Nowadays, finding a destination that allows travellers to veer from the beaten track and get under the skin of a place can be tricky. From Slovenia to South America, people have become more and more adventurous which means that some of the best-kept secrets aren’t so hush hush anymore. However, there are still a few hidden gems that have managed to escape the throngs of tourists, and Cordoba in southern Spain is one of them.
The Andalusian city is one of my favourite destinations in central Europe, especially when I feel like losing myself in another culture. Defined by its fascinating Moorish history, this majestic metropolis is often overlooked in favour of Madrid or Seville. If you’re looking for a place that has all the charms of Spain — great food, laidback siesta culture and friendly locals — without all the crowds, this is the place for you.
Here are a few of my top tips on what to do and where to go so that you can experience Cordoba like a local.
Peer into the Past
Whether you’re an active adventurer or prefer to wander the streets at your own pace, learning a little about the history of a place is essential if you want to get the full sense of what it means to be a local. Luckily, the history of Cordoba is so fascinating that even the least enthusiastic historian will be in awe.
There are a number of archaeological and architectural wonders to see in and around the centre but if you only have time for one thing, a visit to the Mezquita-Catedral is a must! During the time of Moorish rule, Cordoba was a melting pot of religions and the Mosque-Cathedral is evident of its multicultural past. Not only is it stunning but the cool shade of the stone building offers relief from the Mediterranean sun.
Top Tip: Arrive at 8:30am to get in for free before the service begins! You’ll have 40 minutes before you must leave and the tourist rush begins.
Stars Under the Stars
Believe it or not, the cinema is a big deal in Cordoba. For decades summer screenings have been running from mid-June to mid-September, attracting locals and visitors of all ages. Make your way to one of the five outdoor screens in the city (there used to be 50!) and lose yourself in the onscreen story.
Top Tip: For newer releases, Cine Fuenseca is a favourite… you can even pack yourself a little picnic for an added indulgence.
Shiny and New
While the emphasis is clearly on the region’s history, there is one gem that has tried to bring the ancient capital into the present: the C3A Gallery. Although this contemporary art centre doesn’t hold much inside, the modern exterior will amaze you. For those who enjoy architectural variety and fancy seeing something a little different, the geometrical style of this interesting building is sure to please.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in May, you have to check out the UNESCO-listed patio festival, an event that celebrates Cordoba locals’ beautiful courtyards. While most tourists hop between the plant-lined patios without so much as a hello, you should spend some time getting to know the host if you want to experience the festival as intended. It’s this social aspect that makes it special.
Top Tip: You can buy tickets for a few patios but you’ll likely find some of the prettiest whilst just wandering around. If you’re really interested, some hosts will be happy to show you around if you ask politely.
For something a little different, explore the streets by bike – it will give you the chance to see a different side of the city. Head out early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds and even venture further out of the centre for some of the best views of the area. Follow the route from Puerta de Almodovar, which takes you across an old Roman bridge and rewards you with a stunning view across the Guadalquivir River.
Eating and Drinking
No matter where you are in the world if you want to experience the local life you have to find the popular hangouts – and the best in Cordoba just happen to sell food and drink. From family-run restaurants to tiny hole-in-the-wall bars, here are a few of the best local haunts to find sustenance after a day of exploring.
Jugo Wine Bar
Avoid the crowds of tourists and stay away from the packed bars: locals are more likely to grab a drink by the river. For a taste of authentic Andalusia, enjoy a delicious vino at the popular Jugo Wine Bar. This simple venue plays host to community events and live music gigs too! A great place to sample Cordoba’s way of life.
For something light but satisfying, this is the place to go. You’ll find mostly Spanish-speaking regulars in this simplistic tavern. Try a glass of Montilla wine with a side of salmorejo (cold tomato soup) – the best in the city in my opinion.
La Ribera District
As I said before, if you want a taste of authentic nightlife the river is the place to go. The trendy Ribera district is a hub of new cafe-bars, such as La Bicicleta and the retro-style Clandestino. El Astronauta and La Boca are both lovely restaurants for more traditional fare; both are perfect for lunch or dinner. If you’re looking for a night out on the town, you’ll also find the city’s best clubs in the area.
Where to Stay
Mayflowers Hostel — Complete with free WiFi and a sun-trapping terrace, this humble accommodation is perfect for adventurous visitors. All rooms are en suite and there’s even a communal kitchen on the property.
Apartamentos Plaza — These private apartments give travellers independence while visiting. All units are fitted with a basic kitchen and en suite.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to Cordoba is via a direct flight to Malaga Airport. Transfers to the city take only two hours once you’ve landed. Once you’ve booked your journey from the UK to Malaga Airport, transfers with Shuttle Direct are the best option to get to your accommodation – I’d highly recommend pre-booking a ride to guarantee a hassle-free journey.
- UK to AGP Flight Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- AGP to Cordoba Distance: 167 kilometres
- Shuttle Direct Transfer Time: 2 hours 1 minute
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct provides clients with easy and reliable transfer options throughout Europe and North Africa. Our knowledgeable drivers ensure that you get to where you need to be as smoothly and safely as possible.