The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is far and away the top site in the city. And, for good reason. This awe-inspiring building was constructed by both the Islamic and, later, the Christian rulers of the Iberian Peninsula.
Mosque-Cathedral origin story
Construction of the Mezquita began in the 8th century CE, as ordered by the Umayyad royal family, just a few decades after the Moors conquered the area. The original structure was completed in rather short order as some columns from a Roman structure (and possibly a Visigoth-era one as well) were reused. (The “Roman” pillars in the Mosque-Cathedral today are reproductions made by Islamic builders over 1,000 years ago.)
The Mezquita was over 60,000 square feet in its original configuration, but was expanded several times over the centuries.
The most impressive part of the Mezquita is the hypostyle hall which served as the main prayer area. The double arches allowed for additional support and shorter columns. There’s around 850 of these columns and it’s awe-inspiring to imagine the hall filled with worshippers.
During this time, Cordoba was the most powerful city in Europe and likely in the entire world. It was certainly one of the wealthiest as well.
In 1236, Cordoba was taken by the Christians in the Reconquista.
Surprisingly, most of the Islamic architecture was kept in place. Of course, several Christian alters and chapels were constructed in the Mosque-Cathedral, but much of the work was done by Islamic craftsmen who remained in the city but were required to work on church as part of a Labor Tax on Muslims.
Several restorations were completed over the years, including transforming the minaret into a bell tower.
Getting a bite near the Mosque-Cathedral
If you’re hungry after all that history and culture, Bar Santos is right next to the Mosque-Cathedral. They’re famous for their tortilla. People line up to get one and then enjoy it sitting on the wall of the Mosque-Cathedral. If you’re staying in Cordoba overnight, the wait is much shorter at Bar Santos in the evening after the daytrippers have left.
Getting to Cordoba
There’s no airport in Cordoba. The closest is Seville (SVQ). Train is the best option to get to Cordoba, though you can drive here as well.
Lots of people visiting Cordoba arrive from Seville. The high speed train takes less than 45 minutes from Seville to Cordoba. There’s also a high speed train from Madrid that takes less than 2 hours.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Madrid, Cordoba, and Puerto de Santa Maria & The Sherry Triangle in Spain. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.