While Seville (Sevilla) is more famous and gets more attention from tourists, wonderful Córdoba, Spain is an amazing destination in its own right. With immense historical significance, spectacular architecture and no fewer than 4 UNESCO Heritage Sites, Córdoba is a must-see on your visit to Andalusia. Of course, time is often (usually) a factor so even if you don’t have a few nights to spare you should still plan a Córdoba day trip from Seville.
A millennia ago, in the 10th century, Córdoba, Spain was actually the largest city in the world. The most impressive and illustrious capital in Europe, Córdoba easily outclassed Paris, Rome and London not just in size but also art, architecture and academia.
Today, Córdoba is somewhat smaller and more manageable than the biggest Spanish cities and all of its main attractions are condensed into a relatively small area, making it easy to hit all the highlights on a Seville to Córdoba day trip. Plus, it is only 40 minutes by train from Seville to Córdoba, leaving you plenty of time to see everything without having to rush. We actually were able to plan our Seville to Córdoba day trip as a stopover on our way to Granada.
Is Córdoba worth visiting?
Absolutely. The incredible Mezquita-Catedral is considered one of the “Big Three” historic buildings of Andalusia along with the Real Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada. And, while Seville and Granada might have a greater total number of tourist sites, those in Córdoba tend to be less formal and not as crowded. Plus, they have some excellent ice cream…
How to Get from Seville to Córdoba
If you have the time, spending 2 or 3 nights in Córdoba is highly recommended. However, if you would prefer to base yourself in Seville and avoid adding extra moving days, planning a one day Córdoba visit is a great option since they are so close to each other with numerous transportation options.
Seville to Córdoba by Train
Train is the fastest and most comfortable way to enjoy a Córdoba day trip from Seville. With both cities located on main train lines, there are dozens of choices throughout the day varying in speed and price.
High-speed trains classified as AVE, AV City and Avant usually take just 40-45 minutes and will cost in the €25-35 range.
Slower Media Distancia (MD) trains can take up to twice as long but tickets are cheaper, sometimes going as low as €10-12.
Some routes book up early, while others usually have vacancies right up until boarding. However, if you know the day you’re planning your Seville to Córdoba day trip we would recommend buying your tickets online in advance through the RENFE website. It is also possible to buy them in person at the station.
With so many great towns and villages in the area we highly recommend renting a car for at least a few days to cover more ground and set your own schedule. We find Discover Cars usually have the best deals in the area.
If that is your plan, or you have your own car, driving from Seville to Córdoba is relatively straightforward.
Although it isn’t fast as the train, you can still drive from Seville to Córdoba in roughly 1.5 hours on good highway the entire way. There are many public parking lots in Córdoba located outside the historic centre. The best spot is just across the Roman bridge where you’ll have an easy walk to all the main attractions.
Taking the bus is a very affordable option, with tickets available for as low as €5-6. However, they take roughly 2 hours (longer than driving and much longer than the train) and run less frequently than the train, limiting your options. But if you’ve got time to kill and want to save some money, check out the Alsa website to reserve tickets.
Córdoba Day Trip: One Day Itinerary Map
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How do I spend a day in Córdoba?
All the main attractions in Córdoba are located close together in the historic city center. So whether you arrive by train, bus or car, you should be able to visit all the top sights on foot. This is part of why when thinking of doing a day trip Cordoba is such a great choice. Quick walkers who don’t linger at historic spots could cover most of Córdoba in 3-4 hours but 5-6 hours is more realistic to properly enjoy these amazing attractions, the old town vibe and maybe stop off for some tapas and a drink (or three).
You can do a guided tour, there is a great walking tour option or you could check out a food tour, but it is very doable to see everything on your own.
Best Things to Do in Córdoba on a Day Trip from Seville
We visited Córdoba on a layover on our train journey between Seville and Granada. With roughly 6 hours between trains, we knew we would have enough time to see all the top sights and still have some time leftover for lunch, drinks and some good, old-fashioned people watching.
However, as planners at heart we still worked out a specific itinerary and marked everything on Google Maps to ensure nothing slipped through the cracks. Here is our suggestion, in order, of the most efficient way to spend your day trip in Córdoba.
1. Wander the Jewish Quarter
If you are coming buy train or bus you will arrive very close to La Juderia, the ancient Jewish Quarter of Córdoba. And even if you are driving, there are some big, affordable parking lots near the train and bus stations as well.
The soaring walls and impressive battlements of the Almodovar Gate offers a grand entrance to the maze of tiny, cobblestoned streets of the Jewish Quarter. The streets were specifically designed narrow to provide shade in the heat of Andalusian summers, the whitewashed houses feature balconies decorated with colourful flowers and there are a number of charming little plazas to enjoy.
In the early Middle Ages, this was a thriving area of the city, and was even home to the famous 12th century Sephardic polymath, Maimonides. However, the Jews were driven out of Spain in the 15th century and today the synagogue in La Juderia is one of just nine left in all of Spain.
Also, don’t miss la Calleja de las Flores (Little Street of Flowers), a beautiful little alley that eventually opens onto a fantastic view of La Mezquita.
Wandering the narrow streets was one of our favourite free things to do in Cordoba.
2. Pop in at Córdoba Synagogue
As the only synagogue in Andalusia and one of nine left in Spain, the historical importance of the Córdoba synagogue belies its lack of size. Yep, it’s very tiny, so don’t expect a long tour.
We passed it by at first because the queue reached the street so we thought there must be hundreds of people inside. It was only when we returned an hour later that we realized it can only hold 5 or 6 people at a time and we probably would have only waited a few minutes.
Either way, though, the stucco decorations of the main hall, the intricate tile work and beautiful arched doorways are well worth a look.
3. Shop for Leather Goods and Jewellery
There are many terrific little shops in the Jewish Quarter where you can get locally produced leather products or unique Córdoban jewellery.
4. Marvel at the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba
Ok, here come the big hitters. This fascinating mosque-cathedral-museum hybrid is far and away Córdoba’s most famous attraction and the main reason to plan a Córdoba day trip from Seville. A UNESCO Heritage Site, it is alternately known as La Mezquita (Mosque) and La Catedral de Córdoba (Córdoba Cathedral).
Both one of the most extraordinary Islamic buildings and most unusual cathedrals in Europe, it is nothing if not unique. Originally a Visigoth Christian church, it was split in two after the Moorish invasion of 711 AD and used by both the conquerors and the conquered.
Unfortunately, that strange period of religious harmony didn’t last (it never does) and in 785, Emir Abd al-Rahman ordered the church destroyed and a new, gigantic mosque built in its place. This ambitious project took over 200 years to complete, eventually finishing in 987, at which point Córdoba was the most important Moorish city in the world.
Then, in 1236, the Christians reconquered Andalusia and immediately converted the enormous mosque into an enormous church, leaving it mostly the same but adding a cathedral in the middle and changing the name. A few centuries later, Charles V had the Renaissance nave added to complete one of the most controversial and exceptional religious structures in the world.
Besides the contentious and somewhat confusing history, it is a gorgeous, memorable building. There are 17 arches leading to the cathedral from the south side, a series of intricately carved arcaded galleries, a massive courtyard where Muslims performed ablutions, many elegant fountains and a phenomenal grove of orange trees (with exactly 98 trees, I’m told) in the Patio de los Naranjos, the main entrance. That’s right, you’ve seen all that and you’re not even inside yet.
Within, you’ll find a forest of marble columns connected by enthralling red and white horseshoe arches. There are 850 columns, a mesmerizing sight in the dim sunlight that filters in from above. Unbelievable, and that’s a word I usually only use to describe terrible soccer referees.
The mihrabs (prayer niches) of the prayer hall are set up for worshippers to face Mecca. The incomparable Mihrab Nuevo is a stunning sight carved from a single block of marble, displaying the verses of the Koran surrounded by delicate patterns of shapes and flowers.
There is a ticket booth near the entrance but to avoid waiting in line you can buy your tickets online in advance (the best choice) or at the vending machines just inside the gate. Basic admission is €11 with a number of discounts for seniors, children, students and locals. For an extra €3 you can access the views from the top of the Bell Tower and if you’re spending the night in Córdoba you can shell out €18 for a night visit.
5. Stop for a Gelato
Heladeria La Lechera
We thought this ice cream place might be a bit overpriced since it was so close to the Mezquita. Our usual rule of thumb is never eat or drink within sight of the main tourists sites. But this was some of the best ice cream we’ve had. Almost luxurious.
A perfect way to cool down on your day trip to Córdoba.
6. Check out the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos
Known mostly as the home of the Catholic kings back in the day, the Alcazar actually started out as a Visigoth fortress. It was then expanded under the Umayyad Caliphate to include elegant courtyards, lush gardens, luxurious baths (by ancient standards) and what was, at the time, the largest library in Western Europe.
When the Christians took over in the 13th century the Alcazar of Córdoba was repurposed as a palace of the Castilian Royal Court, where it also served as the main centre of the inquisition for over 300 years.
Today, however, it is a very pleasant place to visit, with 55,000 square metres of garden space that was, at one time, kept in tip-top condition by water channelled from the Guadalquivir River by the amazing Albolafia waterwheel. There are reflective ponds, gorgeous fountains and dozens of nice paths lined with orange trees.
Inside the Córdoba Alcazar, there is a Moorish patio, a salon with nice mosaics and the royal baths. You can also climb up one of the four Alcazar towers to access tremendous views from the ramparts.
7. Take Photos of the Puerta del Puente, Roman Bridge and Torre De Calahorra
These three highlights are inextricably linked, each one leading to the other, offering the best views in Córdoba. We particularly loved the view back across the river from the Calahorra Tower of the bridge, gate and Mezquita.
The long but understated 1st century BC Puente Romano crosses the Guadalquivir River over 16 arches to the Old Town. Originally built by the Romans after Caesar defeated Pompey, the Moors later rebuilt it on the ruins. In one form or another, it was the only bridge and main access to Córdoba for over 2 millennia.
The 16th century bridge gate was built atop ancient Moorish and Roman gates and leads to the mosque-cathedral at the north end of the bridge. The Calahorra Tower, meanwhile, is strategically located on the south bank as defensive battlement of the Moorish age. There is a small museum inside with some cool 3D displays of ancient Córdoba and lots of good info about the city’s history as a Christian, Jewish and Islamic melting pot.
8. Relax in the Plaza de la Corredera
Perfectly rectangular and surrounded by tall, classically arched arcades, the Plaza de la Corredera is one of the best places to enjoy a drink or a meal in Córdoba (along with Plaza de Tendillas). It is the only square of its kind in Andalusia and is the most popular place for locals to gather.
It has alternately hosted markets, parties, bullfights and even executions (in the distant past, one would hope). The arcades are good places to escape from the sun and the daily market is an excellent place to pick up fresh produce.
9. Wander Past the Templo Romano
Although you can’t go inside, this impressive 1st century Roman temple is still worth a look from the street, where you can still see the 10 remaining columns. Only discovered in the 1950’s, it is an interesting juxtaposition, with these 2,000-year-old relics sticking up in the midst of a bunch of modern buildings.
10. Tapas at the Plaza de las Tendillas
This beautiful square features some fantastic buildings, a picturesque fountain and set of water jets to cool down the kids on hot summer days.
It is surrounded by great bars and tapas restaurants – we can personally vouch for many different tapas at Rojo Jamón (they almost made us late for our bus).
Planning to Stay Longer in Córdoba?
Obviously, if you have the time, sticking around Córdoba for a few nights is the ideal way to enjoy this special Andalusian city. So here are a few ideas if you extend your visit:
Visit the nearby Madinat al-Zahra (Medina Azahara)
This 10th century Caliphate City was just named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018 and is located only 8 km west of Córdoba. It has occasionally been called the most beautiful vanity project of the Islamic world.
Abd-ar Rahman III had this extravagant palace of marble, gold and precious gems built ostensibly in tribute to his wife (Azahara) but, according to Islamic scholars, it is more likely that his real aim was simply to outdo the other caliphs of the realm.
It took 25 years to build, then stood for just 65 years before being severely damaged in the Berber conquest. After that, it sat empty for 900 years until being rediscovered in 1911. Excavations are still ongoing as just 10 of 112 hectares of the city have been uncovered.
The restoration has been impressive, though, as the 3-story building features a lovely mosque, marble-paved gardens, military outposts, baths and numerous other buildings.
Visit Palacio de Viana (Viana Palace)
Located in the Santa Marina district of Córdoba, this superb 14th century palace is especially loved for its 12 phenomenal and unique patios featuring gardens, trees and exquisite fountains.
After being privately owned by a noble Spanish family for generations, the Palacio de Viana was eventually donated to Cajasur bank in the 1980’s and opened to the public as a museum. Inside you’ll find a comprehensive and eclectic collection of important paintings, tapestries, furniture and pottery.
Visit the Roman Bridge at Sunset
The eminently photogenic Puente Romano takes a great photo any time of day but it really comes to life at sunset when the stones glow orange and gold. If you decide to spend a night (or more) in Córdoba, make sure to set aside time to witness this amazing sight.
Luggage Storage in Córdoba
If you are doing a standard day trip from Seville to Cordoba, this shouldn’t come into play as you will be heading back there for the night. However, if you want to see Córdoba on a “layover” on your way between Córdoba and Granada, there are left luggage lockers in the bus station. There is also a staffed left luggage office but this was closed indefinitely when we were there – get confirmation before you count on it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For the automated lockers, walk all the way down the main hall to the east end of the station to find the small room with 30-40 lockers in varying sizes. There are none that can handle a really big suitcase but we were able to fit both our backpacks in one locker with room to spare.
Just outside the room and around the corner you’ll find a machine on the wall where you can purchase a token. Each token costs €2.50 and is only good to open the locker once (keep this in mind before you close the locker door).
Also, make sure you bring coins because you can’t pay with a card and none of the shops in the station will make change. Or it’s possible they do make change but I just have one of those faces. You know, the kind people don’t like to make change for. Thankfully, the helpful young woman in the train station bakery took pity on me.
Where to Stay: Córdoba Hotels
If you have decided on a longer stay, Córdoba offers some great choices for hotels.
Hotel Boutique Patio del Posadero
In the midst of it all, the Hotel Boutique Patio del Posadero has a small swimming pool to cool down in and each room has access to a terrace or patio. It is a beautifully restored traditional hotel with only six rooms and charming owners.
Click here for Patio del Posadero prices
Balcón de Córdoba
For a bit of a splurge, check out the Balcon de Córdoba, a small hotel with a perfect location in the old town. It is part of an old convent that was remodelled as a Córdoban town house with a beautiful patio covered in flowers and a splendid orange tree in the centre. Some rooms even have an upstairs outdoor terrace overlooking the famous Calleja de las Flores. The terrace restaurant has amazing views of the Mezquita and an excellent breakfast is included.
Click here for Balcón de Córdoba prices
Patios del Orfebre
For a more budget choice, check out Patios del Orfebre. It is still within walking distance to all the sites but is quiet at night and is very good value. The staff are helpful and you have the option to upgrade to the suite which has a rooftop terrace with fabulous views.
Click here for Patios del Orfebre prices
What to Do Near Córdoba
Classic Seville is one of the gems of Spain, with a beautifully walkable old town, many amazing churches and, of course, the world-famous Real Alcazar.
Hopeless romantics will also love the street and balcony that inspired Romeo and Juliet.
Check out our guide to the Best Things to Do in Seville
Comparing Granada and Seville is like comparing apples and oranges (both excellent but could probably use a wash first). Granada’s central area isn’t quite as perfect as the one in Seville, or compact as Córdoba, but it has some fascinatingly gritty neighbourhoods and a long list of awesome viewpoints. And, um, the Alhambra, which just might be the coolest historic site I’ve ever visited (running neck and neck with the Taj Mahal and Bagan).
For more ideas, see The 17 Best Things to Do in Granada
Tour the White Villages
One of the best things about southern Spain is the extraordinary variety of the landscape, with imposing mountains, lush gorges and beautiful blue lakes around every corner. Scattered throughout the gorgeous hills are dozens of the famous pueblos blancos of Andalusia. No visit to the region is complete without checking out at least a few of these fabulous white villages.
Ronda is both the largest town in the region and the crown jewel of the pueblos blancos with its stunning El Tajo gorge and fabulous Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).
Check out Ronda: A Guide to Spain’s Best Pueblo Blanco
Grazalema is a lovely little whitewashed village tucked beneath the Peñon Grande mountains. It is the most popular base for hiking in the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema.
Zahara de la Sierra features an impressive Moorish castle on top of a huge, rocky hill located next to a beautiful blue lake.
Setenil de las Bodegas is famously built under a massive rock, making it extremely unique among all these hilltop fortress and soaring views.
Olvera has some of the best viewpoints in the area both of – and from- its impressive castle.
Arcos de la Frontera is all about the arches, many obvious and others hidden in the least likely spots.
Jerez de la Frontera is the sherry and flamenco capital of Andalusia. So if those are things you are into, Jerez is a must-see. If not, well, it’s still a very beautiful place (and much larger than most other towns on this list).
Villamartín is another relatively large white town that is spread out across both sides of a tall hill. It has the obligatory whitewashed buildings and some architectural highlights including Topete Mansion and Matrera Castle.
Algodonales boasts an impressive location next to the Sierra de Lijar mountains and is famous for a) having the largest hang-gliding school in Andalucia and b) making great guitars. I kid you not.
Of all the amazing white villages we visited, Vejer de la Frontera was our favourite. Great vibe, beautiful place and the nicest main square in Andalusia.
Pretty Casares is close to the Costa del Sol and is considered the gateway to the white villages. It also features a photogenic castle atop a rocky outcropping, a griffon vulture colony and a fun via ferrata.
Other small pueblos blancos to consider visiting are Medina-Sidonia (understated elegance) and Villaluenga del Rosario (an awesome little bull ring and fantastic cheese).
For an overview of our white villages road trip, check out 12 Spectacular Pueblos Blancos in Andalucia
Malaga is a bit farther from Córdoba but a lot of international flights arrive and depart here so it might make its way onto your itinerary. Mainly known as a transport hub and beach/party town, we found Malaga to be a pleasant surprise. It has some nice old streets, good pedestrian areas and the Alcazaba, a phenomenal ancient medieval Moorish fortress that is comparable to the big attractions in Seville, Granada and Córdoba.
Check out The 14 Best Things to Do in Malaga
Although it lacks the one fabulous site of the other major Andalusian cities, Cadiz was among our favourite cities in Andalusia for its beaches, atmosphere and old town ambience. With balmy weather (even by Andalusian standards) and perfect for wandering, Cadiz is the kind of place where the days slide by and you’ll always wish you could stay a bit longer.
The 15 Best Things to Do in Cadiz
A somewhat bizarre bit of Britain dropped right on the edge of Spain, Gibraltar has some pretty compelling sites (i.e. Rock of Gibraltar) and historic WWII attractions. The border crossing is straightforward and Gibraltar is easily visited on a day trip, although the sites are pretty spread out so if you want to see everything it wouldn’t hurt to stay a couple of nights.
Nearby Main Centres by Car:
Although most people start their Córdoba day trip from Seville, it is also very accessible from many of the other popular spots around Andalusia. The following distances and times are by car:
Seville to Córdoba: 140 km / 1.5 hrs
Malaga to Córdoba: 160 km / 2 hrs
Ronda to Córdoba: 160 km / 2 hrs
Granada to Córdoba: 200 km / 2 hrs
Cádiz to Córdoba: 260 km / 2.5 hrs
Gibraltar to Córdoba: 290 km / 3 hrs
Weather in Córdoba
Andalusia gets very hot in summer, which is good for beaches and water sports but may be a bit warm for hiking or sightseeing. At least it almost never rains. July and August are the hottest (35C+) but June and September also regularly see 30C+ temperatures.
Winters are relatively mild with daily low and high averages ranging from about 4C to 15C but there is a lot more rain at this time, starting in November and continuing right into April.
The best times to visit Córdoba are in spring and fall, with May and October both boasting perfect 20-25C daytime highs and less rain than the winter months.
Slightly smaller and more walkable than either Seville or Granada, wonderfully historic Córdoba is an ideal day trip destination. Yes, staying longer is even better but, really, that could be said for any destination worth seeing.
If time is tight and you are trying to decide if a quick visit to Córdoba is worth it – don’t hesitate. Honestly, La Mezquita and the Roman Bridge are worth the effort on their own. Not to mention the gelato…
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The 15 Best Places to Stay in Ronda
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Guide to Lanjaron: Spa Town of the Alpujarras
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