Let’s continue with my solo travel in Spain. The city I had to fly to/from Spain was Madrid, so I decided I would spend 4 days in Madrid on my way back, and I started with 3 days in Cordoba.
Before I talk about Cordoba, I have to say that my trip did not start very nice: my flight landed after midnight, and my train ticket to Cordoba was booked for 8 AM. I was choosing between spending the night at the airport or booking a room nearby, and opted for the latter. Oh, boy, did I regret it! I booked a room via Airbnb, and while the host was really nice and the room was decent, the problem was that there was no bus service between the airport and the house, so I had to get there on foot. I have to admit, it was not scary walking at 1 AM, the streets were empty, it just felt… uncomfortable being alone at night in an unknown city. Thanks to Maps.me, without this app I would not have found the way to the apartment. In the end, I arrived there well past 1 AM, and when I finally went to bed it was past 2 AM, and I had to wake up at 6 to manage to get to the station. While I was walking to the apartment, I was thinking that I would better have stayed at the airport.
Early in the morning I went to Barajas, the nearest metro station. The station was unmanned so I bought my ticket at the machine. When you buy a ticket you have to choose your final station, and somehow I could choose only Nuevos Ministerios and no stations from other lines. I needed to get to Atocha, which is on another line, and I thought I would need to buy another ticket when I get to Nuevos Ministerios. And when I arrived there, I did not see any ticketing machines, and there was no staff to ask. I asked about this a girl who was waiting for the train, and, naturally, she did not speak any English. I explained her my problem in my broken Spanish, and she told me that she did not know what I had to do. I even went through turnstiles in the wrong place, and to get out I had to buy a ticket 🙂 Luckily, a lady allowed me to pass back together with her. In the end, I decided to take Cercania to Atocha, and, thankfully, there was a lady there and she explained me everything and helped to buy the ticket. I paid 1,60 EUR to get to Nuevos Ministerios by metro, and 1,70 EUR for Cercania to Atocha.
You cannot imagine how relieved I was when I finally arrived to Atocha. It was easy to find the way around in the station, but I was so frustrated that I even regretted that I started this trip. Now I think that I had to get out the station and find a ticketing machine 🙂
Fortunately, it got better in the train: trust me, the road between Madrid and Cordoba is very picturesque.
When I finally arrived in Cordoba, I fell in love with it immediately: it was warm and sunny, and when I was crossing a park to get to my hotel, I saw a group of women and men in costumes singing and filming a video. It was a nice greeting 🙂
My 3 days in Cordoba passed quickly, and I really indulged myself in this town 🙂 I decided to try as much local food as possible, and while Cordoba is cheap, I spent quite some money here. Well, I had to tighten up later to keep in my budget’s frames 🙂
I have split this post into several sections to make it easier to navigate.
How to get to Cordoba
As I mentioned in the Part 1 of my series on solo travel in Spain, I came to Cordoba by train from Madrid’s Atocha station. I used Renfe website to buy the ticket, and it cost me 33,10 EUR. My advice here is to buy the ticket as early as possible because the price rises closer to the date. I liked the train, it was really comfortable, and we were shown the new King Kong movie 🙂
Where to stay in Cordoba
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I had a tight budget, and I knew that I would have to stay at a hostel, but I wanted a single room with bathroom in the city center, and was ready to pay more for my comfort. And I found a place! For 22 EUR per night I got a room with good Wi-Fi at Funky Cordoba: it was very basic, nothing fancy. My small room had a small bathroom, a big bed, a chest of drawers and several hangers. Everything looked a bit worn, but I stopped paying attention to that: after all, I spent my days outside. The biggest advantage of the hostel was its location: everything was within walkable distance. And, frankly, I saw much better rooms in the same hostel.
As I like to walk, I got from the train station to the hostel on foot, and it took me about 25 minutes. I am glad I did, as I passed through several parks along Avenida de la República Argentina that were not in my list of things to do. So, in case you want a cheap central place, you might consider this hostel.
How to move around Cordoba
I never used a bus in Cordoba. Its central part is compact and all places are accessible on foot. I honestly do not see any reasons to use buses or taxis, unless you stay far from the center or have problems with walking. Just get yourself a reliable map and wander around.
I rarely saw buses (but they do exist 🙂 ), but I saw many taxis, and I admire the skill of people who drive in those narrow streets!
In case you have heavy luggage, you can take bus #3 from the bus/train stations and it will get you to the city center: the bus stops not far from the Roman Bridge and the Miraflores Bridge. A single ticket costs 1,30 EUR.
An interesting way to move around the city is by horse carriages: I saw them departing from the square at the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs. One hour costs 45 EUR, but what can you see in one hour?
Where to eat in Cordoba
Below are the places I dined at, and they are the ones I recommend. I do not doubt that there might be cheaper or better places to eat in Cordoba, but I did not go there 🙂
Before I start with the restaurants and food, I would like to explain some things, hoping I understood them correctly. When you get a menu, in some place you might see three different prices next to each dish. Usually, the most expensive one is racion or full portion, the cheaper one is 1/2 racion or half portion, and the cheapest one is tapas, and, naturally, it is the smallest portion. Ordering tapas is a perfect way to try many different types of food, but it also means you will order more 🙂 I ordered tapas only in every place I ate at, and I can say that the size of tapas differs from place to place. Sometimes you will see a board with tapas menu outside the restaurant, but not in the menu inside, so tell them that you want to order tapas (especially true for Madrid).
My absolutely favorite restaurant in Cordoba is La Tata (Calle Cardenal Gonzalez, 30)! One of their waiters speaks English, and I really appreciate this fact. Their octopus is amazing, but my favorite is the pimientos de padron (small peppers) with jamon: it was yummy! And their marinated anchovies were fabulous! I would say that La Tata is a bit pricy compared to other places, and portions are smaller, but I liked the food and service. I paid around 16-18 EUR for 3 tapas plus the tips. I do not know the rule but I leave something between 1 and 2 EUR, roughly 10% from the bill.
Just opposite to La Tata there is a churreria Mojaelchurro, where a lady makes churros right in front of you: take a portion of churros with chocolate and coffee or orange juice and enjoy! I loved-loved churros with chocolate! You can see the price in the picture below.
La Taperia (Calle Romero, 4) is the place where I tried amazing oxtail stew (rabo de toro in Spanish). I do not doubt that other places cook it as well as in La Taperia, but I had the stew only there and loved it! I ordered 3 tapas, and paid around 15 EUR, which is less than at La Tata, and the portions were bigger. Keep this in mind, as in my case this oxtail stew which is served with French fries was enough and I did not really need the other 2 tapas 🙂 I was there during the daytime, but in the evening they have live music.
Bodega Taberna Rafae (Calle Deanes, 2) was the first place I ever dined at in Cordoba, and, as I thought that tapas are very-very small, I ordered 4 different types. The waiter did not say anything, so I did not expect so much food 🙂 Croquettes – fried rolls with mashed potatoes and jamon (or fish, or other fillings) – are very popular, and were delicious! A part of their menu with prices is below.
What to eat in Cordoba
In addition to the food I mentioned above, you might want to try these tapas as well.
Eggplants are very popular. I ordered them in the Taberna Rafae, and they brought me a huge portion of eggplant fried in breadcrumbs.
Another traditional dish is salmorejo, a very thick tomato soup, a distant relative of gazpacho. It is very popular as well, but, unlike gazpacho, I did not like it: it tasted too bland.
Tortilla de patatas or Spanish omelette is a very famous dish. It is made mainly of potatoes and eggs, and is very filling! Keep this in mind, when you order it.
This is just a small list of foods you can try in Spain, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Like I did when I ordered a veal tripes stew simply because I could not translate it into Russian and did not understand it in English 🙂 And, surprise-surprise, it was yummy, but too spicy for me!
I am pretty sure 3 days in Cordoba are enough for trying everything 🙂
What to buy in Cordoba
This section is about souvenirs. I know that people usually buy keychains, fridge magnets, something they can put on a shelf and remember their trip when they look at them. I used to be one of those people, I used to buy glass balls with small copies of famous sights inside, but after bringing home about 10 of them, I stopped this practice. I do not buy souvenirs anymore, and if I buy anything, it must be useful. I travel with backpack only usually, so I have to be mindful of the things I buy.
I noticed that lots of souvenir shops in Cordoba sold ceramic objects like plates and mugs of different sizes and different ornaments. I decided to buy several small plates as I could fit them in my backpack.
The souvenir shops in Cordoba are located mainly in the narrow streets behind the famous Mezquita walls in the so-called Juderia district. You can find there lots of different things, not ceramics only.
But I want to mention a special place. I found this small ceramics shop not far from the Almodovar gates. The shop is Ceramica Leonardos (Calle Puerta de Almodóvar, 2), and the owner himself makes all the things. I saw him working with the wheel, and asked about it in my broken Spanish 🙂 The prices in his shop are lower than in the souvenir shops behind the Mezquita, and I think it is our duty to support small business, especially considering the high quality of his work. I bought my plates here, and took a picture of him and promised I would write about him 🙂
What to see and do
Of course, people come to Cordoba to see the famous Mezquita. And the building is truly impressive! It is, like … really huge! And it is definitely worth the effort of waiting in the queue, and there will be queue.
Another famous place is Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. I hope I did not miss any parts when I visited it, because I saw mainly the gardens, and climbed to 2 towers with empty walls. But the garden is spectacular!
I do not want to make this post endless, so I will write another one dedicated specifically to places to see in Cordoba. In addition to the list, I will include there my tips and other useful info.
Weather. I arrived to Cordoba in October 15 and left it in October 18. It was sunny and around 30 degrees every day except an occasional shower one morning, and the windy and rainy last day of my stay. I would say that October, and, probably, even the beginning of November are perfect for visiting Cordoba. Well, it rains in July as well 🙂 And I have just checked the weather in Cordoba and it is around 23 degrees 🙂
Supermarkets are scarce in the center of Cordoba. I even caught myself thinking that there is an agreement between restaurant and supermarkets owners: restaurants are in the touristic area, and supermarkets are in the residential parts 🙂 There is a Carrefour Express in Calle Pedro López not far from the Roman Temple, and SuperAlcoop in Calle Dr. Barraquer, 12 not far from the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. If you are aware of any other supermarkets, please write about it in the comments.
Pharmacies. There is a 24/7 pharmacy Farmacia Méndez Picón not far from the Palace of Merced in Avenida de América, 3. Another 24/7 pharmacy Paniagua is in Avenida Gran Via Parque, 59. There is a pharmacy – Cabrera – right in the historical center in Calle Lucano 17, but it is open till 10 PM.
English. Trust me, you won’t meet many people who speak English. I think Cordoba and Salamanca were the worst in this case. I can literally count the people who spoke English: 2 people in the Sefarad Museum, 1 waiter in La Tata, 1 person at the Inquisition Museum, 2 people in Calahorra, a seller in a patisserie and the guy at the hostel reception. I do not remember anyone else 🙂
Opening hours. You can check the opening hours of touristic sights on specific websites. When it comes to restaurants, some of them open in the morning and serve breakfast options only, usually coffee and toast or croissant, and kitchens start working after 12:00-12:30 PM.
Access to Internet. Usually, all restaurants and cafes offer free Wi-Fi, you will just have to ask for password. I did not come across any free Wi-Fi areas in the city, so I was mainly using the hostel internet connection.
The budget breakdown
Finally, my expenses during these 3 days in Cordoba:
Train to Cordoba from Madrid – 33,10 EUR
Funky Cordoba hostel – 66 EUR
Food (restaurants, supermarket, occasional snacks) – 88,60 EUR
Entrance fees to touristic sights – 52,50 EUR
And my main advice: throw away the map for several hours and just get lost in the streets. I came across a very big and beautiful plaza when I took the turn that was not in my plan 🙂
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