Right in the heart of Andalusia lies the city of Córdoba; full of mysterious lanes and architectural gems, this was once one of the biggest and most important cities in Western Europe. These days, it is often overshadowed by its glossier neighbours Seville and Granada but is still very much worth a visit. Throughout history, the city has always been viewed as the jewel in any crown due to its prime regional location and fertile surroundings. At one point in time, it was the capital of Roman Spain, after which it was taken over by the Arabs, before the Christians marched in… each leaving their mark and giving Córdoba an intricate and fascinating history.
The old town is compact and best traversed by foot to really immerse yourself into life within these city walls. As we always do when we arrive in a new city, a certain someone and I wandered out with the intention to get a feel for the city, see what we could see and most likely, get a little lost. When you’re somewhere like Córdoba, it pays to take a wrong turn here or there, just to see what’s round the corner… sometimes we found ourselves on a street so quiet, even our footsteps seemed like an intrusion, while other times we walked straight out into a main square lined with tourist-tat shops! Here’s how we spent our day in Córdoba…
Lunch at Mercado Victoria
A 19th century wrought iron pavilion which used to be a fairground pavilion for the city’s elite has now been transformed into Andalusia’s first gastro-market for the city’s food connoisseurs. Situated just outside of the old town, we actually stumbled upon Mercado Victoria quite by chance but it was a brilliant find and the perfect spot for a light lunch (or feast, depending on your day’s plans!). The market has around thirty food stalls dishing up everything from local favourites to foods from further afield. You can also buy fresh produce or dishes to take home, but I think the best way to experience the market is by being there!
When in markets like this, our approach is to graze and have small dishes from as many stalls as possible; we order, eat, walk around, then repeat. I thought the variety was great but as a lover of Spanish cuisine, we stuck to the more traditional offerings. We indulged in some elaborately stacked pintxos, a couple of grilled skewers, fried seafood, and a handful of anchovies wrapped in olives. A must-order when in town is the salmorejo, a cold tomato and bread soup topped with ham and cheese, which is a Córdoban speciality.
Explore the Magnificent Mesquita
This magnificent Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is a World Heritage site and undoubtedly what lures most visitors to Córdoba. Prior to our visit, I scoffed at the claims that this site is ‘one of a kind’… but now that I’ve seen it myself, I just have to agree. Upon entering, you will be greeted with the sight of over eight-hundred Roman columns and the most striking red and white striped arches. Although all identical, I found myself walking between them and mesmerised by how differently the space looked simply depending on where the sunlight struck it.
After the arches, I moved along to marvel at the intricate details of the mihrab. Each chamber was beautifully decorated, the ceiling was an impressive carving made from marble, and many areas were adorned with distinctive Byzantine gold mosaics. Then finally, I found my way to the cathedral at the centre of the whole site. While the styles are obviously different, both are equally breathtaking and bold. Like many of the other visitors, I found a spot on a pew and just spent the next ten minutes looking up, taking in as many of the details as possible.
Dinner at Casa Pepe de la Juderia
Casa Pepe de la Juderia is a bit of an institution in the Old Town, due to its long history and prime location in a well-worn street in the Jewish Quarter. The latter is what originally put me off, but as the restaurant I had planned on visiting (a more modern affair) was closed, we thought we’d give this one a chance. Once through the front door, we were welcomed with the most appetising aromas, the pleasant hum of happy diners, and the realisation that this was far more elegant and upmarket than the average taberna.
We shared a few types of croquettes and a perfectly tangy and fresh anchovy salad, before individually diving into our much heartier mains. The food at Casa Pepe de la Juderia has no room for fanfare, instead you should expect good, honest cooking with classic flavours and precise execution. I particularly liked my suckling pig which was every bit as juicy and succulent as you would hope from such a piece of meat. The service complemented the whole experience perfectly – sharp, efficient but still very friendly – and I would happily come back for seconds!
So Make A Move…
Our time in Córdoba was short, but most definitely sweet and if given the chance again I would spend more than just a day here. It was one of the stops on our Andalusian road trip which included Seville, Granada, Jerez and a drive through the Pueblo Blancos, incredible white villages which are built into the hills and caves. However, even if you are just visiting Seville or Granada, that is no reason not to squeeze in a trip to Córdoba too – it is roughly two hours drive from each of those cities and can easily be done as a day trip!
- Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba – open from 10am – 6pm most days but it is best to consult their website as it changes throughout the year, entry tickets can be purchased from the booths in the Orange Tree Courtyard and cost €10/adults.
- Mercado Victoria – Paseo de la Victoria, S/N, 14004 Córdoba, open from 10am daily.
- Casa Pepe de la Juderia – Calle Romero, 1, 14003 Córdoba
- Seville – find out more about what to see and where to eat in Seville on my guide to the city here.
- Granada – find out more about how to eat tapas in Granada on my guide to the city here.
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