Cordoba, a city of surprises

White washed houses squeezed together, forming alleyways and secret pathways. Greenery and flowers draped over windows, all the colours spilling onto the street. Private patios, made for private conversations and public admiration. Blazing blue skies, golden-dusted streets, lush royal gardens. This was Cordoba, and it surprised the heck out of me.

The last leg on our Spanish journey, Mom and I had zero expectations of Cordoba. All we knew about the city was that it was famous for its Mezquita. But beyond this tourist site, we had no idea what else there was to do – seriously, our itinerary for here was just “Mezquita” and a giant bold question mark for the rest of our time.

I briefly flipped through the Cordoba chapter in my Lonely Planet book, but it wasn’t until we arrived that I began to fall in love with the city (and realized there was so much to do!)
Below are some places Mom and I went and things we did while in Cordoba. The Mezquita makes the list, but so do many other worthwhile places. 

Try Rabo de Toro

Bull’s Tail. Sounds nasty, right? I promise, it wasn’t. It was absolutely delicious. Plus, when in Cordoba… you have to eat Cordoban food. Or at least try it.

Mom wasn’t brave enough, but I dove right into the “Suggestions of the Chef” part of the menu, where I found the “La Taurina” which had apparently won some sort of culinary fusion awards. Plus, a bull’s tail burger seemed less terrifying than straight on bull’s tail meat.

Topped with salmorejo (a tomato and bread sauce), a quail egg, and cheese, it was dee-lish. No regrets. Plus, it was only $5 – cheap and cheerful. 

Admire Ancient Ruins

This one is cheap and cheerful as well, because it’s totally free to walk by these massive Roman columns and spend some time checking them out. 

What makes them special is that they’re right off a main road, surrounded by more contemporary buildings. The contrast is beautiful. The photo opportunity is necessary.   

Visit one of Cordoba’s Infamous Patios

During the first week of May, the city of Cordoba hosts a “Patio competition.” Houses all around the city grow out their gardens, with colourful flowers bursting out of the classic Cordoban-blue flower pots. 

Even though Mom and I were in Cordoba in September, we were still able to admire some lovely patios free of charge at the Patios Cordobeses. For some miraculous reason, we were the only 2 people strolling about the courtyard. The silence, apart from a bubbling water fountain, was majestic, and the few lazy minutes we stole here are now one of my favourite memories from Spain.  

Stroll the Gardens at the Alcazar

I have to hand it to Mom on this one – she really wanted to go to the Alcazar, whereas I was cool with strolling right by. Alcazar comes from Arabic and the word roughly translates to “palace” – this particular palace was one of the homes of Isabella I of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon. When we were in Granada, we visited Isabella and Ferdinand’s tombs, a super cool experience that we were sadly unable to photograph.

But, but, I took lots of photos here in their castle and accompanying gardens to make up for it, including one of a statue of the royals themselves, meeting with Christopher Columbus to wish him well on his voyage to the other side of the world. 

Eat Potato Omlette  

Again, have to hand it to my Mom on this one, who read that Cordoba is home to the thickest tortillas in Spain. Back in a tiny bar in Madrid, I tried this signature Spanish dish of an egg + potato omelette type thing, and quite enjoyed it. Not my favourite Spanish food (that would be a tie between roasted peppers, manchego cheese, or jamon), but it was a fun and comical experience to see these massive omelettes being served. 

We went to Bar Santos, and managed to nab a seat at the bar. Fun story, I ordered the local sherry wine, and a glass got me tipsy as hell because it was so strong (and it's hot in Spain, so I swear you get drunk faster!). There were quite a few people who couldn't fit inside, so they took their tortillas, and sat in the shade of the Mezquita. Speaking of...

Make it to the Mezquita – Early!

I'm not anti-tourist, I'm anti-crowd (here's looking at you, massive tour group takeovers), which is why the revolutionary way the Mezquita does things makes me a big. freakin. fan. 

From 8:30 to 9:30, the Mezquita is free – free to enter, and free from tour groups. Yup. There's still lots of people milling about, but this "large group ban" was imposed to let people respectfully worship and admire the space. It was revolutionary and game-changing, and this simple rule alone made me a huge fan of Cordoba.

One hour is the perfect amount of time to explore the Mezquita as well. Mom and I walked around the whole thing twice, admiring the optical illusions from the columns, being stunned by the elaborate Islamic chapel at the back, as well as the massive high-ceilinged Cathedral smack dab in the middle of the mosque.  

Walk, and then walk some more

This is more of a general travel tip than a Cordoba-specific one, but it feels particularly appropriate in this city. With a small Jewish quarter that twists and turns and large extravagant plazas that you have to enter through a doorway, the bits and pieces and stunning glimpses of Cordoban life were all around us. 

This post marks the end of my Spain travel series (six months later... procrastination at its finest!). Hope you've enjoyed the visual journey and the little snippets I've told about the country, one of my favourite places that I've visited because of its beauty, the warmth of its people, the happiness and friendliness, and the stunning history.