48 hours in Cordoba

For flora among the flagstones, visit this Spanish city which takes great pride in its flower-bedecked courtyards and patios. Glory in its mix of Christian, Muslim and Jewish heritage, says Cathy Packe

Cordoba looks at its best in the late spring and early summer, when all the flowers in the squares and patios are in full bloom. The crowds tend to be unbearable during Easter week and the heat intolerable in July and August.

WHY GO NOW?

Cordoba looks at its best in the late spring and early summer, when all the flowers in the squares and patios are in full bloom. The crowds tend to be unbearable during Easter week and the heat intolerable in July and August.

BEAM DOWN

In the absence of direct flights from the UK to Cordoba, an obvious way to get there is via Seville with Iberia (0845 601 2854; www.iberia.com) from Heathrow, or GB Airways (booked through British Airways, 0845 773 3377; www.ba.com) from Gatwick. An alternative is to go via Madrid, for example from Luton or Liverpool on easyJet (0870 600 0000; www.easyJet.com). Seville and Madrid have high-speed rail connections to Cordoba, taking 39 minutes and one hour 39 minutes respectively. You can book the train tickets through Rail Europe (08705 848 848; www.raileurope.co.uk), and check timetables on www.renfe.es/ingles. Cordoba's train station is on Avenida de America at the western side of the city.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

The old part of the city is confined to the west side of the Guadalquivir river, and extends towards the north. There are traces here and there of the old city walls, most visibly along Calle Judios, on the edge of the Juderia district. A number of bridges connect the two sides of the river; the most interesting is the Roman bridge, protected at its furthest end by the Moorish Calahorra Tower. In the river itself, beside the bridge, are Moorish remains, including a restored water wheel. Cordoba is easy to explore; this is just as well, as you're unlikely to get any help from the Tourist Office, whose staff clearly see their role as putting visitors off rather than helping them to enjoy their stay.

CHECK IN

The nicest place to stay, if you want to be right in the heart of things, is the Hotel Maimonides, on Calle Torrijos (00 34 957 471 500), a lovely Moorish-style place with a courtyard restaurant right opposite the Mezquita; doubles start at €123.95 (£78) and singles at €98.83 (£62). A cheaper alternative just round the square on Calle Cardenal Herrero is the Hotel Marisa (8) (00 34 957 473 142); doubles here are from €57.10 (£36) and singles from €36.10 (£23). If you'd rather be on the outside looking in, you might consider the Hotel Hesperia (00 34 957 421 042), across the old Roman bridge (10) on Avenida Fray Albino, with lovely views over towards the old city and a pool. Double rooms are €131.62 (£83) and singles €108.18 (£68).

TAKE A HIKE

Cordoba is a city of patios – it even has a spring festival in which it shows many of them off – and there are plenty of opportunities as you wander through the narrow streets to admire the courtyards and flowers through half-opened doorways. The best place to go is the Viana Palace, in the Plaza Don Gome, which has 13 patios. All are different, but have combinations of bright flowers, tiles and water; one is even designed to look like the typical communal courtyard of the city, complete with a covered sink for washing clothes. The palace closes at 1pm on Saturday, and doesn't reopen until Monday morning, so weekend visitors wanting to see the courtyards are restricted.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Heading south east from the Viana Palace you will soon reach the Calle Enrique Romero de Torres, a small street entirely taken over by café tables; here you'll find a good choice of light meals, salads and sandwiches.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

Cordoba was once Spain's most important Islamic city, until the reconquest of the country under its Catholic rulers in the 15th century, and its main tourist attraction – the Mezquita, or mosque (open Mon-Sat 10am-7.30pm, Sun 2-7.30pm) – reflects the city's religious heritage. It is an impressive building of arches and pillars, opening off the Orange Tree Court. When the Christians took it over, they ripped out the middle and built a cathedral inside. The result is an extraordinary blend of styles in which it is impossible to see where each building begins and ends.

TAKE A RIDE

The ruins of the Moorish city of Medina Azahara, one of Spain's most important archaeological sites, are a few miles outside Cordoba. The city was built in the 10th century to house up to 12,000 people. The ruins are difficult to reach by public transport; the tourist office can give you bus times, but there's a two-mile walk at the other end. Guided bus trips are organised daily by Vision (00 34 957 76 02 41), departing from the Avenida del Alcazar.

WINDOW SHOPPING

Cordoba is not great for stylish shopping, but browse in and around the Bulevar del Gran Capitan, a pleasant pedestrianised area. And there are plenty of shops in the streets between Avenida de los Tejares and Calle Conde de Gondomar.

AN APERITIF

For a really local drink, order a glass of the white wine from Montilla-Moriles; some of it is fortified, so don't be surprised if it is stronger than you bargained for! The Calle Velazquez Bosco is full of little bars: look out for the taberna or meson signs.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

The smartest dinner in town can be ordered at the Almudaina, on Jardines de los Santos Martires (00 34 957 47 43 42); try for a table in the inner courtyard,decorated with trailing plants. The menu includes many local specialities, including salmorejo, a cold garlicky soup topped with crumbled hard-boiled egg and ham, and rabo de toro a la cordobesa, a stew. Another option is El Churrasco on Calle Romero (00 34 957 29 08 19). It's popular with the locals, so book in advance. The entrance is up a small alley; there is a separate entrance to the bar on Calle Romero. The menu is mainly meat dishes, but there are fish options.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO SYNAGOGUE

In addition to its Christian and Muslim populations, Cordoba has always had a flourishing Jewish community, which traditionally lived in the Juderia. This area of narrow streets and low, white buildings is lovely for a wander. The old synagogue on the district's main street, Judios, is still open to the public (Tue-Sat 10am-2pm and 3.30-5.30pm, Sun 10am-1.30pm), although it is no longer used for worship. On the same street is a 12th-century house where the ancient trade of papermaking is remembered, and the Museum of Bullfighting (open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm, 5.30-7.70pm; Sun 9.30am-2.30pm), nearby in the Plazuela de Maimonides, is another of the district's attractions.

OUT TO BRUNCH

Because of the tradition of eating late, most restaurants don't open up early enough for brunch, so you will have to look for a café if you want something to eat before midday. A good option is the Rincon de Carmen at 4 Calle Romero (00 34 957 29 10 55), close to El Churrasco; if the restaurant is still closed when you get there, the café will be happy to find you a table.

A WALK IN THE PARK

The gardens surrounding the Alcazar (open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm, 5.30-7.30pm, Sun 9.30am-3pm), Cordoba's old Moorish palace, are among the most beautiful in Spain. The Alcazar itself is worth a visit, with its Arab baths, and display of excavated Roman mosaics nearby. But the gardens are the highlight: there are formal pools, shady avenues, manicured hedges, and a seemingly endless display of brightly coloured flowers. Visitors are free to wander wherever they like, and the overall effect can be enjoyed from a terrace near the palace itself.

WRITE A POSTCARD

Never mind all the historical stuff: write home from Cordoba's literary centre – and, coincidentally, one of its loveliest squares. The Plaza del Potro was mentioned in Cervantes' novel Don Quixote. On one side of the square is the Posada del Potro, no longer functioning as an inn, as it did in the early 17th century. Opposite, and sharing a courtyard, are two of Cordoba's most interesting museums, Fine Arts and Juan Romero de Torres, both of which have displays of local paintings.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment