Since studying it in my Cross-Cultural Analysis class during my sophomore year at Tulane University, I have dreamed of exploring the city of Córdoba, Spain, and specifically, the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba. While spending a few days in Sevilla, I found that taking a day trip to Córdoba was the perfect way to make it happen experience this city without committing to a full overnight trip there.
I am so drawn to the Andalucía region of Spain because of its juxtaposition of cultures, religions, and even languages. Everywhere you in Córdoba, you see bright colors, flower pots, and an interesting mix of Spanish and Arabic. The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is likely the best example of the unique combination of cultures in this city.
Mezquita-Catédral de Córdoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba was originally built in the 8th century as a mosque. It quickly expanded through enlargements, allowing a larger number people to congregate and pray here.
In the 12th century, however, the Cristian army arrived and began to hold Holy Mass at this former mosque. It was dedicated two times as a Catholic church, though much of its architecture and decorations still resembled that of traditional mosques.
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba continued to grow and change over time, and today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with quite an interesting combination of architecture and decor from both the Catholic and Muslim faiths.
Visiting this incredible structure and cultural icon was my top priority during my visit to Córdoba. We booked our tickets ahead of time to ensure they would not sell out and we would have an easy entry, and we also chose to purchase audio guides. I definitely recommend either getting an audio guide or participating in a full tour to get the most out of this experience.
While I expected to see interesting colors, structures, and details, I had no idea that the Mosque-Cathedral would be so large yet intricate at the same time. We quickly got lost from the audio guide because there were so many different rooms and sections in the building. Unique smaller chapels line the walls, and larger chapels can be found in the center of the area. Never forget to look up at the ceilings, as these offer some of the most incredible views in the building.
After a morning train ride from Sevilla and a couple hours spent exploring the Mosque-Cathedral, you can bet that we worked up an appetite! Riana, Catherine and I headed to Plaza Nueva for lunch. Many different restaurants there offer authentic Spanish food combined with outdoor seating and great people watching, plus this is a far less touristy area than directly surrounding the Mosque-Cathedral.
We ordered three separate menus (appetizer + entree combos) and easily devoured them. Most importantly, we tried Gaspacho, which is a specialty of the area. I’m not a huge fan of tomato soup, especially when cold, but the Gaspacho we tried definitely tasted more like salsa or pico de gallo than just plain tomatoes. And, of course, we ordered a jug of sangria and lots of water for the table.
Catherine brought a guide to the Andalucía region of Spain with her on the trip, so we decided to try out its 30-minute walking tour of Córdoba. Most of this was around the more touristy areas, so there were tons of tour groups and other visitors along our path, but this was a nice way to make our independent adventure feel a bit more structured.
While the major attractions of any city are undoubtedly impressive, sometimes, the best way to really get to know a city, its culture, and its people is just to wander around and explore a bit. We saw streets lined with flowers and colorful paints, unexpected plazas and statues, and a mix of Spanish and Arabic (and, of course, a bit of English if we participated in the interaction). We also stumbled upon Mercado Victoria, an adorable gourmet market with some great ice cream!
Córdoba might not be one of your top-priority destinations, or maybe a day trip here sounds too exhausting and stressful, but my time in this small but incredibly culturally-rich city truly allowed me to see and experience new things, examine important parts of history, and still live in the moment as an ambitious and adaptive traveler.
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