Located in the interior of Andalusia in southern Spain, Cordoba is a city with a long and interesting history. Although it had already been the capital of Hispania Ulterior in Roman times, its golden age came during the Muslim occupation.
Throughout the almost five centuries of the Emirate and Caliphate of Cordoba (8th to 13th centuries), the city became the cultural capital of Europe. While the rest of the continent was still mired in the Dark Ages, Cordoba had public baths, running water and even paved streets that were lit at night by oil lamps.
Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted peacefully in the city, giving Cordoba the nickname of capital of the three cultures.
Today, due to its vast cultural offerings, Cordoba’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are 5 free things to do in Cordoba to discover first hand some of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences that have survived to this day.
1. Visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
The Mosque of Cordoba (“Mezquita de Córdoba” in Spanish) is one of the most visited monuments in the whole country of Spain and rightfully so. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most spectacular works of Muslim architecture in the world.
This massive religious temple was built and extended over many centuries. It boasts almost 900 “recycled” Roman columns that support its iconic alternating red and white brick arches.
However, it not only represents the period of Muslim rule. After the Christian reconquest of the city, a baroque Catholic cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción), was built in the center of the mosque.
The Mosque of Cordoba is an unusual place and a must-see. What’s even better, is it’s possible to visit for free six days a week. From Monday to Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., access is completely free. Tour groups are forbidden during that hour, which means that it’s also the best time to take photos.
But if you are unable to make it during that time-slot, you can get your Cordoba Mosque tickets here.
2. Get lost in the Jewish quarter
Stretching along the mosque is the Jewish Quarter. It’s formed by narrow streets and small white houses whose facades abound with pots full of colorful flowers.
Here you will find some of the most picturesque corners of Cordoba, such as the famous Calleja de las Flores (alley of the flowers) or Calleja del Pañuelo (handkerchief alley).
During your stroll through the Jewish quarter, you will also have the opportunity to admire the traditional Cordoba patios, full of lush plant life.
3. Visit the synagogue
Located in the Jewish quarter is the synagogue of Cordoba. This small synagogue was built in 1315 in Mudejar style – a Muslim style of architecture that continued even after the Christian conquest.
Later, after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, the synagogue became a hospital and was even used as a hermitage.
Although modest, the Cordoba synagogue is the only one in Andalusia and one of only three in all of Spain. The visit is free and highly recommended.
Just 30 meters from the synagogue you will also find the statue of Maimonides. He was a Sephardic Jew born in Cordoba and is considered one of the greatest scholars of the Torah in medieval times.
4. Cross the Guadalquivir River via the Roman bridge
Just a couple of minutes walk from the Mosque, you will find the Guadalquivir River and the monumental Roman bridge of Cordoba. As its name suggests, the Romans were the first to build a bridge in the city in the 1st century BC.
The bridge was part of the Via Augusta, the longest and busiest road in Roman Hispania, which ran from Cadiz to France.
Incredible as it may seem, this was the only bridge in Cordoba for 20 centuries, until the construction of the San Rafael bridge in 1953.
Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize the bridge from its appearance in the fifth season of the series, in which it represented the Long Bridge of Volantis.
5. Visit the Fosforito Flamenco Center
The Centro Flamenco Fosforito is probably the best flamenco museum in all of Andalusia and, on top of that, admission is free.
It occupies what’s known as Posada del Potro, an emblematic 15th century inn mentioned by Cervantes in his book Don Quixote. Even if you have no particular interest in flamenco, the building alone is worth the visit.
While the courtyard retains its original structure, the former outbuildings of the inn house the interactive exhibition rooms.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Centro Flamenco Fosforito also carries out a varied program of shows and activities related to flamenco.