Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba

Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba
Image by Wilfried Schnetzler via Flickr

There are three things you should absolutely see when coming to the South of Spain: Seville, the Alhambra, and the Mezquita.

The Great Mosque in Cordoba is the reason I started this blog in the first place. It’s the monument that made me fall in love with Andalusia and the uniqueness of its character in Europe. So it’s about time I write a post about it.

This millennial monument is one of the greatest memento of Islamic Spain. With its incredible past, mesmerizing layout, and the awe only some religious buildings can inspire, it’s easy to see why this attraction is so beloved.

From its beautiful courtyard to intricate history and grand rows of imposing arches, the Mezquita is one of the few places where saying “it’s like stepping back in time” doesn’t sound fake.

Here’s everything you should know about this UNESCO World Heritage site.

key takeaways

  • Cordoba was once one of the most advanced cities in the world.
  • The Mezquita of Cordoba is famous because it’s one of the most important buildings in Islamic religious architecture.
  • You need at least 90 min. to visit the Mezquita.
  • The Mezquita is free to visit from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM Monday through Saturday.
Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba mezquita of cordoba

Get your tickets for the Mezquita

How to visit the Great Mosque of Cordoba

Tips for visiting Cordoba Mezquita

  • Don’t go in the middle of the day, go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Skip the audioguide and the map, and go with a live tour. Because the Mezquita has changed a lot over time, it’s important to get a good idea of how it’s laid out and what changes happened when. The audioguide don’t do a greatjob of explaining this when compared with a real guide.
  • Book your tickets (or tour) in advance! I can’t stress this enough.
  • The Bell Tower is a separate ticket and costs only 3 EUR. It’s also a timed ticket. I’d suggest going 2 hours after your time slot for the Mezquita. The view is nice but not necessarily worth it if you went to the Giralda in Seville.
  • Leave the high heels behind! There are lots of uneven surfaces, and you’ll be standing for 2 hours.
  • If you want to eat after your visit, walk away from the Mezquita to the quieter parts of the city. You’ll find many small restaurants there.
Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba mezquita of cordoba

There’s no way around it: Understanding the history of the Mezquita is important to really appreciate it. Considering the small difference in price you will be better off with a guided tour. That’s what I did and I definitely think I made the right decision.

double red and white arches in the mosque-cathedral of cordoba
Image by Wilfried Schnetzler via Flickr
Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba
Image by Peta Chow via Flickr

Getting tickets to the Mezquita

The Great Mosque of Cordoba is definitely the star attraction in Cordoba. Make sure to get tickets well in advance. Just like for the Real Alcázar of Seville, if you wait to be in Cordoba to get tickets, you’ll be faced with long wait times. People start lining up as early as 9:30 AM. Even off season, there is still a decent amount of people.

When you buy you tickets in advance, you’ll have to choose ahead of time the date and time of your visit to the Mezquita. But don’t worry. Once you’re in, you can stay as long as you like.

So, when’s the best time to visit the Mezquita? That’s simple. You simply want to avoid the tour buses hours. (There are tours from Seville, Malaga and Granada coming everyday to Cordoba.) You mainly want to avoid the time between 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM.

Some people suggest visiting first thing in the morning, while others might try to tell you that the last hour in the afternoon is better, as you can be alone inside just before closing time. If you want a chance to escape the crowds, it’s a good idea to plan your visit on weekdays.

You need at least 90 minutes to visit the Mezquita, but I wouldn’t hesitate to extend that time to 2.5 hours. It’s a solemn, beautiful, and massive place. The more you walk, the more you’ll find, so take your time.

Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba mezquita of cordoba

Get your tickets for the Mezquita.

History of the Great Mosque of Cordoba

The Great Mosque of Cordoba was built on the remains of a 6th-century Church, the old Roman Church of St. Vincent. Not merely a sumptuous religious building, the Umayyads built it to showcase their power over the Iberian Peninsula.

The construction of the mosque began in 785 and was completed a year later. Over the next two centuries following its construction, the mosque grew four times larger.

After nearly 500 years of Islamic rule in Cordoba, the city was taken by Christian forces led by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236.

The minaret was converted to a bell tower, like you often see in Spain. But the cathedral was cleverly built right into the mosque’s impressive design, keeping its dramatic look instead of destroying it. It is said that the King couldn’t bring himself to destroy the building and skillfully integrated the Cathedral into the existing mosque. (A bit like a reverse Hagia Sofia.)

Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba

Exterior of the Great Mosque

Walking around the exterior wall of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is an impressive experience in itself. Its outside is made of huge walls with amazing Arabic designs and arches.

The mosque, which is over 1300 years old, though in need of some upkeep, keeps most of its original design.

With a myriad of stunning gates, the exterior resembles a fortress. However, most gates appear to be shut, while a few larger gates serve as the main entrance. This might be because the inside walls were changed into chapels when the mosque was converted to a cathedral. If you happen to be there at the right time, you can still see a bit of subtle glittering gold when the when the sun is low.

The only way to truly take in all of the exterior is to cross the Roman bridge and look back at the Mezquita. Only then can you see how big it is.

golden gates on the outside of the mosque cathedral of Cordoba
Image by Shadowgate via Flickr
outside of the the Mezquita,Cordoba
Image by Paolo Gamba via Flickr

Patio de los Naranjos

Entering the Mezquita, you can walk through the charming Patio de los Naranjos. The grove in the courtyard is beautiful, with sweet-smelling oranges hanging from the trees. From the courtyard, you can see the mosque’s bell tower and main structure.

You can leisurely walk around the orange gardens while waiting for your scheduled time. (It’s rare to find a waiting area as nice as this.)

Also, you can come back anytime you want. The Patio de los Naranjos is free to enter at any time of the day.

Patio de los Naranjos
Image by Wilfried Schnetzler via Flickr
Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba
Image by Wilfried Schnetzler via Flickr

The Mihrab

Whether you spend 30 minutes or 2 hours exploring the Mezquita-Catedral, there’s one thing you can’t miss: the Mihrab.

Think of the Mihrab as the mosque’s main focal point, similar to the main altar in a church. The one in Cordoba is made out of beautiful multi-colored glass and enamel cubes, located on the southern wall and standing under a stunning starry dome framed by golden arches.

Dating back to the mid-10th century, this Mihrab is special for two reasons: it’s a room, not just a niche, and it doesn’t face Mecca. Instead, the Mosque of Cordoba’s Mihrab points south, like the Damascus Mosque (ask your guide or figure that one out).

Don’t forget to look up at the dome when you’re in front of the Mihrab!

the mihrab of the mezquita in cordoba
Image by Brent Miller via Flickr
Dome above the mihrab
Image by Brent Miller via Flickr

The Cathedral

In 1236, the Catholics constructed a fancy cathedral in the middle of the mosque… as you do.

The cathedral itself is also really impressive, but what makes the building wonderful is the mix of styles, and (let’s be honest) you’re really here for the mosque part. The ornate Catholic cathedral is still an active church, holding prayer services regularly and accommodating 40,000 people.

cathedral inside the mezquita
Image by Wilfried Schnetzler via Flickr
ceiling of the cathedral
Image by Jose Javier Martin Espartosa via Flickr

The Bell Tower

After you leave the Mezquita, you can grab a ticket for the belltower (also known as the Torre Campanario). It’s not too pricey, but they only have a limited number of tickets.

From the top, you can check out the city of Cordoba and admire the Mosque-Cathedral. While the city looks nice from the ground, it’s not as impressive from up high. However, the views of the courtyard are nice, and you can see how big the cathedral is.

view from the bell tower, Patio de los Naranjos
Image by Paul VanDerWerf via Flickr
bell tower, mezquita cordoba
Image by Richard Mortel via Flickr

The Oldest Part of the Cordoba Mosque

Here’s the deal with the Mosque Cathedral. I didn’t think it looked that great in pictures.

But you can’t really capture the beauty of this cathedral and mosque in words or images. There are supposed to be more than 800 columns, arches in all directions, and a mix of mosque and cathedral elements – lots of Roman columns topped with Islamic horseshoe arches made of alternating red brick and white stone.

It’s really amazing, and you have to see it in person to understand.

aisle in the cathedral of cordoba
Image by Wilfried Schnetzler via Flickr
arches in the mosque in cordoba with crucifix
Image by joan ggk via Flickr

Hidden Gems in the Great Mosque

You can go on and on about all the nice things to see in and around the Mezquita of Cordoba. For the real history buffs out there, here are some of its hidden gems:

  • Roman Mosaics underneath the mosque (seen through a glass panel on the floor)
  • Roman Milestones in the Patio de los Naranjos
  • Ceiling above the centre aisle of the Mosque
  • Starfish fossil in the wall along Calle Torrijos

FAQ on the Mezquita of Cordoba

Where is the entrance to the Cordoba Mezquita

The entrance to the Mezquita is in the lovely Patio de Los Naranjos.

Guided Tour of the Cordoba Mezquita

There’s no way I would suggest against a guided tour of the Mezquita. It’s the only way to really appreciate its amazing character and history.

Inside the Mezquita of Cordoba mezquita of cordoba

Guided tour of the Mezquita : It’s definitely the best way to visit this must-see attraction in Cordoba.

bell tower with palm trees
Image by Brent Miller via Flickr
mezquita viewed from the roman bridge
Image by Brent Miller via Flickr

The Alhambra in Granada vs the Cordoba Mezquita

It’s hard to stress how important both of these buildings are for Spanish and Islamic architecture. It’s kind of like picking between the Vatican and the Colosseum, not an easy choice, right?

For the sheer size and variety, I’d go with the Alhambra. But obviously, you should try to do both.

Best time to visit Cordoba Mezquita

Like stated before, if you’re staying in Cordoba, the best time to visit the Cathedral is either the first or the lasts tickets of the day. There will be less visitors when the tour buses have not yet arrived.

The Mezquita is free to visit from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM Monday through Saturday.

You can enjoy the mystery of the place at night in a small guided group tour.

When you visit the Mezquita at night, it feels like you’re in a completely different place. On this “Soul of Cordoba” tour, you get headphones with a narrator guiding you through different parts of the building. Only the cathedral is lit, creating a unique atmosphere.

Best View of Cordoba Mosque

For the best view of the Mezquita, head to the other side of the Guadalquivir River, on the far end of the Roman Bridge. Otherwise, you can admire it from above if you climb up the bell tower.

Best Hotel with Views of the Mezquita

Just a stone’s throw away (20 meters, to be exact!) from the majestic La Mezquita Mosque, Hotel Balcón de Córdoba is sure to be the highlight of your visit to Córdoba. Its rooftop terraces has one of the best views of the Mezquita anywhere in the city.

LuxuryHotel Balcon de CordobaFrom € 276 / night

Tickets and Opening hours

General entrance

Tickets for the Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba are sold right at the entrance.

  • Mosque-Cathedral Entrance: It’s just 13€ to enter the building. To fully enjoy the Mezquita, set aside about 90 to 120 minutes for your visit. Don’t rush; take your time to explore and admire its solemnity.
  • Bell Tower Entrance: 3€.
  • Soul of Cordoba Night Tour : 20€. Tours takes place at either 8:00 PM or 9:30 PM.

Pro Tip: if you’re in Cordoba overnight, you can visit the Mezquita for free every morning between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM, except on Sundays.

Opening hours

From November 1st to February 28st :

  • Monday-Saturday from 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
  • Sunday from 8:30 am – 11:30 pm and 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

From March 1st to October 31st :

  • Monday-Saturday from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Sunday from 8:30 am – 11:30 pm and 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm.

Read more

Where to Stay · Where to Stay in Seville · Seville vs Granada · Where to Stay in Granada
Itineraries · 7 Days in Andalusia (Start from Seville)
Day Trips · Córdoba · Granada
Historical Monuments · Alcazaba in Málaga · Alhambra · Real Alcazar