Córdoba isn’t one of the most famous cities in Andalucía and is often unfairly overlooked.
However, UNESCO hasn’t overlooked Córdoba as its centre is recognised as a World Heritage Site, along with the recently awarded Medina Azahara, 20 minutes out of the city.
UNESCO recognises Córdoba’s Historic Centre as its Mezquita, Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Roman Bridge and Calahorra Tower and the streets all around the district of the Mezquita.
This area is known as La Judería which means the Jewish Quarter.
There was a time several centuries ago when Córdoba was known as the city of three cultures due to the famed harmony of Christians, Muslims and Jews living side by side without any problems.
Today, there are very very few Muslims and Jews living in Córdoba but their influence remains in the architecture and the mosque and synagogue (neither functioning religiously now). The streets which are referred to as La Judería are the ones where Jewish people once dwelled and it is still the most beautiful part of the city.
When I had my job interview in May 2015, I went for a walk around La Judería to gain a feel for the city and within minutes I was totally charmed.
May is the most famous month here and is often known as “Mayo Córdobes” due to the month long packed calendar of spring festivals (such as the Cruces de Mayo and the Cata del Vino), competitions and of course the Feria.
So it was no surprise that I was so taken in by my walk around the centre in their most decorative, floral and buzzing month of the year. I accepted the job and I’ve now lived there for three eventful years so far!
As a great introduction to living in Córdoba, I opted for a flat right in the heart of La Judería. It was a very peaceful, narrow and cobbled street composed of the typical white and yellow painted houses of the area.
I lived in an old flat with quite a strange layout (which also lacked many modern amenities such as a proper boiler- buying extremely heavy bottles of Calor Gas every 6 weeks was an absolute nuisance) but its gift was a massive balcony with prime views of the Mezquita.
I didn’t live particularly comfortably there (the kitchen light broke, my landlady wouldn’t fix it, so I cooked by candlelight for the last few months!!) but the balcony was an absolute joy. I decorated it with candles, wind chimes and incense and it was a great place to relax after another stressful day of filling out bureaucratic Spanish paperwork or tackling the language with strangers in 45 degrees heat.
At times I’d sunbathe out there but it was often just too hot. I actually preferred the balcony in the winter!
It made for an ideal base to explore the city daily, and I would dedicate my initial weekends to seeing a new rincon (corner) to familiarise myself all the more.
The above photo is one of the most famous streets in Córdoba as it is usually filled with flowers hanging from the blue plant pots on the wall but in my photograph it was autumn so really wasn’t at its best. I will get another one next spring… it is narrow and has a view of the Mezquita which makes for a really interesting photographic angle.
Very close by is the Calleja del Salmorejo Córdobes. Salmorejo is THE dish of Córdoba and most English descriptions make it sound unappetising. I will try to make it sound a bit nicer- it’s a thicker version of Gazpacho, tasting of tomato and garlic, served chilled with chopped egg and jamón on top.
The official recipe is tiled on to the wall of this alleyway which leads to a classic Andaluz restaurant where they no doubt will serve Salmorejo. Here is the translation of the recipe with a photo to show you how it looks:
- 1kg of tomatoes
- 200g of bread
- 100g of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 10g of salt
- Blend altogether and top with chopped egg and jamón
One hot day in July, my parents were over visiting and we were looking for somewhere to go to avoid the midday heat for a while.
We stumbled across the Casa Andalusí and spent a pleasant 30 minutes in this house-museum, maintained to present how a house would have looked in the al-Andalus period (711-1492).
It only costs 3 euros to enter and is worth it to see some interesting relics and artefacts along with an underground Roman mosaic. The courtyard with water fountain and sprawling jasmine is beautiful too.
You can read my blog entry on the Casa Andalusí here.
One of the main activities my friends and family partake in when they visit Córdoba is to drink beer and wine in the tabernas, sampling tapas at every stop. When wine is usually 2 euros a glass it’s hard not to.
For the times when you don’t feel like alcohol or want a new experience, La Judería offers three (I think!) teterías (tea shops) usually ran by local Muslim neighbours.
They are decorated in Arabic style with beautiful tiling, mosaics, plants and water features and the smells entice you in from the street.
Obviously, they don’t sell alcohol but instead can offer you many, many different types of Arabic teas and juices along with olives and Arabic pastries. If you fancy it, you can also pay for a shisha pipe, known in Spain as a cachimba.
“It was no surprise that I was so taken in by my walk around the centre in their most decorative, floral and buzzing month of the year… [May]“
For the best nighttime views, head to the small selection of rooftop bars and restaurants. The one in the photo above is from the Pairi Daeza restaurant in the Balcón de Córdoba hotel on Calle Encarnación in La Judería.
That photo was taken on my 30th birthday as I chose it to celebrate the day, after two and a half years of wanting to go! In Spain, it is the person whose birthday it is who pays for the meal/drinks, the plus side being you get to choose where you want to go without feeling cheeky.
I highly recommend it for the food, drinks, service, decor, location and unbeatable views. I am already planning on taking my sister there in October to celebrate her completing her PhD when it should be warmer than January when I visited.
Of course, the centre of the entire historic quarter is the mighty Mezquita which can be seen from many points, roof terraces and between narrow streets. It looks amazing by day and its illumination at night under the moon is something else.
The Plaza del Potro is really quite an unassuming little square upon first glance but it has a claim to fame.
Spain’s most revered literary work is Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1615). The Plaza gets its brief mention when the owner of an inn makes fun of the protagonist, making references to his apparent penchant for brothels, drinking and debauchery.
The fountain itself dates back to before Don Quixote was published as it was constructed in 1577. The colt on its hind legs was added 100 years later, bearing Córdoba’s coat of arms.
This little square is also home to Córdoba’s small but worth-a-visit medieval style flamenco museum. It has a lovely little courtyard and stage where flamenco performances are scheduled year round. Upstairs, you can see some artefacts of the dance form’s history.
The Arco del Portillo is something you would probably just miss when walking down the beautiful and colourful Calle San Fernando but for me it was a landmark which helped me find my way home in the early days when it all felt like a maze.
It dates back to the 14th century when it was used to divide the sections of the city. It had a door back then which would be closed at night to protect the inhabitants.
In 2013, the house to its right collapsed and left the arc exposed, endangering it to collapsing itself.
As you can see it has fallen into quite a weathered state but there is a community group of neighbours working to restore and maintain it. Although it is quite non-descript on the surface, it is a piece of Medieval history which deserves to be saved in an ever-modernising city.
A couple of streets away from the Arco del Portillo is the Plaza where I used to live.
I am biased but many people say that the Plaza de Jerónimo Páez is the most beautiful plaza in Córdoba due to its towering palm trees, cobbled steps, whitewashed buildings, orange trees and water fountain.
The house you see above was the birthplace of Córdoba’s most famous painter- Julio Romero de Torres (1874-1930). He also has a museum/gallery in the Plaza del Potro.
The Plaza de Jerónimo Páez is also referred to the Archeological Museum Square due to the obvious fact such a museum is located there. Its main attraction though is probably the Bar La Cavea which I return to again and again.
It serves traditional Andalucían dishes and tapas along with cheap but great wine (they even serve a glass of red for 1 euro and it’s fine). The staff are friendly and the surroundings are just stunning. Here are a couple of photos:
I wrote an article for Pink Pangea on Bar La Cavea back in 2015 when I had just moved to Spain and was so enamoured with the place. You can read all about it here.
La Judería is home to many of the best restaurants in the city. There are way too many to name and some of them merit their own blog post however I will name a few here:
- La Boca
- El Patio de Maria
- Casa Pepe de la Judería
- La Tranquera
- Bodegas Mezquita
- Doble de Cepa
- Casa Rubio
There are other areas of La Judería I haven’t covered here because they also merit their own blog posts such as the San Basilio region and even the Ribera (riverbank).
What do you love about La Judería of Córdoba?
Does this blog post encourage you to come and visit it for yourself?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂