Now, I know that Córdoba doesn’t exactly feature highly on our list of top holiday destinations. In fact, if the brochures are anything to go by, you could be forgiven for never having heard of it at all.
You couldn’t, however, be forgiven for never wanting to.
Just north of Granada and Malaga and only a couple of hours from Marbella, Córdoba lies in Spain’s southernmost region of Andalucía, which is famous for its rich culture, its friendly people, and above all, it’s amazing weather. I went in November and was walking around in a vest top – what’s not to love?
If you’re more of a sun worshiper than a sightseer (I’ll readily admit I’m a ‘seen one castle, seen them all’ type of girl), then you might not think Cordoba is your cup of tea. But I guarantee you will change your mind - by the third day I was ready to get up at 7.30am to go and see a cathedral. I know, I know, who am I and what have I done with the real Lynsey? But you get in free if you go early…and even I have to admit it is spectacular.
Having been used by different religions over the years - at one point it was a place of worship for both Christians and Muslims alike - the cathedral and its surrounding area is a UNESCO world heritage site, and Córdoba’s main tourist attraction. And rightly so – because although the Christians eventually took over the building, they didn’t just tear it down; they added bits of their own, leaving the amazing mixture of Mosque and Cathedral – the Mezquita – that stands today.
My friend and I didn’t actually venture inside the Mezquita as we slept in that day (leopards never change their spots) but if you do, then the big Roman columns and red and white Islamic arches, which we caught a glimpse of from the outside, are a must-see. And the best thing is that you can wander round its beautiful orange tree courtyard for absolutely free; perfect for travellers on a budget! And that’s another reason why Córdoba is so appealing – it has plenty of stuff to do that won’t cost you a penny. For example, you can take a wander through the Jewish quarter down to the Roman Bridge and the river Guadalquivir, which flows east to west through the city. The bridge has a unique, laid-back atmosphere, with a handful of buskers providing background music as you stroll along and take in the views. You can also go and see the city walls and gates, the magnificent Roman pillars, or wander around the old town’s maze of flower-lined, winding streets and squares that the city is so famous for.
Córdoba is also known for its beautiful courtyard patios - decorated with flowers, plants and ceramic ornaments, the city even holds a competition every summer to judge the best one. And although we were out of season for that, there was a fantastic patio exhibition on when we were there. All the Patios were dotted around in different locations, and it was a good chance to see the city all lit up at night; the perfect time to stop for a drink and take in the atmosphere. Sightseeing is thirsty work.
However, if you want to give the whole ‘tourist’ thing a rest for a while you might want to indulge in a bit of retail therapy. There was no telling me twice. Head into the town centre and you’ll find all the high street names like Mango, Zara, and H&M, plus a selection of chain stores and smaller boutiques that require serious willpower not to max out your credit card (or is that just me?). Wander into the Jewish quarter, and you’ll also find a string of unique stores where you can buy souvenirs and trinkets - and where my friend insisted on buying a very tasteful ‘I heart Córdoba’ T-shirt. I pretended I wasn’t with her.
After all that shopping we were pretty hungry, and we certainly had no shortage of places to choose from. Plaza de la Corredera acts as the entrance to the town’s old Roman amphitheatre, and nowadays is a hub of atmosphere, scattered with cafes and restaurants. If you want a sugar fix, there’s an amazing old-school sweet shop we stumbled upon, called Monsieur Bourguignon, which sells all the varieties of fudge and nougat you could ever imagine. Not very Spanish, but so good – especially when followed by a cup of rose tea from one of the chilled out Arabic tea shops nearby. You also can’t go to Córdoba without paying a visit to Bar Santos. Right opposite the Mezquita, it doesn’t look much from the outside, but does the best Spanish Tortilla in town - which we ate like typical students, sitting on the wall outside and drinking sangria out of paper cups. Classy or what?
But after five days of sightseeing, eating, and shopping till I dropped, it was time to go home. Not that I wanted to - I’m missing the weather (and the fudge) already.