My partner and I visited Cordoba and Granada for a long weekend in May 2019 mainly because we needed a break from the grey weather in the UK and because during this time of the year Andalusia isn’t boiling hot. During the summer month temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees or more. The downside of visiting Cordoba is that the there are a large number of tourists thronging its streets.
Cordoba is a fantastic little city, once the melting pot of Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures and hence there are plenty of historic monuments to choose from ranging from the stunning Mezquita to the ruins of a small Jewish synagogue. We only had a day and a half in Cordoba and as we do not like to rush, we choose to visit the Mezquita, the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos and the Roman Bridge. In between these visits, we wandered around the Old Town and the Jewish Quarters, admiring the colourful flower pots in the white-washed alleys and trying to steal a glance at the gorgeous and often hidden patios of the traditional houses. Occasionally, we would plonk myself in a caffee or teashop to relax and watch the world go by.
There are an infinite amount of places to have a drink or to have a meal but one of the places we liked most was the Salon de Te (13 Calle Buen Pastor) a small Moroccan tea shop with a nice courtyard, pretty amazing food and a lemon and lime lemonade to die for.
The Roman Bridge
The Roman bridge, across the Guadlaquivir River, was originally built in the early 1st century BC though it has been reconstructed at various times since. Most of the present structure dates from an Islamic reconstruction in the 8th century AD. The bridge now has sixteen arches only two of which date back to the original one.
Cordoba was initially founded by the Romans in 169 BC and it was an important the cultural and political center in southern space under the Romans, the Byzantine Empire and the Visigoth who captured the city in the 6th centuray AD. In 711 Cordoba was captured by the Umayyad army and it became a provincial capital of the Umayyad empire, subordinate to the Caliphate of Damascus.
It is generally believed that during the reign of the Visigoth the site of the Mezquita was occupied by a Christian church, the Basilica of San Vincente, which, after the Islamic Conquest of the Visigoth kingdom, was divided and shared by Muslims and Christians. This arrangement lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir Abd-Al-Raham I, who the proceeded to demolish the original structure and build the grand mosque of Cordoba on its ground. The mosque was enlarged three times between 833 and 934 by Abd-Al-Raham II, Al Hakam II and Almanzor. If you look carefully at the red and yellowish arches you can see where the second enlargement started as, because of the lack of funds, they painted the red brick pattern onto the arches, rather than alternating stone and bricks as in the original building.
After the reconquest of Cordoba by Ferdinand III of Castille, the centre of the Grand Mosque was transformed into a Catholic cathedral and the minaret was converted into a bell tower, which was adorned with the bells of the cathedral of Santtiago de Compostella.
The mezquita, whit its beautiful arches and the stunning islamic and Christian architecture is a must see. The best time to visit the Mezquita is probably between 8AM and 9AM in the morning as tour groups are not allowed to enter the Mezquita during this time and consequently you will have the Great Mosque pretty much t yourself.
Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos
The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos has been a Fortress since the Visigoth wrested Cordoba from the Romans. After the Islamic conquest of the Visigoth, the Umayyads used it as they palace. Under the Umayyads Cordoba flourished and the Alcazar was significantly expanded. Extensions included a hammam, large gardens and a library. The gardens were so extensive that watermills were build on the Guadalquivir, pumping up water from the river in order to irrigate the gardens. Most of the present day structure dates back to the early 14th century, during the time of the reconquest of Cordoba by Ferdinand III of Castille.
Cordoba to Granada: Alcaudete
Unfortunately, we only had two days in Cordoba which is not enough to see everything in detail but it was sufficient for us to know that we would like to go back at some stage to explore this beautiful city a little bit more. So we packed our back and drove to Granada via the N-432 eschewing the faster A-45 route. Although, the N-432 takes slightly longer it is much prettier and it passes through the town of Alcaudete, the location of a pretty impressive castle and the chuch of Santa Maria la Mayor. Unfortunately, neither the castle of the church were open when we got there. As it turns out the Castle of Alcaudete is only open to the public from late May to September. After wandering around Alcaudete we drove pretty much straight to Granada, although there were still some nice looking villages on the way we would have liked to visit.