On Thursday afternoon, I arrived at the hottest city I’ve been in so far – Córdoba. Known for its white-washed walls and paradoxical Mosque-Cathedral (La Mezquita), Córdoba is often treated as a stopover city between Granada and Seville. I had opted for a day and a half here, which left me plenty of time to explore.
After a sweaty walk from the bus station I arrived at my quintessentially Córdoban guesthouse, in which the owners actually live. It has maybe ten rooms and the decor was adorable!
After basking in the glory of the fan for a bit (there was no AC, but somehow the room stayed cool), I decided to head to the beautiful La Mezquita for the afternoon. It’s mindblowing to think how long ago some of these buildings were built, and sans tools and modern technology. As my friend said, “I find it so strange that they jammed a cathedral into a mosque, but at least they didn’t destroy it!” Very true.
The history of the Moors/Arabs and the Spanish in Andalusia is quite bloody and tragic. The very short version is that Queen Isabel wanted all of Spain to be Catholic, and essentially ordered the destruction of all Jewish and Muslim buildings and property. People were forced to either convert or leave (or die although, and that’s hardly an “option”). Tragic, but I am thankful that many of the old buildings were re-purposed, and not totally destroyed. Hence all the Arab-style architecture. History lesson over.
For the rest of the afternoon, I wandered through the city stopping at Plaza de Las Tendillas (the main square), Puerta de Almodovar, the Zoco Artisan Market, and Puerta del Puente. I was feeling really pooped by around 6, so I headed back to the hotel for a much-needed siesta.
By the time I woke up I was starving, and I scoured the Internet for delicious dinner suggestions. Thanks to Madrid Chow, I ended up at Garum 2.1, a well-known bistro tapas bar with award-winning food items (or so they said). All the Spaniards told me that I had to try two items in Córdoba: salmojero (basically a creamy gazpacho) and rabo del toro (oxtail). The waiter recommended that I try the salmojero, which had won a gastronomic award, so I ordered a bowl of that and of the rabo. Both dishes were, in my humble opinion, mind-blowing. The salmojero was creamy and well-seasoned, and the rabo was perfectly tender and fell right off the bone. Easily one of the best meals I’ve had in Spain.
After a leisurely meal and lots of people-watching, I headed back to my room for the night.
The next morning, I woke up and headed straight to the Alcazar (the King’s former Córdoban palace), since everything in Córdoba seemed to close in the afternoon. The Alcazar itself was beautiful, but the highlight for me was the well-kept gardens. Fountains, flowers, and trees filled the gardens, and if I were the king, I think I would have preferred to live in a tent outside the palace instead. Needless to say, I spent a few hours at the Alcazar and its corresponding gardens.
Next, I strolled over to Puente Romano (the bridge), and slowly made my way across Rio Guadalquivir to the Torre de la Calahorra. The views of the city from across the bridge were spectacular. I love how old and beautiful Córdoba is! Sometimes I think I should have been an architect, since it’s the one form of art that I’m most obsessed with.
Since I hadn’t eaten breakfast that day (breakfast isn’t really big in Spain – usually it’s a coffee and a piece of toast with tomato sauce or a quick pastry), I was pretty hungry. It was 1 pm, which is too early for lunch in Spain (the earliest lunches start at 2), so I stopped at a fresh juice stand where I had a refreshing pineapple/watermelon/lime juice. Yum!
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see on this side of the bridge besides the modern city, and my hunger quickly got the better of me. I ordered a pretty significant lunch of tapas: salmojero, salpicon de pulpo (octopus ceviche) and boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar). The food was okay, but not great (hence why the restaurant isn’t mentioned), but I was so hungry I didn’t care.
I climbed up to Puerta del Puente after lunch and made full use of my selfie stick to get pictures of me and the view of the city. My mom is always telling me to take more pictures with me in them rather than just buildings, so here are a couple!
Although I had already seen what I’d wanted to in the city, I decided to wander aimlessly anyway. I found myself at the only synagogue left in Andalusia, and was surprised to find Moorish architecture here as well.
At this point it was late afternoon and the sun was out in full-force, so I went back to my hotel for a siesta. Side note: one thing people told me before I went to Spain was that August isn’t a great time to visit. People often leave the country due to the immense heat and return in September, meaning that many shops are closed. Up until I arrived in Córdoba, it seemed like the majority of shops and restaurants were open. However, the Spanish holiday schedule was quite evident in Córdoba. I saw hardly any locals the entire time I was there, and found that a large majority of shops had signs indicating closure for the last week (or two) of August. It’s kind of crazy to think that an entire city can more or less shut down for two weeks, but I also love that they can get away with it. Take note, America! We can still have summer break too 🙂
When I awoke from my nap, I spent some time systematically repacking, since I had a flight scheduled in a couple of days and didn’t want to re-pack again. Afterwards, I attempted to go to the highly recommended Taberna Luque for dinner but was disappointed to find that they don’t offer tapas. What’s a solo traveler to do? I opted for a random restaurant near La Mezquita, which was okay, but nothing compared to my meal the night before. Oh well.
I got back to my hotel shortly afterward and realized I had spent an entire two days alone (and survived)! I found the experience to be surprisingly relaxing, and enjoyed traveling entirely at my own pace. The only thing I disliked about all the alone time was that it meant eating alone too. To me, meals are about community and socializing and, while I have no problems doing activities or visiting monuments alone, I found solo meals to be less enjoyable. However, one of my 25th birthday goals was to take a trip alone, and I’m proud that I had the courage to actually do it. I think it’s something that everyone should do at least once. It felt like a test of both my level of independence, as well as how comfortable I am with myself.
I enjoyed the experience and could repeat it, although I have to admit that I do prefer meeting people along the way rather than being completely on my own. Needless to say, I was very excited to be taking Blablacar (a paid ridesharing service) the next day and meeting people on my way to Seville. Stay tuned to hear more about my first Blablacar experience and my time in Seville.
TLDR: a short summary of what I did and where I ate in Córdoba for those too lazy to read the post
Where I went:
- Mosque-Cathedral (La Mezquita): Córdoba’s most iconic structure – a cathedral converted from a mosque with stunning elements of two religions.
- Plaza de Las Tendillas: the main square filled with tons of restaurants and close to all the shopping. Great for people-watching
- Puerta de Almodovar: one of the main walls of the city
- Zoco Artisan Market: located in a small courtyard, this little market has unique and handmade gifts and crafts
- Puerta del Puente: a tower that marks the beginning of the bridge into the old city. Pay 1 euro to climb up and get amazing views of the river and glimpses of the new city
- Córdoba Alcazar: the King’s former palace in Córdoba. Huge and beautiful with well-kept gardens. If you’re going to Seville, you can skip this since the Seville Alcazar is much more impressive
- Puente Romano: the bridge that crosses over the Rio Guadalquivir to the Torre de la Calahorra (a large tower with an attached museum that I opted not to visit). Just past the Torre is the new city.
- Synagogue: the only synagogue left in Andalusia, surprising considering that most cities have Jewish quarters. It’s small, but has beautiful Moorish architecture.
What I ate:
- The best salmojero and rabo del toro I had in Spain at Garum 2.1
- **All the other meals I had in Córdoba were mediocre at best, but Taberna Luque looked delicious and well-worth a visit.
Where I stayed:
- Pension el Portillo in the old town. It’s a traditional guesthouse located near most of the cool attractions and restaurants and had friendly owners. Despite the heat, the rooms were very cool, although they didn’t have AC (just a fan).