The Mezquita-Catedral is the attraction everybody talks about, because it’s incredible. Originally a mosque, built in the 10th century, it later became a cathedral. Being local I don’t pay to get in, but anyone can get in for free by showing up at 8.30am while they’re preparing for the service – although they push you out at 9.20am. There’s a tower with a nice view, though it’s best to stand inside in a corner, in front of one of the hundreds of columns, and take in the whole space. Córdoba is one of the warmest cities in Europe, so this building, which stays very cool, is a good place to be.
• Calle Cardenal Herrero 1, ¤10, under-10s free, mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es
Jugo wine bar
Locals don’t really feel at home in the bars and restaurants around the mosque; we go to places by the river at La Ribera, or in the commercial centre, the real centro, where most people live and shop. Jugo, my current favourite, is just outside the centro on Plaza San Andrés. A cross between bar and shop, it’s light, simple and cool with stripped walls and wooden shelves, and specialises in natural wines. People come and buy a bottle, but you can sit with a glass of wine on the square, enjoying a view of old palaces and orange trees, and the sound of water spilling from a fountain. Owners Gaby and Javi had been working in New York and Barcelona, and came back here to Javi’s home town to do something new. They’re really into independent arts, music and food and they organise lots of events, including regular Back to Food nights, where they bring in seasonal organic produce and Gaby cooks. It’s a really nice, authentic experience.
• Plaza San Andrés 5, On Facebook
I go to La Bodega every day: it’s where I meet my parents. It’s a traditional taberna cordobesa, with barrels and bullfighting posters. It serves montilla fino (sherry) and really good cold dishes based on local produce, including – for me – the best salmorejo (cold tomato soup) in Córdoba, with really fresh tomatoes. Don’t order it as a main dish – it’s for sharing or eating as tapas.
• Calle Alhaken II 6, tabernalabodega.com
Over the past 10 years people have tried to promote more independent, arty activities, but it’s hard because Córdoba is focused on history. The C3A gallery opened 18 months ago, and while there’s not much going on there yet, the “empty” concrete building designed by Nieto Sobejano is wonderful: it’s gorgeous how the construction plays with geometry and allows natural light inside.
• Carmen Olmedo Checa, c3a.es
Old-school summer cinemas run from the middle of June to mid-September. They’re perfect: you can watch films in the open air, on big courtyard patios surrounded by family homes. They have a small bar, and tables and chairs so you can bring food you’ve cooked at home, and the whole concept is very family-friendly. There were more than 50 in the city in the 1950s; now there are just five, including one in the bullfighting arena. I go to the Cine Fuenseca, Delicias and Coliseo San Andrés (founded in 1943, 1945 and 1935 respectively), which show new releases.
• Shows start at 10.15pm, ¤3.50 weekdays, ¤4 weekends, carteleracordoba.com
When visitors are looking for a house to stay in, rather than a hostel, I recommend Apartamentos La Alberca. Manuel and his family converted their home into seven flats, each with kitchen and sitting room, all sharing the alberca (an Arab-style plunge pool) and beautiful patio. It’s in the old town, near Plaza de la Corredera, a beautiful big plaza like Plaza Mayor in Madrid, where they have a fruit and vegetable market every morning.
• C Fernando Colón 15, albercacordoba.com, apartment for four from €63 a night
La Ribera district
We say in Córdoba that, as a city, we turned our backs on the river, and now we’re starting to face it again. La Ribera has a lot of interesting new bars. La Bicicleta cafe serves good coffee and natural fruit juices during the day, and is a good bar at night. I also like Clandestino, a cosy retro bar with good music and drinks. They don’t have a proper kitchen, but you can eat tostas, and across the road there is a lovely restaurant, El Astronauta. La Boca is a patio house divided into different spaces: one is “la taberna”, with its vintage design. I go there on weekday lunchtimes for the menu del día. These are good places to chill. Clubs are found more in the centro and stay open until 6am.
• La Bicicleta, Calle Cardenal Gonzalez 1, 10am-1am daily; La Boca, C San Fernando 39, closed Tuesday, on Facebook; Clandestino, 12pm-2am, closed Sunday, C Diario de Córdoba, on Facebook
La Tinaja restaurant
Noor is the city’s most famous restaurant, run by chef Paco Morales and with a Michelin star. As a good, affordable alternative, I like La Tinaja: it’s on the river, with tables outside, and specialises in local dishes. Go for the white salmorejo (made from almonds instead of tomatoes), and the flamequín: pork wrapped around jamón – meat inside meat. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes too.
• Noor, C Pablo Ruiz Picasso, +34 957 96 40 55, noorrestaurant.es; La Tinaja, Paseo de la Ribera 12, +34 957 04 79 98, latinajadecordoba.com
Alcázar Viejo courtyard patios
The two-week Unesco-listed patio festival in May is very popular and can be too much. I never go, because visitors miss what’s most important – the social aspect, the local host explaining how they take care of their plants. The Alcázar Viejo Patios are in the old town, but quiet – like a little village inside the city – and open all year round. The neighbourhood association sells tickets to visit all six or seven. But if I’m walking around and see a nice patio, I just go in. If you are really curious, you’ll find people are usually happy to open their door and show you around because they’re proud of what they do.
Córdoba on wheels
Get around the city by bike early in the morning or late at night, when there are fewer people about. For the best views of the city across the Guadalquivir river there’s a great route from Puerto de Almodóvar, along Calle Judíos, around the Mezquita and then across the Roman bridge; this is especially good late in the day, when the mosque is lit up. Follow the river, cross the Miraflores bridge (with a stop at La Bicicleta Bar – cyclists get discounts) and then go on from there to Plazas del Potro and Corredera.
José Fabra-Garrido is owner of the BedandBe and OptionBe hostels in Córdoba
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