Covered by the hills of the Sierra Morena, Córdoba is a wise and stoic city like few others. Its ancient beginnings followed by an extraordinary mix of cultures have made it a truly unique place, at the crossroads of history. Located on the banks of the Guadalquivir, the town was settled halfway between mountains, valleys and countryside.
During its long existence, it rose to prominence as one of the most important cities in the world, trying to rival giants such as Rome, Constantinople, Damascus or Baghdad. This wonderful historical background left an exceptional legacy in Córdoba, revolving around its unique Mosque, one of the most important Islamic monuments in the West, and the splendid labyrinthine network of alleys of the Jewish quarter. However, this legacy is not limited to these areas and extends throughout the city, with an impressive list of monuments added by all the civilisations that have forged it. Many of them have been recognised as World Heritage sites and Córdoba is now the European city with the most UNESCO inscriptions, and second only to Beijing globally.
The variety of cultures and influences is striking in these monuments with a Roman bridge and temple, Umayyad gates and walls, the Synagogue, and the Convent of La Merced all showing different religions and eras of the city and its successive inhabitants. The best, world-famous example of this mix is the Great Mosque-Cathedral, known locally as the Mezquita. Built in several stages of the Omeyan style, the Mosque was later enlarged with a Christian structure of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences.
In the historic centre, monumental buildings tower over the narrow streets and large plazas. The Alcázar of the Christian Kings, at first a defensive fortress and later a residence of the Catholic monarchs, is one of the most famous buildings in Spain. Its colourful garden is a visitor’s favourite. Córdoba’s love of patios is also at its brightest in the well-preserved Palace of Viana. This 14th century structure in the North of the historic centre, known as the ‘museum of patios’ is settled around twelve of them.
Following the water in the centre then to a fluvial complex formed by the Calahorra Tower, an old defense tower now housing the Museum of Al-Andalus, and the Sotos de la Albolafia, a series of mills on the Guadalquivir.
Leaving the historic centre will not mean that you have reached the end of places of interest. The outskirts of Córdoba are home to marvels such as the ruins of Medina Azahara, a splendid remnant of the Al-Andalus era. More than a thousand years old, this palace-city is an important symbol of the extravagance and the luxury of the caliphate. Further still, the Saint Jerome of Valparaíso Monastery and Chapels are an ideal place to relax, located among the mountain peaks.
In addition to all of the art and history found in its alleyways and squares, Córdoba is recognised by UNESCO for its Fiesta de los Patios. In this contest organised in May, locals open their colourful and unique patios to select the most beautiful of all. The impact of this event is such that it was granted the Intangible Cultural Heritage title in 2012.
Among all these sites, Córdoba is above all a ‘living city’, home to people and institutions committed to their cultural life. The city hides its soul in the deepest recesses of its urban labyrinth, in the silence of its streets and patios, revealing itself to those who care to listen. As a poet would say, "One understands that on this earth his heart and memory have been forever entangled."