Experience a fascinating part of Spain with a trip to this southerly city in the flamboyant region of Andalusia. Take the high-speed train from Puerta de Atocha, and in under two hours you’ll be in another world. As an important site for diverse cultures down the ages (it was a capital city in Roman times, a key Muslim stronghold in the Middle Ages, and has been home to a Jewish community; in the 10th century, it's believed to have had around a million inhabitants), Córdoba has much to offer visitors, with its historical neighbourhoods and architecture, photogenic courtyards that are filled with flowers for an annual festival but worth seeing year-round, numerous opportunities to enjoy flamenco singers and dancers in action, and places to appreciate the beauty and strength of the world-famous Andalusian horse breed. What’s more, you can relax at one of the city’s Arab baths and take your chance to shop local crafts including jewellery, pottery, leather, gold and silverwork.
EAT: OK, so it’s at the higher end of the restaurant selection in Córdoba, but Noor Restaurant has enough going for it to warrant treating yourself. From the ultra-original crockery to the cutting-edge recipes, this Michelin-starred eatery with Córdoba-born chef Paco Morales at the reins is a place you won’t forget in a hurry. Book ahead!
DRINK: Any trip to Córdoba has to include time to 'tapear'; it’s practically the law. That means going to a bar (or bars) for a drink and tapas; the beer tends to be cheap and many places still offer a free nibble with your drink in line with local tradition. There are numerous places to indulge in this extremely civilised custom, such as the area around Plaza de las Tendillas and the Jewish quarter. What to eat? Start with 'salmorejo' (a thick cold tomato soup similar to gazpacho), 'boquerones' (anchovies marinated in vinegar) and 'rabo de toro' (oxtail stew).
DO: The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is a 14th-century fortress and palace created by kings Alfonso X and XI of Castilla, and acts as a kind of snapshot of Córdoba’s past: Roman, Visigoth and Arabic remains can be found on the site, with different local leaders choosing it as the place to build their headquarters. After you’ve explored the building and its treasures, you've got extensive gardens and courtyards to wander through.
STAY: If you decide to extend your visit to Córdoba, why not lay your head at the Soho Boutique Capuchinos hotel? It features a striking design that incorporates original features of the building, offers a spa including hot tub, Turkish bath and sauna, and has a bar-terrace with views over the city.
If you do just one thing... The brightest star in the Córdorba firmament is its Mosque-Cathedral, a hybrid of Arab and Christian cultures that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the town's historic centre). Construction began on the mosque in 785, using materials from a small church that already stood there. The mosque was gradually expanded and was the second largest of its kind in the world for centuries. In the 13th century, following the re-conquest of the city by Christians, the temple was consecrated as a cathedral, and in the 16th century, a nave was built within the confines of the site.