scripture to over 20,000 Muslims. The structure would allow for the reader’s voice to be amplified. The tiles on the floor in this part of the structure were the size of a typical ceremonial prayer mat so I tried to picture all 20,000 worshippers kneeling down on their mats and reciting prayers.

The numerous columns and arches in the Mezquita 
The Mirhab

The Mezquita has a long historical past because before the mosque was built in 784 AD over a Christian Church that was constructed in the sixth century. There is a glass inlay in the floor to show a Visigothic mosaic from this original church. Then the Muslims came and completed the Mezquita years later. On the fateful day in 1236, Catholics drove out the Muslims and celebrated their first Catholic mass at this site. Later they completed a grand Renaissance cathedral in the center of the mosque. It was really interesting to contrast the difference in architecture and how they relate to the two religions. The ceilings in the mosque were extremely low compared to the 130 feet ceilings of the cathedral. The cathedral was extremely bright and intricate whereas the mosque was darker with a simpler feeling. The cathedral made one feel intimated by God and the mosque felt more intimate.
Cathedral on the left and mosque on the right
First patio we saw!
After our visit in the Mezquita we strolled through the charming streets and stumbled upon a festival, La fiesta de los Patios. May is a huge month of festivals through southern Spain and this happened to be the week of Cordoba’s Patio festival. It was similar to a parade of homes, but was focused on the little courtyards in houses or apartment complexes full of flowers. These patios were overflowing with flowers, and had so many different species I had never seen before. The patios were ranked according to different criteria and won certain prizes. The entrance to these patios was free, but were always taking donations. I cannot imagine taking care of all these flowers and having to water each pot. They put a ton of effort into these patios, but then again that is what Cordoba is known for.

Flowers everywhere!

My roommate, Alex
The Alcazar in the background

 Next we got some lunch and then headed to the Alcazar. Unfortunately the prettiest and only impressive part of this fortress was its gardens, so we braved the rain with no umbrellas and are extremely thankful we did. The gardens of the Alcazar were some of the prettiest I have seen in Spain thus far. They were filled with fountains, reflecting pools and freshly manicured shrubbery. I could imagine a ruler taking a casual stroll through these gardens and gathering his thoughts after a long day. It was well worth a visit and only cost 2.50 euros for students and 4.50 euros for other guests.

After walking in the rain to find a winery that produced a white wine specific to Cordoba called Montilla-Moriles, we discovered that the winery was closed due to siesta. I do not think I will ever get used to stores and attractions closing during midday. We decided that was a sign to pack up the car and head to our next destination of Granada.

Ashley and I hiding from the rain
Cordoba is a must-see city for any traveler visiting southern Spain. It is a short distance from both Granada and Seville, and in one day you can see all of the attractions. Cordoba maintains its small city charm and is not overrun with tourists making for an enjoyable visit. I will always look back on my pictures and remember the beautiful patios, bewildering Mezquita and the happiness I felt when strolling through the small cobblestone streets.

1.     Give at least one day and one night to Cordoba.
2.     Get to the Mezquita early to avoid the long line that forms.
3.     If you go in Spring or Summer visit the Alcazba solely for its gardens, otherwise it is a waste of time.
4.     Do not be in a hurry; take time to walk through the streets and enjoy the flowers overflowing from the windows.

Other pictures:

The Mezquita bell tower in the background


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