LivingTravelMosque of Córdoba: the complete guide

Mosque of Córdoba: the complete guide

Its tower rises above the whitewashed buildings of the old Jewish quarter, and it has earned a rightful place at the top of every list of things to do in Cordoba. The building in question: the only Mosque, or mosque. With over a millennium of dramatic history behind it, the impressive monument attracts millions of visitors each year and boasts accolades such as its status as one of Cordoba’s four UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Centuries of history

The mosque dates back to the Muslim days of Spain, more specifically AD 785, when Abderraman I built the first 110 of the iconic columns, which at one time grew in number to nearly 1,300 (around 850 remain standing today). Suffice it to say that the old mosque, while beautiful, was rather small, at least compared to the grand and glorious structure that now attracts dozens of visitors every day.

Over time, however, the Mezquita grew larger and larger as Córdoba became one of the most important cities in Western Europe. An important addition, the minaret or bell tower, helped cement its status as the most important mosque in what is now Spain.

In fact, the mosque was so impressive that even the enemies of the ruling Muslims could not bear to destroy it. When the Christian Reconquest swept through Córdoba in 1236, the new rulers did not destroy the mosque and build their cathedral on top, as they had done in other parts of Muslim Spain. Instead, they simply consecrated the existing mosque as a cathedral, and built their own astonishingly beautiful church within it over the course of the next few centuries.

Tickets and opening hours

Individual tickets for the Mosque-Cathedral (“Mosque-Cathedral”, as it is officially known today) can only be purchased on the spot. Each adult ticket will cost you € 10 and are sold at the box office in the large courtyard outside the monument.

Note that access to the bell tower (more on that in a moment) is separate from entrance to the Mosque and costs an additional € 2 for adults.

If you are interested in taking a guided tour, you can find tickets available online in advance. Prices vary depending on the tour operator.

Opening hours vary by day and season, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.

  • November-February (Monday to Saturday): 8:30 am to 6 pm
  • November-February (Sundays and religious holidays): 8: 30-11: 30 am and 3-6 pm
  • March-October (Monday-Saturday): 10 am-7pm
  • March-October (Sundays and religious holidays): 8: 30-11: 30 am and 3-7 pm

What to see

The first part of the Mosque that you experience will be the ‘Patio de los Naranjos’, a spacious courtyard filled with dozens of iconic Andalusian orange trees. Be sure to take some time to enjoy the picturesque and peaceful atmosphere here before heading to the mosque.

Once you have entered the Mosque, you will be amazed by the rows and rows of striped candy cane arches supported by columns that have stood for centuries. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the glory days of Muslim Spain as you take in the impressive construction and beautiful details such as intricate wall carvings and ornate gold accents.

However, it won’t be long before you start to notice the Christian influence in this unique building. Lining the perimeter are dozens of chapels that pay tribute to different Catholic saints and other important religious figures. And of course the main chapel of the cathedral sits in the center of the building, a fascinating example of Christian Renaissance architecture amid the forest of columns that make up the most famous mosque in Europe.

Despite the large number of people inside the Mosque at any one time, the place is remarkably serene and large enough that you can often find a quiet corner to marvel at its beauty away from the chatter of other visitors.

If you are not afraid of heights and are physically capable of climbing the equivalent of 12 flights of stairs, you cannot miss the opportunity to climb to the top of the bell tower. Built on the site of the original minaret, the 54-meter (177-foot) tall tower offers stunning views of the Mezquita itself and of Cordoba’s historic center. Remember that tickets are sold separately from general admission to the Mosque, and places are limited due to the small amount of space at the top of the tower.

Other fascinating places nearby

Now that you’ve seen the Mosque, don’t leave Cordoba without visiting some of the other amazing nearby attractions. Córdoba’s city center is fairly compact, making it incredibly easy to explore on foot.

The second most important sight in the historic center is just a few steps from the Mosque. If the mosque itself is a testament to southern Spain’s Muslim heritage, the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Fortress of the Christian Kings) is a fascinating relic from the period of the Catholic takeover.

The building has a somewhat brutal history. At one point, it served as the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition, and Christopher Columbus met King Ferdinand and Queen Elizabeth there before his trip to the New World. Today, however, it is home to peaceful and colorful gardens, as well as towers that offer panoramic views of Córdoba.

If you prefer to see where the winding streets of Córdoba take you, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the picturesque Jewish Quarter (old Jewish quarter) nearby, full of breathtaking views and photographs on every corner, such as Postcard-worthy Calleja de las Flowers The view of the tower of the Mosque that looks out between the whitewashed walls lined with flowerpots is one of the most emblematic of Córdoba.

And if you’re hungry after exploring, walk down the street from the mosque to Plaza del Potro. Just a 10-minute walk from the iconic monument, this lively and vibrant square is secluded enough that most tourists will never find it. Grab a table on one of the outdoor terraces that stretch out from the square’s countless bars and restaurants, and join the locals for some tapas and drinks.

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