Córdoba has harmoniously blended the legacy of the cultures which have left their imprint in the city. Walking through the streets which saw three powerful cultures living side by side, is perhaps the best way of exploring the past of a city which was once considered the jewel in the crown of the Caliphs' Al- Andalus.
A maze of narrow streets leads to the oldest district in Córdoba, the Judería or Jewish quarter, which stands on the area formerly occupied by the Moorish medina and contains the most emblematic monuments in the city. This route begins at the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) over the river Guadalquivir which dates from the 1st century BC. The bridge links the Tower of La Calahorra, which houses the History Museum, with the Puerta del Puente gate. Further left, is a monument known as El Triunfo de San Rafael .
Declared a World Heritage Site Córdoba's Cathedral-Mosque, reflects Corduba's former influence in terms of power and prosperity. It has a mixture of artistic styles which spans nine centuries, the time it took to built. The works were begun by Abd alRahman I in 785 and then continued by numerous Umayyad rulers, with the most spectacular reforms being carried out by Al-Hakam II .However, after the Christian conquest of the city by Fernando III , the Muslim place of worship was converted into a Cathedral , with the construction of the Main Chapel, the Christian temple itself, and the tower over the minaret. Opposite this magnificent monumental jewel stands the old Hospital Mayor de San Sebastián which is today a Congress and Exhibition Centre, and adjoins the Diocesan Museum of Fine Arts. Nearby is the Molino de la Albolafia mill.
It was inside the walls of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos , a fortressed palace which served as the residence of caliphs and Christian monarchs, that the conquest of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada and Columbus' voyage of discover were planned. The Historic Monument, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens, retains its original Keep, towers such as El León and Los Jardines , a valuable collection of Roman mosaics, and the Royal Baths. Behind the Alcazar, next to the Caliphs' Bath, near to the parts of the old wall which are still standing we come to the Royal Stables, and San Basilio, a traditional quarter whose plant-filled patios are rated amongst the best in a competition which takes place in May.
Our route returns to the Mosque and its surroundings, an area whose monuments reflect the city multicultural character faithfully. The Jewish Synagogue, which together with that in Toledo are the only two remaining in Spain, is near to the Zoco de Artesanía (the Crafts market), the squares named Plaza Tiberiades and Plaza Maimonides - which houses the Bullfighting Museum - the Old Hospital del Cardenal Salazar , the Mudejar Chapel of San Bartolomé, the Convent of San Pedro de Alcántara, the Church of La Trinidad and the Casa de los Guzmanes.
Following the route through this area , we come to a series of beautiful lanes, such as that of Las Flores, and the squares like the Plaza de Séneca - with traditional taverns which serve tapas- from which we can admire the minaret on Plaza de San Juan. Nearby are the Arabs Baths of Santa María , from which it is possible to maka out interesting buildings such as the Casa del Indiano, the baroque Convent Church of la Encarnación, the Santa Clara Mosque, and the Palace of Los Páez, which houses the Provincial Archaeological Museum.
We enter the centre through Calle San Fernando, the old commercial heart of the city, where we find a fountain with two water spouts and the Arco del Portillo, a gate which provided access to the plebeian Ajerquía from the noble Almedina. In the Muslim period both districts were separated by a wall which still retains the reformed tower crowing the House of the Marqueses del Carpio.
Taking Calle Lucano we come to a beautiful architectural complex dating from the medieval period which surrounds the Plaza del Potro, a square decked with a fountain of the same name. The complex includes the Church of San Francisco y San Eulogio de la Ajerquía , which was founded in the 13th century as a Monastery dedicated to San Pedro el Real, the Posada del Potro, an inn in which Miguel de Cervantes stayed, and the Old Hospital of La Caridad which houses the Fine Arts and the Julio Romero de Torres museums.
The attractive Plaza de las Cañas, in which the traditional games of the same name are held, the Convent of La Piedad and the Shrine of El Socorro are all on the way to the emblematic Plaza de la Corredera, which has been declared a Site of cultural Interest. The square is famous for its porticoed gallery over which stands the Casas de Doña María Jacinta - medieval houses - the old jail , and the Casa del Corregidor (the chief magistrate's house). Near to Plaza de San Pedro is a Parish Church of the same name, which is in a mixture of gothic, renaissance and baroque styles. On the way to the Plaza de los Aguayo we come across beautiful buildings such as the Church of Regina, the proto-gothic Church of La Magdalena, the Church of El Carmen - which contains an altarpiece by Valdés Leal - la Casa de los Caballeros de Santiago (the Knights of St. James' House) and the Shrine of Los Santos Mártires . The route ends on the banks of the River Guadalquivir, next to the Molino de Martos mill.
With the Christian conquest led by Fernando III, the appearance of Caliphs' Cordoba changed. Soon new quarters,which took their names from the various parishes set up in the city by the monarch also known as "The Saint", were addad to the Moorish medina and districts.
The traditional quarter of the silk embroiderers, San Andrés retains part of its original Andalusí layout, with a harmonious blend of religious buildings, such as the Convent Church of San Pablo, The Church of San Andrés, and the Convent of Santa María; secular buildings such as the Casa de los Luna and the Palace of Los Villalones; and valuable vestiges of the past such as the 1st century Roman Temple, which adjoins the Town Hall, and retains some of its original Corinthian Capitals.
The best religious effigies of Cordoba's Easter celebretions are taken out for a procession through the streets of San Lorenzo, passing by important monuments such as the churches of San Rafael oe Del Juramento, San Lorenzo, the Church Hospital of Jesús Nazareno, the Church of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, behind which are the remains of the Marrubial walls, dating from the Almoravid period.
Also constructed in the 13th century, Santa Marina is the largest quarter in the city which dates from the late middle ages. Its typical taverns, which serve traditional food, have become improvised meeting places for bullfighting and flamenco enthusiasts. Access to the quarter is by climbing the Cuesta de San Cayetano hill through thePuerta de Colodro, a gate which was the original entrance of the La Ajerquía wall.
Other places which are well worth visiting include: the Convent Church of San José, the Church of santa Marina , the Convent of Santa Isabel de los Ángeles, the Convent Church of San Agustín , the Palace of Viana, and the monument to the great Manolete.
The route covering the surroundings of the popular Plaza de las Tendillas has a monumental character and offers visitors the possibility of discovering the most authentic and traditional Cordoba. We begin in Plaza de Colón and the Jardines de la Merced gardens, passing by the Tower of La Malmuerta and the Old Convent of La Merced - today the County - and arriving at the Plaza de Capuchinos, a square known as Plaza del Cristo de los Faroles wich contains the Covent Church of the Santo Angel.
From the top of the Cuesta del Bailío hill, which divides the upper and lower parts of the city, it is posiible to see the beautiful plateresque doorway of the Casa del Bailío; and if we continue walking , we can admire the Torres Cabrera Palace, the Cistercian Convent, the Círculo de la Amistad Cultural Centre, and the Plazas of Las Capuchinas and San Miguel. Nearby are the Plaza de las Tendillas, and de la Compañía. The former stands on the site formerly occupied by shops - hence its name - and has an unusual clock which strikes the hours with the sound of soleares, flamenco pieces played on a guitar. The latter was formerly in the heart of the medina and today contains the churches of El Salvador and Santo Domingo de Silos and the Santa Catalina College, where Luis de Góngora studied.
Taking Calle Gondomar we come to Avenida del Gran Capitán. Further along are the Great Theatre , and the church of San Hipólito. Walking past the Jardines de la Agricultura and the Botanical Gardens, we arrive at the Roman Mausoleum and the remains of the amphitheatre, which were discovered recently.
8 Km from Córdoba are the remains of the beautiful Moorish city of Madinat al Zahra, one of the finest examples of caliphal art. Its construction was begun in 936 by Abd al Rahman III with the money he inherited from the favourite Al-Zahra. Declared a National Monument in1923, Madinat al- Zahra took 25 years to built and declined repidly as a result of political feuds and instability. Before it was a century old , the city was wrecked by Berber soldier. Over the succeding centuries its ruins were plundered repeatedly in search of materials for the construction of palaces, convents and churches.
Evidence of the former wealth and splendour of this palatine city surrounded by gardens can be found in a building discovered in 1944, which was Abd al Rahman III' throne hall and was designed in Syrian and Byzantine styles by Cordoban master builders.