We visited Córdoba on Day 7 of our road trip in Andalusia. This day we were on the move from Seville to Granada and stopped for a few hours in extreme heat in this former Moorish capital.
This is #6 of seven articles from a journey to southern Spain. It is diary based.
This post starts with a map of this part of the car trip, continues with the plan we made before leaving and finishes with what we actually did. Read the introduction to this trip.
The Plan (= my best tips to Córdoba)
Today we are on the long drive to our last place of residence in Andalusia, a house on the outskirts of Granada. There are a total of 350 km to be covered in four hours, but we break the trip into two parts.
1200 – 1400, Seville – Córdoba
140 km and 1:40 hours from Seville. We might allow ourselves to delay the check-out to 1200 before leaving. We eat lunch on the road or in Córdoba if we are not too hungry.
1400 – 1700, Sightseeing in Córdoba
We then spend much of the day in Córdoba. The old centre is UNESCO-listed, and very beautiful. This was the Moorish capital at that time. We need to see Mezquita, the beautiful mosque with all the porticoes in red and white. It is also the largest Arab buildings outside the Arab world.
Next to the mosque lies the castle Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos with magnificent Moorish gardens outside. Córdoba is also known for its flowery patios (courtyards) and narrow streets in the old Muslim and Jewish urban environment.
The first is very good with some live video shots and a lot of animated pictures (4:56) (Sorry, it was deleted after publishing this post), while the next is not particularly instructive, but captures the mood well (3:38). The last is a pure tourist video with quality filming (1:53).
1700 – 1930, Córdoba – Granada
Driving time is 2:30 hours (210 km) to Granada where we will stay the rest of the holiday. The house / apartment has a pool and garden less than one kilometer from Granada, 600 meters from a supermarket. It is not the most exciting holiday home I’ve seen pictures of, and the immediate vicinity outside the garden does not sparkle. But it has free Wi-Fi and most else of what we required.
1930 – 2400, Granada
Eight nights for all five but the Lady who’ll only spend one night here. We’ll throw ourselves into the pool, buy food at the supermarket and relax. We will probably be too late to look around in Granada this evening and the Lady has been here before.
The drive from Seville
Driving from Seville through the fairly flat and rolling landscape on a very fine motorway was something I enjoyed. This is farming land, but in the heat of the summer there is not much farming going on – only endless fields of mainly olive trees.
We arrived in Córdoba one hour earlier than in my plan and were awarded with an hour more. Nevertheless, spending only four hours in this magnificent city is perhaps a shame and for the sake of that we could have dropped it. On the other hand we were perhaps facing a situation of “now or never”.
Anyway, that dice was cast long ago and we now drove into the city finding a public parking space adjacent to the historic centre with ease. We crossed the road, kept the Guadalquivir River (which also runs past Seville) to our right and stepped inside the Moorish fortified wall.
Getting into the town – a garden
We met a series of straight lined streets in a residential neighbourhood. They were virtually empty, no locals and no tourists. Trying to find our way into the centre and the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos we finally asked our way. Not before long we stood on a square looking on a not so impressive building.
The ticket office informed us that regrettably the palace was closed on this Monday in July but the garden was open to the public. I asked if it was worth it. What a stupid question!
The garden was stunning, absolutely magical. It was big, there was running water and fountains everywhere and it had a fantastic layout. The Moors were certainly fond of water, as we had seen in the Alcazar of Seville and were to see later in Alhambra, Granada.
Let the video below speak itself about the garden we met.
“Historic Centre of Córdoba” is no. 313 on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This video is from part of that centre, the palace gardens of Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.
The Moorish heritage
The Alcázar in Córdoba was the central palace of the famous Moorish emir/king Abd ar-Rahman I from 756. Abd ar-Rahman III established in 929 a caliphate in Al-Andalus (Andalusia) and declared himself independent of the caliphs in Baghdad and Damascus. In between these years and for centuries later the city flourished and expanded. The same goes for the palace with its garden, in a quite literal sense.
Córdoba soon became the most important city in Western Europe and was a magnet for religions, artists and intellectuals of a wide variety. The world’s largest library was built here, a clear example of how high the Moorish rulers valued intellectual capital in their kingdom.
Scholars may be discussing just how tolerant these rulers were, but when the city fell to Christian invaders in 1236 a very long period of decline set in.
The Spanish takeover
The feared Spanish Inquisition came and set up one of their headquarters in the palace, turning the baths into torture chambers. Even later the palace was used as a prison and it was not until the 1950s that it was declared a national monument. Today the entire centre has been protected by Spanish authorities and UNESCO. As with so many protected cities I’ve been to this is almost only possible in cities which have been left untouched for centuries, having no “development” as we normally define that concept.
Coming here in 2012 we continued from the palace garden further into the historic centre of Córdoba. Here we found the old Roman bridge (Puente Romano) indicating that Córdoba’s history is very long. Right next to it is the mosque/cathedral of Mezquita-Catedral.
Spending two hundred years starting in 784 the Moors continuously expanded and enriched the complex. Entering the Mezquita is through one of the wonderful portals. We entered and stood inside the courtyard (Sahn) filled with palms and citrus trees.
The most prominent feature of the original mosque was the 1293 columns of different kinds of stone. When the Christians took over they tore down a large number of them and erected a cathedral in the centre. There are 856 columns left; connected by arches painted in characteristic red and white colours. Today we might object to the idea of reconstructing such an architectural masterpiece, but on the other hand the Christian Reconquistadores might have done worse, as elsewhere in “liberated” Spain.
In any case, the cathedral inside the old mosque is an absolutely stunning beauty. Around the edges of the building is set a number of chapels, in a mix of Christian Renaissance and Moorish style.
I loved this building.
“Historic Centre of Córdoba” is no. 313 on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This video is from the Mezquita-Catedral, the combined (originally) Muslim mosque and (later) Christian cathedral.
The area around the Mezquita
We left the Mezquita and lunched nearby. This is were we find the Muslim and Jewish residential area. The buildings closest to the Mezquita are filled with souvenir shops as well as the traditional jewellery shops. We walked quickly through the commercial part and found ourselves once again quite alone in almost deserted streets lined with well-kept white painted houses.
A few places we were able to get a glimpse into the private courtyards that only once a year are opened up to visitors.
Leaving Cordoba, on a road to Granada
We walked the streets back to our car in 44 degrees C and set out on our last leg to Granada. Leaving Córdoba was not very easy. We missed the fastest and longest way to Granada and found ourselves taking the shortest route on a lesser road.
That was not all too bad as we passed by some minor towns and watched a string of old hilltop fortifications dating back possibly a thousand years.
In the evening we came to Granada and found our home for the next week right outside the city. The pool offered a fine relief after a long and hectic day. We even found a supermarket and prepared for some days of relaxation.
All chapters in this series
This post is #6 from my Andalusia road trip in 2012. Find all articles in this series below.
- Introduction: We had a fantastic 15 days’ vacation in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia making the classic golden roundtrip to the famous cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada. And a lot more.
- Malaga, Marbella and Ronda: The first two days of our Tour of Andalucia started in Malaga, continued with a short stop in Marbella and is mostly about lovely days in Ronda.
- Ronda, Gibraltar and Jerez: On Day 3 in Andalusia we took the mountain road from Ronda down to Gibraltar and continued across the lowlands on the Spanish Atlantic coast to Jerez de la Frontera, home of Sherry.
- Tangier: Day 4 in Andalusia is a daytrip from Jerez to Tarifa and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco. The distance is not far, but it proved to be a world apart.
- Seville: Days 5 and 6 of our Andalusia tour were spent in Seville, previously and today one of the world’s most important cities.
- Córdoba: We visited Córdoba on Day 7 of our stay in Andalusia. This day we were on the move from Seville to Granada and stopped for a few hours in extreme heat in this former Moorish capital. (THIS)
- Granada: Days 8 to 15 in Andalusia were mostly spent in Granada. I also made a day-trip to the Renaissance towns of Baeza and Úbeda inland and a drive along the coast.