In a sun-dappled courtyard fragranced by resident orange trees, and in the collective shade of delicate cypress and palm trees, the Mezquita de Cordoba stands to serve as a fine example of Cordoba's dynamic religious history. One of the most compelling religious monuments to grace the Western Islamic world, this World Heritage structure was built on what was originally a sacred Roman site dedicated to Janus. Built over two centuries under the supervision of Abd ar-Rahman II, the mosque was extolled as a Muslim pilgrimage site for several years, before an invasion by King, Ferdinand rendered it a Christian cathedral. While the temple dramatically changed as a site of worship, its architectural splendor seldom dimmed during this transformation. Famous for its colossal arches that frame its glorious facade, the mosque-cathedral still nurtures a stunning set of 856 columns made from jasper, onyx, marble and granite. Boasting a mesmerizing mix of Islam and Western architectural styles that represent its religious dynamism, the mosque features intricate minarets as well as a rather out-of-place Baroque choir, dating back to the 16th Century. Although dedicated to Christendom in the Middle Ages, the mosque still alludes to its Islamic past – reminded by the presence of the mihrab, or a domed shrine that once housed the holy Koran.
One of the most popular neighborhoods in Córdoba, the Judería is also one of the most charming areas of the city. Located west of the Mezquita and east of Avenida del Conde de Vallelano, this is where the largest concentration of Jews in Europe lived for many years until they were eradicated by the Visigoth invasion. Not to miss sites in the Judería include La Sinagoga, the discreet impressive synagogue and Calleja de las Flores, one of the prettiest streets in the neighborhood. Expect to see tiny, narrow streets, whitewashed buildings, wrought iron details and lots of hanging plants.
Majestically spanning the Guadalquivir River, this ancient Roman relic remains in use today. Built at the beginning of the first century, the bridge served as the city's only bridge for a very long time. Although the bridge has been rebuilt several times, the design has remained the same and city officials agree that this important city landmark needs to be carefully preserved. Walking across the bridge will give visitors the best view of the Mezquita and the river. On the southern banks of the river is Torre Calahorra, now a museum.
Situated in the stunning Faculty of Arts center, Chapel of San Bartolomé is a quaint little chapel considered to be one of the most prominent in the city. The chapel dates back to the 15th Century when it was built as a funerary place of worship in Spain's Córdoba region. The structure remains a fine specimen of Mudéjar architecture. The stunning ribbed ceiling is adorned with mesmerizing Islamic frescoes while the interiors feature elegant plaster work.
Built by the Christians and captured by the Visigoths, this medieval fortress lies not far from the Mezquita on the northern banks of the Guadalquivir River, overlooking the Sotos de Albolafia. Like much of the city, the history of the Alcázar is long and complicated, highlighted by the conquest and reconquest of various civilizations over hundreds of years. Despite this, the primary purpose of the structure is to protect and to house the protectors of the city whoever they may be at any time. The characteristic tower of the fortress was built by Henry IV of Castile to ward off attacks from his half brother Alfonso during the Spanish civil war. During the Inquisition, it is said that the Alcázar was where prisoners were detained and often times tortured. Even Napoleon used the fortress as a place to house his troops in 1810, later it was used as a prison and finally, converted into a historic attraction by the Spanish government in 1950. What is most interesting to visitors of the fortress is the magnificent gardens that can be found behind the massive walls. Expertly primped and pruned, the gardens contain various species of flowers, plants and palm trees and also large reflecting pools and fountains full of live fish. This is the perfect place for a serene walk in nature.
Patio de los Naranjos is said to be one of the oldest living gardens in all of Europe, besides being a square located outside the Great Mosque, and was built alongside it in 784. The Renaissance style fountain at the center of the area is another attraction. The courtyard has 98 orange trees, which are said to date back to at least the 18th century.
Surrounded by a picturesque landscape, San Rafael de Navallana Reservoir remains a spellbinding attraction in Andalusia's Córdoba region. The reservoir's scenic location makes it a popular picnic spot. In 1923, the reservoir's shoreline was the venue for the auditions of reality show X Factor.