What To Do With A Half Day In Cordoba: Is This Day Trip From Seville Worth It?

March 10, 2024
things to do in cordoba,cordoba day trip from seville,cordoba spain

Mezquite bell tower view - Things to do in Cordoba, Spain | A guide to a Cordoba day trip from Seville, what to do in Cordoba with just a few hours or a full day. Should this historic city be on your souther Spain itinerary? How to visit the Mezquita, an olive oil tasting class, wanding around, churros, & more!

I had such a tough time planning our short adventure in southern Spain, because are so many unique and historic cities to choose from.  We decided to base ourselves in Seville, but couldn’t resist squeezing in a half day in Cordoba.  So I wanted to share what it was like visiting as a day trip from Seville, and what to do in Cordoba!

buildings in Cordoba with orange tree

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Córdoba makes an easier day trip from Seville than pretty much anywhere else, mostly due to proximity but also because it’s fairly compact and easy to explore.  But historically it packs a wallop!

While it’s small today, Cordoba was the second-largest city in Europe during the 10th century—a flourishing golden city while much of Europe languished in the dark ages.  It was known as a city of culture, wealth, art, and architecture, and was especially notable as a place where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived together in peace.

Fascinatingly, it also has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other city in the world!  If you’re spending more than just a few hours, it’s also known for its flamenco dancing and lovely patios and tapas.

the red striped columns inside the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain

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How long do you need for a day trip to Cordoba?

You can do it super tightly if you need to.  I saw people say 3 hours, plus travel time from Seville, which would be around 5 hours total as a day trip.  That would be…a bit rushed but technically doable.

We were there around 5 hours and still felt kind of rushed, though that could have been due to the number of churro stops I made.  Regardless, with 3 to 5 hours you’d have time to visit the Mosque-Cathedral (or the Alcazar), snap some pics in the Jewish Quarter, take in the views across the Roman Bridge, and enjoy a quick tapas lunch.  I’d say closer to 7 hours is ideal.

Should you take a day trip to Cordoba?

There’s not an easy answer.  I feel like everything I read ahead of time was people saying that Cordoba was their favorite day trip from Seville, more authentic and less touristy.  I’ll be honest…they did not seem to visit the same Cordoba as we did.

After the charm of Seville, to me Cordoba felt a bit *more* touristy and a bit…sterile, for lack of a better term?  I completely acknowledge that could be “user error”, and we probably didn’t spend time exploring the right neighborhoods, finding the right tapas spots, etc. that would have felt more authentic and charming.  I just had trouble finding them on a short visit.

I loved getting to explore another Spanish city (and having something to compare Seville to), but given our limited time, I think if I were planning our itinerary again I might skip the day trip to Cordoba and instead spend more time in Seville or a few hours exploring Madrid.

The outside of Cordoba's famous Mezquita

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How to get to Cordoba

Getting to Cordoba is super easy.  We booked our train tickets ahead of time, to be safe (via Renfe, the Spanish train company).  It’s a 40-minute ride each way from the main Seville train station, and tickets cost typically between €12-25, one-way.

Then it’s a pretty easy 10-20 minute walk from the Cordoba train station into the main part of Cordoba (about 20 minutes to the Mezquita).  You can take a route that goes along and through a park, if you have a few extra minutes, and really enjoy the walk.  Or you can grab a taxi at the station for about €10.

We were actually doing the day trip as a stop on our way to Madrid to fly home, so scheduled an early Bolt (like Uber, but more reliable) pickup night before our 9am train.  Note, there was much more security than I’d seen at train stations in other countries, so you’ll need to join a line to get your bags scanned and go through a metal detector.  But no restrictions on food, liquids, etc.

We went from Santa Justa station to Cordoba, and then had pre-booked luggage storage (note, you do need to pre-book, and make sure you have your QR code and PIN because it’s completely self-service).  That was an easy 7-minute walk from the station.

Where to stay:  If you’re doing an overnight and not just a day trip, consider this charming hotel (with an amazing courtyard, pool, and patio view) or this gorgeous one (that view is to die for!).

the train system in Spain is easy to use, perfect for a day trip from Seville to Cordoba

Here are other posts to help you plan a southern Portugal & Spain itinerary!

Marveling at the Historic & Gorgeous Real Alcázar of Seville

Why You Have To Take A Ponte de Piedade Boat Tour In Portugal’s Algarve

Or, check out all my Portugal posts for a full country itinerary!

What to do in Cordoba

I’ll run through what we did in Cordoba on our short visit below…I decided to go mostly in chronological order versus trying to highlight specific things to do.  That’s because the day was more about wandering and exploring, rather than a lot of specific sites.  That counterintuitively means that the famous Mezquita is toward the bottom of the post.

With a very short visit, most people will tell you to focus on the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral), the historic Old Town, the flower patios, and the Roman Bridge.  Those are all fine, but I also think you may end up a little underwhelmed with more of a “box-ticking” exercise rather than just doing some exploration on your own.  But decide for yourself after reading the post below.

Consider a more unique experience such as an olive oil tasting class (which we did, and loved!); this one is an alternate if the first isn’t available.  Olive oil is a huge part of the history and culture in Cordoba, and you can even book full-day adventures at some times of year that take you out to olive tree groves.

One of the things to consider if you’re just doing a day trip is to hire a private guide for the day to show you around and help you get the most out of your visit.  I strongly considered it.  Or, even to book a specific historical tour (of the Mezquita, the Jewish Quarter, etc) to bring the city’s history to life without committing your whole day.

Things to do in Cordoba, Spain - visit the Mezquita

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I also want to talk about a few things that we *didn’t* get to, that I think might have been less touristy and more up my alley.

  • The Alcazar of Cordoba – Honestly??  Peronsally I’d visit this and not the Mezquita, if I had to choose.  Córdoba’s Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Kings) often gets overlooked, and from the pictures looks pretty great.  It’s a Mudejar palace and looks like it might be cooler to visit than the Mosque-Cathedral.
  • Next to the Jewish Quarter is the San Basilio neighborhood, most famous for having some of the best flower-filled patios and courtyards.  We just ran out of time to get over here.
  • San Andres-San Pablo neighborhood is supposed to be a great spot for tapas (with lots of locals dining and hanging out), and I think might have felt more chill and less touristy.  A few spots I’ve seen recommended are La Cuarta, Taberna Los Berengueles, and Salinas.

random church in Cordoba - things to do on a day trip to Cordoba, Spain

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So once we dropped our luggage off to be stored, I wanted COFFEE.  We’d only had garbage train station coffee, and I wanted something much better.  So we made a small detour and stopped in at Atrio Cafe.  It’s cute inside and had a super cute patio (but it was too chilly to sit outside and we didn’t have much time).

They were a little confused about our takeaway coffee request…this is more of a locals spot, including for lunch and drinks.  But we got our coffee and were on our way.

Atrio Cafe patio in Cordoba, Spain

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Our path took us through this little plaza both on the way in and out, and I thought it was charming.  I wished we had time to sit and enjoy some tapas and sangria.

Charming plaza with patios & restaurants in Cordoba, Spain

plaza with restaurants in Cordoba, Spain

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Instead, we were on a mission for breakfast…churros, specifically.  We started at Churros Bar MARTA, snagging a table at the back (but ordering at the bar before they waved us back).  The churros themselves were great (some of the better ones we had), but the chocolate was meh.

churros & chocolate in Cordoba, Spain

things to do in cordoba,cordoba day trip from seville,cordoba spain

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Then after having trouble finding it, we kind of stumbled onto Cafeteria Don Pepe, which has a very local feel.  It took a while to make eye contact at the bar to order our churros, and got them as takeaway.

Honestly, probably the best we had all trip in terms of putting the elements together…nice and crunchy churros, and darker chocolate.  I could have used a bit more sweet and definitely a bit of salt in the chocolate.  But overall, a great hidden gem!

churros & chocolate in Cordoba, Spain

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Needing something a bit more substantial, we walked down the long Calle Cruz Conde and stopped in at Veca Cafe for pan con tomate (lol, more carbs), before really getting our sightseeing started.

things to do in cordoba,cordoba day trip from seville,cordoba spain

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Before getting into the heart of Old Town, we stumbled on the Roman temple.  There are actually quite a number of Roman monuments and ruins dotted throughout the city (beyond the fairly famous Roman Bridge), so if that’s an area of interest I suggest checking out this article.

the Roman temple in Cordoba, Spain

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We meandered our way toward the Old Town, enjoying random little finds along the way on a lovely, cool-but-warming-up late January morning.

As a side note, I struggled a bit while packing to figure out what to wear, what type of weather to plan for.  We were spending a few days on the southern coast of Portugal, then a few days in Seville, at the end of January.

The weather can certainly vary that time of year, so make sure to check an accurate forecast a few days before leaving, but it should be fairly temperate (the biggest question is rain).  In Seville (and Cordoba), it was cool in the morning and evening but not windy, and then beautiful during the day.

I ended up being perfect in sundresses (with a light cardigan)…a lot of mine are from StitchFix & I love this one from Amazon.   I relied heavily on my lightweight, breathable stretchy travel pants (Athleta and these Eddie Bauer ones are my faves), one pair of jeans (mine are all from StitchFix), and some lightweight tops with a cardigan.

And I mostly wore my fave cute white sneakers and my beloved Rothys flats (that link gets your $20 off your first order) for dinners/shorter jaunts.

One of the best things to do in Cordoba is just wander down various streets to get the vibe

We found this random courtyard just wandering around Cordoba on a day trip

We found this random courtyard just wandering around Cordoba on a day trip

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These pics give a sense of walking around the Old Town…it was fine, but felt a bit lacking in charm and character versus a city like Seville.  That’s a completely personal feeling, but maybe the photos help give a sense of what to expect.

There was also quite a bit of construction going on in the Old Town while we were there (which makes sense, as it’s tourist off-season).  So that got in the way and took away from the views at times, and from the ambiance a bit.

The streets of Cordoba's Old Town - day trip from Seville

The streets of Cordoba's Old Town - day trip from Seville

The streets of Cordoba's Old Town - day trip from Seville

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I really wanted to try out Mojaelchurro, which gets rave reviews, but it was closed for some reason (though the hours said it should be open).

Instead, we popped into Cafeteria Hygge, which does not get good reviews but the service was very warm and welcoming.  My nephew got churros and I tried the traditional local pastry called manoletes, which is a flaky pastry stuffed with candied spaghetti squash filling (and sometimes ham? thankfully ours did not have it).

YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT.  It’s bizarre and delicious, and I recommend you try it!

Make sure to try the manolete, a local flaky pastry stuffed with candied spaghetti squash! - what to do in Cordoba, Spain

things to do in cordoba,cordoba day trip from seville,cordoba spain

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And now we get to the reason we didn’t head straight for the Mezquita after our initial coffee and churros…I’d booked us for an olive oil tasting class right in the middle of the day (which was a bit inconvenient, but the times weren’t up to me).

It took place at the Oleoteca de Córdoba, very close to the Mezquita.  Marie Carmen was our host, and she was incredibly charming and provided a very educational experience.  It’s a small group, and we learned a ton about how the olives are harvested, olive oil classifications, pressing the oil, and the chemical and physical analysis.

Then we pretended to be doing the physical analysis ourselves to see if we could tell the good vs. bad, pick out notes in the smells and tastes of the different oils.  It was really cool!  Then at the end she gave us some breads and poured out the different kinds we’d tasted (plus some additional flavor-inflused options) and we just snacked for a bit.  It was a great experience!

The olive oil tasting class was one of the coolest things we did in Cordoba - what to do on a day trip from Seville

The olive oil tasting class was one of the coolest things we did in Cordoba - what to do on a day trip from Seville

The olive oil tasting class was one of the coolest things we did in Cordoba - what to do on a day trip from Seville

The olive oil tasting class was one of the coolest things we did in Cordoba - what to do on a day trip from Seville

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Next up was the Mezquita, or Mosque-Cathedral.  Most people agree that it’s the highlight of Cordoba, and it’s considered Europe’s best Islamic site after Granada’s Alhambra (and…I’m assuming they’re ignoring Istanbul altogether).

As a side note, the shopping in this area made us sad.  We kept finding the same tacky souvenirs at every store, rather than some interesting or beautiful ones.  We struggled to find nice things to buy in Cordoba (we were on the hunt for nice coffee cups in particular, but open to other things).

The old town of Cordoba right around Mezquita

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We were visiting in late January and went around 3:00pm, so were able to walk right in.  During the peak tourist seasons I’d recommend buying your ticket online ahead of time, and visiting before 11:00am or after 3:00pm to avoid the worst of the (often day-trippin’) crowds.

Also be aware that, due to it being a religious site, a dress code is enforced…no bare knees or shoulders, and no hats.

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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I love the outside courtyard, called Patio de los Naranjos.  It’s filled with palm, cypress, and orange trees, and has great views of the bell tower (if you have time, you can climb the tower for great views of the city).

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - the courtyard

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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I was mesmerized by these cool patterns.

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

This part of Spain was on my list of 10 places to visit on 2024!

The Mezquita was a Muslim mosque for four centuries, before being converted to a Catholic cathedral in 1236 after Cordoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III.  So it’s an interesting blend of both religions inside.

The famous columns and arches feel more Muslim in color and form, but a lot of the other decoration is very Catholic.

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral is one of the things everyone says you have to do in Cordoba, Spain - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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I’ll be honest…for me, the Mezquita was expensive and kind of a letdown.  I did love the unique striped arches and how they formed these patterns that went on forever.  It’s absolutely massive inside, but feels…empty.

I realize that’s an unpopular view, and it absolutely wasn’t bad or anything, but I definitely didn’t get excited exploring it like I have other mosques, cathedrals, and the gorgeous Alcazar in Seville.  And it’s quite expensive for the experience unless you’re the type that loves long museum visits (I am, admittedly, not).

In fact, if I were to visit Cordoba over again, I’d maybe try visiting their Alcazar OVER visiting the Mezquita.  That’s just a personal opinion, but wanted to provide it since I didn’t really see others saying that when I was researching for my trip.  Most people just raved about the Mosque-Cathedral.

The red-striped arches of the iconic Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral - things to do in Cordoba, Spain

The red-striped arches of the iconic Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral - things to do in Cordoba, Spain

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We were running short on time at this point, but I needed a little pick-me-up so we stopped at The Coffee Club for a coffee to-go.

things to do in cordoba,cordoba day trip from seville,cordoba spain

the balconies and flowers of Cordoba, Spain

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We swung by the Roman Bridge, but…it’s a bridge?  I think it would be beautiful at sunset, and great to walk across if you have time to take photos back toward the Old Town.  We were short on time so didn’t go across.

The bridge dates back to the 1st century BCE, but the current bridge is from the Islamic period (like 10th century?).  Fun fact, it was featured as the Long Bridge of Volantis in Game of Thrones.

Cordoba's Roman Bridge

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I’d wanted to spend more time exploring the Jewish Quarter, and was bummed we were almost out of time.  Cordoba is famous for its whitewashed buildings, patios, and balconies filled with flowers.  I think if we’d had more time to really wander around, we would have found the GOOD STUFF.

Instead, we had to (very quickly) swing by the Calleja de las Flores.  It’s probably the most-photographed street, and it’s definitely pretty but doesn’t feel terribly authentic (and obviously is crowded with people).  Still worth a stop, but I’d strongly recommend going further afield and finding more authentic and less-crowded flower-filled balconies.

The famous Calleja de las Flores in Cordoba, Spain

The famous Calleja de las Flores in Cordoba, Spain

The famous Calleja de las Flores in Cordoba, Spain

The famous Calleja de las Flores in Cordoba, Spain

So that was our whirlwind half-day trip to Cordoba from Seville!  I hope my explanations of what we loved, what we were a bit disappointed in, and what we’d do differently were helpful.  Obviously every person is different, and I feel like we didn’t really “do Cordoba” quite right.  So learn from our experience if you’re planning your own visit!

Other super quick city explorations you’ll love:

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Things to do in Cordoba, Spain | A guide to a Cordoba day trip from Seville, what to do in Cordoba with just a few hours or a full day. Should this historic city be on your souther Spain itinerary? How to visit the Mezquita, an olive oil tasting class, wanding around, churros, & more! Where to stay in Cordoba, how to get to Cordoba, and whether this is the best Andalusia day trip.

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