Though its metropolitan population hovers around 1.4 million, Córdoba feels much smaller than both Seville and Málaga—a phenomenon attributable to its sights’ close proximity to one another. Spending one day here offers plenty of things to see and do. The stone and plaster buildings within its historic center rarely exceed three stories and are connected by a complex network of narrow pedestrian streets. Córdoba tends to attract more retirees and couples than student backpackers, which in turn is reflected in its general lack of affordable housing and eateries. That’s not to say, however, that budget travel is impossible in Córdoba. In fact, the city’s beauty is most potent in its free attractions—the millenia-old Puente Romano, the charming and vibrant neighborhood of San Basilio, the grand striped arches of the Mezquita. If you have 24 hours to spend in Córdoba, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Morning: Swing by Plaza Jeronimo Paez
Crisp, sunny mornings in Córdoba are precious currency. Spend yours descending the shallow steps of Cuesta Pedro Mato and relaxing in this plaza, where the shadows of palm fronds pepper its cobblestone pavement and large, weathering column fragments double as chairs. If you arrive before 9am, you’ll have this small plaza almost entirely to yourself, except for the pigeons that bop around scrummaging for leftovers near the sole café on its southern edge.
Next, head over to Palacio de Viana. It’s a stately home that, according to the paraphernalia on display by its towering front doors, houses Córdoba’s “finest collection of courtyards”—a bold claim, but a true one. The complex has been growing since it was commissioned in the fifteenth century, and now possesses 12 distinct courtyards that cover an area of approximately 70,000 square feet. Constructed chronologically in a U-shape around the original residence, these colorful spaces blend with the natural world more than other structures in the city—bye bye, concrete. It tells a tale of cultural mixing—in its flowerbeds, water features, and ceramic work lie traces of Muslim rule, and in its mosaics, statues, and antiquities linger hints of Roman and Catholic occupation. Stop by the palace for its history and beauty.
Lunchtime: Embark on a tapas tour
What better way to explore Córdoba than on a guided tapas tour of the city? A local expert will take you to some of the area’s best (and little-known) taverns in the Jewish Quarter, where you’ll sample Arab- and Jewish-inspired dishes as you learn the history of the city’s food scene.
Afternoon: Explore the Jewish Quarter
Córdoba’s Jewish Quarter is much more than restaurants and souvenir shops. A maze of narrow streets and low plaster buildings, it’s easy to get lost in this part of the city—and that’s just what you should do. We recommend starting at the Sinagoga de Córdoba, which—following the violent expulsion of Córdoba’s Jewish population from this neighborhood in 1942—was converted into into a hospital for people suffering from rabies. Then, continue down Calle de los Judíos, where you’ll eventually encounter a bronze statue of Maimónides, the great Jewish philosopher and doctor from Córdoba. A guided tour will offer an in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at this historic area of the city.
If you have time, squeeze in a visit to el Museo Arqueológico y Etnológico de Córdoba. Constructed above and around the remains of an ancient Roman theater, the museum’s facilities, contents, and descriptions are on par with those you’d find in major metropolitan cities like New York and London. Similar to that of Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus, the central theme of the exhibition is the concept of cultural exchange, which reflects the notion of Córdoba as a model of interculturalism and tolerance. The breadth of the collection is extremely wide, with pieces that span from the Palaeolithic era to the Roman, Muslim, and Andalusí periods. If you’re into anything historical, like ancient scissors or amphorae, you’ll like it here. If not, interactive exhibits make it seem like you’re on your phone, so you never have to leave the tech age.
Evening: Whip up some classic dishes in a cooking class
End your stay in Cordoba with a cooking class in the center of the city. You’ll soak up the views from one of the city’s pretty patios as a local chef shows you how to whip up two popular Spanish recipes, each paired with a local wine. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a busy day exploring this lovely Spanish town.