One of the most popular (and easiest) day trips from Malaga is to the city of Cordoba.
Cordoba has a long history as a melting pot of different cultures and religions. Beginning as a Roman settlement, by the 10th century, not only was Cordoba under Moorish rule and the capital of Al-Andalus, it was the largest, most important and most culturally advanced city in Europe.
Nowadays, visitors come to Cordoba to experience the palpable sense of history that saturates this city. In the historic centre, its architecture reflects the influence of both of these great civilisations. Narrow, winding streets open suddenly into quaint hidden plazas, where you might stumble upon a centuries-old church or a Roman fountain that still flows with water.
Cordoba offers more than just architectural marvels and historical allure. As a lesser-explored gem compared to neighbouring cities like Seville or Malaga, Cordoba exudes an authentically Spanish atmosphere that captivates true enthusiasts of Spanish culture.
What’s more, relatively fewer numbers of tourists means prices remain low – even within the historic centre, you’ll find an abundance of reasonably priced restaurants and bars.
La Judería, Cordoba’s former Jewish quarter
With probably one of the highest densities of historic wonders per square mile in Spain, the Jewish quarter is where you’ll find the great Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral), the Roman Bridge, and the Puerta de Almodóvar, an ancient city gate.
Just outside the border of the Jewish Quarter is the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs, a 12th-century fortress created in the Mudéjar style and containing magnificent gardens and courtyards, Roman mosaics and Gothic towers.
Also worth visiting in the Jewish Quarter is Calle de las Flores, a street lined with colourful flower pots with a view of the Mosque-Cathedral perfectly framed between the walls, which makes for a great Instragrammable photo.
Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Of these attractions, it’s the Mosque-Cathedral that lures in the most visitors – and it’s easy to see why.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the building itself is one of the most architecturally impressive in the world. Originally built as a mosque in the eighth century, it was expanded over time by Christian monarchs, resulting in a fusion of Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements.
Its history only adds to its intrigue. In 1236, Cordoba was recaptured from the Moors by Christian forces. Rather than demolishing the mosque, the Christians opted to integrate their cathedral within the existing structure. The Mosque-Cathedral stands today as a testament to the cultural and religious coexistence that characterised Spain’s history.
It’s best to book tickets in advance on the website for this popular attraction. General entry is €13, but if you’re travelling on a budget, you can visit for free between 8:30 and 9:30am Monday through Saturday.
Salmorejo, flamenquín and other local Cordoba cuisine
After you work up an appetite visiting Cordoba’s monuments, Plaza de la Corredera is a great place to satisfy your hunger. The only one of its kind in Andalucía, it follows the architectural model of the traditional Castilian main square, like Plaza Mayor in Madrid. It takes its name from the bullfights which were once held there.
Here, you can treat your taste buds to local specialities such as salmorejo (a refreshing tomato and bread-based soup), flamenquín (breaded and fried pork), and the city’s signature dessert, pastel cordobés (a pastry filled with sweet pumpkin or sweet potato).
Don’t forget to pair your meal with the renowned Montilla-Moriles wine.
Five minutes from Plaza de la Corredera is the city’s modern shopping district. If you’re looking for a place to go de tapas (bar-hopping), head up to Calle Victoriano Rivera, which branches off Plaza de las Tendillas. This street of tapas bars is nearly impossible to pass through after 8pm, as tables and chairs spill out of the bars, blocking the street, and groups of friends and families gather for a tapa and a drink in the relative cool of the evening.
Venturing just out of the historic centre, you’ll find Mercado Victoria, an upmarket food court with more than 20 stalls offering a variety of national and international cuisine. On Friday and Saturday nights, live music and a busy cocktail bar turn this into a popular nightlife spot.
Other great options to eat in Cordoba include Breakfast Club and Co for a classic brunch, La Bicicleta, where you can choose from fresh fruits and vegetables to create your own healthy juice, and local favourite Bar Santos, famous for their Spanish omelette.
The world-famous Cordoba Patios Festival
Spring also brings the annual Patios Festival. Every May, owners of traditional houses in the historic centre open their beautiful courtyards to the public as part of the city’s yearly patio competition.
A feature of Andalusian architecture since Roman times, these interior courtyards are packed with colourful plants and flowers, and provide a welcome respite from the Andalusian sun.
The competition concludes at the end of the month, just before the commencement of the annual feria, a grand social event celebrated in Andalucía.
When’s the best time to visit Cordoba?
Cordoba may no longer hold the title of Europe’s most important city, but it still lays claim to the accolade of Europe’s hottest city (in the summer months, at least). Temperatures here commonly reach the mid-40s in summer, and with air conditioning not a guarantee, it’s best to avoid visiting between June and August.
The best time to visit Cordoba is in the spring. Temperatures average in the low-to-mid 20s, perfect for sightseeing on foot.
Getting from Malaga to Cordoba
RENFE’s high-speed train service can take you directly from Malaga María-Zambrano train station to the centre of Cordoba in just 49 minutes. If you’re doing a day trip, the train is the best option, so you can make the most of your time.
Cordoba can also be easily reached by car in around two hours, or for a more budget-friendly option, take the bus, which will get you there in two and a half hours.
An English teacher and part-time writer with a love for literature and culture, Jen first swapped the Scottish gloom for the Spanish sun in 2019 when she arrived in Córdoba for her Erasmus year before moving to Malaga in 2021.