Cordoba is located in the Spanish region of Andalucia and is one of the most fascinating cities in southern Spain. Ten centuries ago it was the western capital of the mighty Islamic empire with an opulence unrivalled anywhere in Europe. Today it still boasts many great historic treasures, including its fabulous Arab mosque, which serve as reminders of the glory days when Cordoba was one of the greatest cities in the world.
In Cordoba's heyday of the ninth and tenth centuries there were more than 200,000 houses in the city along with 600 mosques, 900 public baths, and 50 hospitals. You could walk the streets for 10 miles at night guided by the light of lamps throughout the entire journey (it would be another 700 years before London and Paris could offer such abundance to its citizens.)
The city is only an hour and a half's drive north of the frantic beachside resorts of the Costa del Sol which attract millions of package holidaymakers during the summer months. But it's a world apart from the tourist hot spots of Torremolinos and Fuengirola. Steeped in history, Cordoba is a city of stunning Moorish architecture, ancient palaces, beautiful parks and gardens, monuments and delightful flower-filled courtyards. You'll need at least a couple of days to take in the many delights of the former Andalucian capital. And when you've exhausted the city's sights and attractions it's worth exploring the wider province of Cordoba which has mountains where wild boar and deer roam, rolling green hills awash with olive trees and vineyards and lovely unspoilt villages where tourists rarely tread.
www.english.turismodecordoba.org/ - Official tourism site for Cordoba.
Without doubt the most famous attraction in Cordoba is its "Mezquita" which is the third largest mosque in the world and one of the most impressive buildings in the whole of Spain. It's something of an architectural oddity because a Christian cathedral was erected inside the walls of the Islamic mosque after the Moorish invaders were ousted from the city in the 13th century. The cathedral took nearly 250 years to build so the result is an extraordinary mixture of typical Moorish architecture combined with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Emperor Charles V lamented the construction of the cathedral saying: "You have destroyed something unique in the world with something that can be found anywhere." But the mosque and cathedral still continue to attract Muslim and Christian pilgrims from around the world along with those who come merely to admire its extraordinary beauty and workmanship.
Other places of historic interest include the 14th century Alcazar from which King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella governed Castille and planned the recapture of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold. La Juderia is the old Jewish quarter which has one of the few remaining synagogues in Spain. The area is a lovely labyrinth of narrow, winding streets, pretty squares and courtyards. The locals will take no offence if you peer into the beautiful interior courtyards of their homes - Cordoba is famous for its "prettiest patio" contest held each May when you can do an official tour of the competing courtyards which are beautifully decorated and bedecked with flowers.