A journey often consists of as many stages as there are places one intends to visit... and if the journey is in Spainin the beautiful AndalusiaIt is practically impossible not to dream of visiting it all as the architectural heritage is unique in the world. Thus, it may happen to pose the problem of what to see in Cordoba in a dayor wonder what to do in Cordobabut above all where to eat in Cordoba. And above all what to drink in CordobaFor a sommelier, this is a primary concern. One day is certainly a short time, but it is still enough to enjoy a city that is able to amaze with its beauty.

What to see in Cordoba in a day

Cordoba is a city of approximately 320,000 inhabitants located in the autonomous region of Andalusia, on the banks of the Guadalquivir River (from the Arabic al-Kabir, meaning 'great river') and at the foot of the Sierra Morena mountain system, famous for hosting several chapters of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. A city of rare beauty that betrays in every corner its former self, capital of al-Andalusor Islamic Spain, although in reality this vast kingdom also included Portugal and part of France (pictured below in 732 A.D.).

Al Andalus Cordoba Iberian Peninsula

During the Islamic Golden Age, Córdoba became a world centre for education and learning and became the largest city in Europe, even larger than Constantinople (today's city of Istanbul), the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in the same years. But even before the Arab conquest, around 200 BC, when the Romans had turned Cordoba into a Patrician Colony and capital of Hispania Ulterior (or Roman Spain), the city was an important European cultural centre. A city so beautiful that you can get lost in its streets, be carried away by its squares and lulled by its narrow streets that it demands to be seen - indeed experienced - for more than a day. However, if you are short on time, here is a selection of what to see in Cordoba in a day only.

What to see in cordoba in a day square

What to see in Cordoba in one day #1: Patios

Flower lovers cannot fail to be enchanted by the beautiful gardens inside the houses, the patios of Cordoba. So beautiful and colourful that they have become the protagonists, in May, of the Fiesta de los Patios de Córdobaproclaimed Intangible Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO).

What to see in cordoba in one day patios

The patio, or internal garden, is typical of Islamic architecture and was created to increase the brightness and ventilation of the house, as well as to enjoy moments of conviviality. In fact, Islamic homes did not have the concept of a 'living room' and guests were welcomed right on the patio. For this the patio is still considered the house's calling card so much so that it has become the most well-kept space. On the patio are many colourful plants with numerous flowers arranged with great aesthetic sense and fountains or wells with the dual function of both enriching the space and irrigating the dense vegetation.

What to see in Cordoba in a day

Cordoba's patios are so numerous that it will be necessary to make a selection of those to see, perhaps with the help of a specialised guide. However, it will be just as fascinating to peek inside private homes, shops, hotels and restaurants to admire patios that may be little known, but are nevertheless of extraordinary beauty.

What to see in Cordoba in a day

What to see in Cordoba in one day #2: the Mezquita

La Great Mosque of Cordova, today Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy in Cordoba, is one of the most important expressions of Arab architecture in Spain, resulting from the layering of the work of Christian and Muslim believers over the centuries. The first settlement, dating from around 600 A.D., was a Visigothic basilica dedicated to Saint Vincent the Martyr. In 756 the Arabs arrived in Cordoba and the church was divided into two parts, one for Christian services and one for Muslim services. Peaceful coexistence ended in 785 when Emir Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Muʿāwiya had the Christian church destroyed to replace it with the great mosque.

What to see in cordoba in a day mezquita sunset

The Mosque of Cordoba is an extraordinary piece of architecture that encompasses the best of the cultures of the time: Byzantine mosaics, Egyptian columns, Visigothic horseshoe arches and Roman superimposed arches. The mosque can be described as a huge stone palm grove - 856 dense columns in a rectangular space of 2,625 square metres - creating  "rhythmic alignments and fugues as far as the eye can see, rhythmic depth plays, changing and always exact geometric perspectives, congenial to a people who invented algebra.

What to see in Cordoba in one day Mezquita

What to see in Cordoba in one day #3: the Roman bridge and Puerta del Ponte

A walk over the Roman bridge, especially in the evening after dinner, is very suggestive because it allows you to admire the Mezquita from a privileged viewpoint (cover photo). Moreover, at the end of the walk towards the Mezquita, one reaches the Renaissance Puerta del Ponte. Commissioned by the mayor of Cordoba Alonso Gonzalez de Arteaga in 1572 with the intention of upgrading the city's most important access road in order to increase its prestige, it is today a splendid monument commemorating a past of splendour that can still be felt in the streets of the city.

Cordoba Roman bridge puerta

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What to see in Cordoba in one day #4: the historical centre

When a city is beautiful, it is equally beautiful to get lost in it. Wandering, aimlessly, through its streets to discover impressive squares, hidden patios, monuments, azulejos and small streets.

What to see in Cordoba in a day

The streets of Cordoba are sometimes wide and imposing in shades of ochre, sometimes narrow and colourful. One common denominator: the flowers that adorn windows and balconies.

Cordoba historic centre

The flowers are so many and so lush that almost in every street it is possible to walk through a bed of colourful petals and feel the romantic beauty that soothes the senses.

What to see in Cordoba in a day

Even at night, the historic centre of Cordoba offers glimpses of rare beauty, enhanced by expert lighting.

What to see in Cordoba in one day Old Town

What to see in Cordoba in one day #5: Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

The Fortress of the Christian Kings is a splendid palace-fortress built in 1328 by King Alfonso XI on the remains of an ancient Arab palace, itself built on an ancient Visigoth palace. Although it is a Christian work, it presents the characteristic features of Arab architecture and in particular Mudejar art. This was an expression of the Mozarabic, i.e. the Christian who in the period of the reconquest lived as a dhimmi (non-Muslim subject of a state governed by Islamic law) in Muslim territory and even had his own Mozarabic rite practised in both Christian and Muslim areas. Simplifying, Mozarab can be considered a fusion of Christianity and Islam, so much so that its very language was written in both Latin and Arabic characters.

The Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos in Cordoba is the perfect expression of this style, and its limited size and perfect state of preservation make it a true jewel just a stone's throw from the Mezquita and the Puerta del Ponte Roman bridge.

What to see in Cordoba in one day Alcazar

What to see in Cordoba in a day? After so much walking it's time to eat and drink!

There is an even more interesting Cordoba for a sommelier, a Cordoba hidden in an extraordinary gastronomic heritage and the result of the succession of Arab and Christian cultures over the centuries. A cuisine not suitable for vegans, with three defining ingredients - pork, garlic and cinnamon - and a mix of flavours with sweet and savoury in perfect balance.

What to eat in Cordoba

Typical Cordoba appetisers include the inevitable fried aubergines with honey, grilled sfiandrine with garlic and the Montillana-style artichokes with saffron and ham cooked in the Montilla Moriles wine. However, it is the riñones de cordero a la planchaor barbecued lamb kidneys, with their meltiness and distinct aromaticity being unforgettable.

What to eat in Cordoba

The churrasco Cordobésnot to be confused with the Argentine churrasco, is a pork fillet barbecued and served with two Arabic saucesA spicy green sauce made from (a lot of) garlic, parsley, oregano, chilli pepper and extra virgin olive oil, and a spicy, slightly spicy red sauce made from sweet paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic (plenty) and extra virgin olive oil. It is served with friggitelli peppers and grilled potatoes. The red sauce in particular is a delight for the palate and pairs beautifully with the smoky note of the meat.

What to eat in cordoba churrasco

The city of Cordoba also boasts special and delicious desserts of Arab origin that blend perfectly with more 'western' flavours. The pastel cordobés (the square at the top of the picture below) is certainly the most distinctive dessert, where layers of puff pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon reveal a pumpkin and almond jam. To speak of jam is not quite correct as it is cabello de ángelor fruit fibres caramelised until they become thin golden threads (hence the name) used to fill cakes. The original recipe for pastel cordobés also contains the ever-present Serrano ham, giving it a unique and particularly balanced sweet-savoury flavour.

Another particularly interesting dessert is fried milk or leche frita, which is nothing more than a mixture of milk, cornflour and sugar dipped in an egg-based batter and fried in plenty of olive oil, then served with a sprinkling of cinnamon. It is often served with a spice-based ice cream (photo below, in this case cinnamon flavour).

Typical Cordoba sweets Andalusia

On the left, the cheesecake covered with berry sauce may make one think of a Western recipe, but it should not mislead. It is the Andalusian cheesecakean Arabic recipe of medieval origin that was only later imported to America and reinterpreted, giving rise to the much more famous New York cheesecake.

What to drink in Cordoba

In Cordoba you can drink the fascinating Montilla-Moriles AOC wines, with vineyards and wineries located right around the city and in nearby Montilla, or other Spanish appellations such as this Galician Albariño Pazo de San Mauro Rias Baixas DO. Fruity, mineral, fresh, savoury and powerful, it goes well with Andalusian meat dishes and is perfect for drying out fritters with its alcoholic strength and freshness.

Spanish white wines Albariño cordoba

The Bierzo DO denomination reveals fascinating surprises, such as this Spanish wine red Petalos by Alvara Palacios made from mencia grapes. Delicate toasted and spicy aromas accompany a powerful body with velvety tannins that goes perfectly with the dishes enjoyed during dinner.

Wine petalos cordoba