Córdoba, Spain is one of those places you must absolutely visit when in Spain. It’s a small city with a town feel, but gosh, is it wonderful. When I first thought of visiting, I wanted to go during April – May festivals. May is a party(ies) filled month in Córdoba. I believe it all kicks off at the end of April with the Battle of the Flowers, it transitions into the Crosses of May, then they have a Patio Contest (el Festival de los Patios), and its culmination is the week-long Feria at the end of the month. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit all this into my schedule, but it didn’t stop me from dragging along my family for a self-guided tour in the south of Spain.
So, what is there to do in Córdoba? Well, it’s one of the most unforgettable places you’ll ever visit, in my humble opinion. Regardless of the time of year you visit, you’ll leave with a long-lasting impression and return home with a wealth of knowledge you’d never imagine. There’s so much history everywhere you look, it’s incredibly amazing. You don’t necessarily need a tour guide but I highly recommend that you do, else you’ll miss all there’s to learn and the history behind the city.
The tours are super cheap, and you can either do a walking tour or a bike tour. I opted for the walking tour at night, which again, I highly recommend. Summer had not yet started, but temperatures in early June can get extremely high. If you are not a fan of heat, then do not plan your visit in the months of May through September because it will be hell.
While we waited for our tour time, we spent some time at the Plaza de las Tendillas. This is in the historic center of Córdoba. You can sit there to enjoy an ice cream that will melt within minutes because of how hot it gets. There are shops and restaurants that surround the plaza, and if you’re so inclined to walk around and do some shopping, there are stores that fit everyone’s budget.
Tip: something I learned is that if you want to save some money and not pay taxes, be sure to carry your passport. Whenever you buy something, if it’s a participating store, they’ll give you a receipt with your passport # on it, that you can later show at the airport on your departure so you can claim your tax money (think of it like an instant rebate).
My favorite place in Córdoba was the Jewish Quarter also known as Judería. I fell in love with the narrow streets, twists, and turns. It’s as though every wall there had centuries-old stories to tell. We came across a wall with the famous tomato soup recipe Del Salmorejo Cordobés. Our tour guide had to break our little banter with a group of locals. It went something like this:
“Did you know that tomatoes didn’t grow here in Spain until they were brought from the Americas?” the tour guide asked.
“That’s right. You guys didn’t have any of that until your ancestors found us and took it all away from us in Mexico, Central and South America,” I teased.
Small group to our right glanced at us. “Well, but did you know?…blah blah blah”
My husband and I stared at each other and laughed while the tour guide basically told them to mind their own business with a smile.
We never did get to try the famous soup, but we’re not huge fans of tomato soup anyway. From there on, we continued our tour and sometime later found ourselves in front of Mamonides. He was a famous figure and someone who did a lot for the Jewish community. This dates back to 1135-1204, the time of his death. I can’t recall all of what he did, and I don’t intend to write it on this post because it’d be a history lesson in itself. But, if you look closely at his shoes you’ll notice they shine. Any guesses?
As the story goes, it is believed that by rubbing his shoes, some of his good luck will rub on you. Not that I am superstitious or that my kids are, but we might have just swiped our hands on his shoes too. I mean, you just never know, right?
We visited the Mosque-Cathedral too, also known as La Mezquita. It is a sight you can’t get enough off of. And again, we could sit on the floor there for hours for a day to listen to the story of how it came about, why it was built and by whom, how it went back and forth between Muslims and Catholics, why there’s a cathedral right in its middle, on and on. Its history is amazing.
I can’t recall the total number of columns that make it up, but they are well over 800. Some of them were removed when they built the cathedral in the middle of it.
There are several chapels with saints as you walk along, including 4 books that date back centuries, and you wouldn’t believe it by the condition they’re in.
To visit the mosque, you can either do it via a tour, or you can buy the tickets online or there on site. The lines aren’t long, and the fee is 10 euros per person. You can also get tickets to go inside at night, but that was too scary for us.
We also visited the famous la Puerta del Puente and the Roman bridge. The tour guide joked about how people complained about the budget for the lights on the bridge at night. They wanted something nice, but nice came with a price tag no one was willing to pay, so they settled for Ikea lights that get the job done quite right. As tourists, we would’ve never known had he not told us.
In order to get the full experience, we lingered by La Puerta del Puente for a while until sunset and walked along the Roman Bridge a couple of times, enjoying young and super talented street artists playing their guitars.
We also took a stroll by the Patio de los Naranjos and learned how to differentiate sweet from bitter oranges. Something we would’ve never known. As with anything in Córdoba, the bitter oranges have a story too!
We walked through the Puerta del Almodovar, and eventually made our way to the monument that’s dedicated to IBN Zaydun and Princess Wallada. This was such a love story, that I personally wanted to sit there and just listen to more of their tragic love affair.
She was a princess and he was a poet (and a political figure) who fell in love with each other.
According to our tour guide, she had a best friend who happened to be a man and the cause for the love triangle that should’ve never been. From what I recall, they would write each other poems and in them, Princess Wallada warned IBN Zaydun that she was a jealous woman.
He didn’t get the hint or if he did, he didn’t realize just how jealous she really was. One night, Ibn Abdús (the other guy), paid a servant to seduce IBN Zaydun. I don’t recall if Princess Wallada walked in on Zaydun or if she found out in some other way. Princess Wallada was so hurt that she turned her back on him.
Zaydun tried to explain he’d been set up but she never forgave his betrayal. Finally, I believe she married and wrote the famous poem of Los Siete Insultos where she basically told him he was a sodomite, adulterer, a son of a b!tch, a thief, and it goes on. It is lovely if you ask me.
This is not all of what we did while in Córdoba, but it is what makes it unforgettable.
Stay tuned for my Sevilla visit. That’s some kind of story!