Once the capital of Muslim Spain, Cordoba is now only a third as big as it was in its heyday a thousand years ago. For those who are traveling to this city, which straddles the cultural gap between Western Europe and Northern Africa and has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, there are still dozens of fascinating sights to see. The architecture of the city spans the length of European history from the Roman empire to the modern office buildings that tower over its downtown, and history and culture can be found around every corner.
Cordoba was founded by the Romans in 64 BC as the capital of a region that has become modern-day Andalucia. In the 700s, Cordoba was taken by Arab invaders from Northern Africa who soon made it into one of the centers of intellectual Islamic culture and built a grand library that housed more than 400,000 books and enjoyed international renown. In the 10th century, Cordoba was the biggest city in Western Europe and had one of the most developed universities in the world; it attracted Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. The city was taken back by Spain in the 13th century and has continued to be an intellectual center in Spain ever since.
The most famous building in Cordoba is the Mezquita, the grand mosque that was built in the eighth century and features 867 marble columns and a Roman Catholic cathedral within it. The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is a palatial building that was the seat of the Spanish Inquisition in the Middle Ages; its gardens and ancient bath house are now open to the public. The Jewish corner, with its narrow, crooked cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings, is as bustling with life now as it was a thousand years ago when it was a bastion of tolerance in medieval Europe.