Roman, Christian and Islamic influences define life in Córdoba, an Andalusian city on the banks of southern Spain's Guadalquivir River that served as an important port for ancient Rome before being conquered by the Muslims during the Middle Ages. Centuries later, Córdoba still retains incredible monuments built by its former rulers. Add winding stone lanes, tucked-away plazas and tree-lined streets, and you've got a charming, walkable city worth the trip.
If you do anything in Córdoba, visit the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba – a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose multi-arched and columned prayer hall and Byzantine mosaics make it one of the world's defining examples of Islamic architecture. Despite its fame, Mezquita isn't the only piece of history in the Old Quarter. The medieval Alcázar and Roman bridge built during the first century BCE also offer glimpses into the city's past.
Even short walks through Córdoba's streets highlight its many wrought-iron balconies, tiny squares and interior courtyards, whose fountains and walls are often covered with sweet-smelling flowers and plants. Come May, homeowners decorate theirs to the nines during the Courtyards Festival, while parades and flamenco shows take over the streets during the May Crosses and Battle of the Flowers events.
For a real taste of Córdoba, do as the locals do and order signature local tapas such as salmorejo (cold tomato soup) or flamenquín (deep-fried pork roll). Later, cool off from the heat with a dip in one of the Jewish quarter's Arab baths.