Less than an hour away by train from either Malaga or Seville, Cordoba is a beautiful and worthwhile trip to make. We did it as a day trip recently on New Year’s Eve from Malaga. A 20 minute walk or short bus ride from the station and you’ll be in Cordoba’s old town. Heading towards the city’s star attraction, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (or Mezquita-Catedral in Spanish), it’s the bell tower you’ll spot first. If you’re walking from Cordoba Station, you’ll likely see it rising above the charming narrow streets. And if your timing is lucky, the bells will be ringing as they were when we approached.
Insight into Cordoba’s past
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mosque-Cathedral is pretty unique. In religious terms, it’s a functional Catholic cathedral with services held daily. There aren’t any mosque services although there are campaigners working to allow muslims to pray there. The city’s officials are also keen to preserve its history as a Great Mosque and has fought to maintain the building’s official name of Mosque-Cathedral. I hope they continue to do so because beyond religion, it is an important historical and cultural site. For Cordoba, it’s the biggest sign of the city’s past as the capital of Islamic Spain. It is also a sign of the city’s religious tolerance with Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities all thriving here.
Inside the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is also huge! It’s hard to get a sense of its size unless you’re inside or above it. There is a courtyard filled with orange trees at the front, which you can walk into from several gates, whilst the building is open. Entry to the courtyard is free. And you can buy tickets for entry inside the Mosque-Cathedral from a kiosk in the courtyard. More information on ticket prices including free entry times, services and opening times is at the bottom of this post.
Here are some pictures from our visit…
It’s fascinating wandering around to see the Islamic and Christian features of the building. You can note the differences in art and style. For instance, Islamic art and architecture doesn’t generally include human or animal figures. So, any figures you see in the Mosque-Cathedral are likely to have Christian origins. The Christian part is mainly concentrated in the middle, which is where the cathedral was added in the 16th century. The building’s famous arches and pillars are the most notable features of its time as a Great Mosque. But you’ll also see it in some of the detail around the building. Geometric patterns and calligraphy are big features.
And here’s a picture from outside one of the gates, which are perhaps best appreciated when they’re closed.
A lucky visit
When I planned the visit with my family, I hadn’t taken into account that New Year’s Eve might be a special day with special opening hours. My mum wanted to go to a mass there so I had at least found there would be one taking place at midday. What I hadn’t realised, however, is that the building would only be open for visitors between 8.30am and 11.30am. We were too late! Luckily, my mum was still able to join the mass. And after the service, they allowed us to linger to take pictures inside for another hour or so. Luckily, as we didn’t all go in for the service, they also let other people come inside. None of this was official so don’t count on it happening if you’re outside formal visiting hours. I’d have loved to do a proper visit so will just have to come back again another time.
During visiting hours, you are also able to climb up the Bell Tower, where there are tours every half an hour. You should get great views of the city from the top of it so that’s another item to add to my list of things to do on another visit.
Tickets and opening hours
Ticket prices are €10 for adults. Children between 10 and 15 years old are €5 and children younger than that are free. You can also visit the Mosque-Cathedral for free from Monday to Saturday between 8.30am and 9.30am. However, please note that visits at this time must be in silence.
You need to buy a separate ticket to visit the Bell Tower, which is €2. Access to the top is by staircase.
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is also open in the evenings for special night-time tours called ‘The Soul of Cordoba’. Standard tickets are €18 and can be bought online at: mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es.
- Monday to Saturday: 10.00am to 6.00pm
- Sundays: 8.30am to 11.30am and 3.00pm to 6.00pm
These may change on holidays or feast days. To be absolutely sure, visit: mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es. You can enter specific dates to find the opening times. Visit that website for more information including rules about visiting the Mosque-Cathedral.
Going to mass
Anyone can go to mass at the Mosque-Cathedral. Generally, there is mass held at 9.30am from Monday to Saturday and at Midday and 1.30opm on Sundays. However, do check in advance for specific holidays or feast days. You can find times of mass services at: cabildocatedraldecordoba.es.
Services are held in Spanish. The service we went to included a choir and lasted close to an hour and a half but there was an additional celebration going on as well. If you’d like to attend just a part of it for the experience, it’s best to stay at the back. You can’t take any pictures whilst there is a service going on.