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Most American travelers who have visited Europe have probably spent at least some time in Spain.
The country is an iconic tourist destination and is having a real moment this year, with tourists arriving in record numbers during the summer.
Many of its cities and regions are well known to American travelers, and for good reason.
Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Costa del Sol – all of these places are rich in history, boast fantastic weather, are friendly and welcoming to travelers of all kinds, and are relatively affordable.
But there is much more to Spain than the top destinations, many of which could be overlooked when planning a trip around the country.
I recently visited one such place and that is Cordoba.
This small but fascinating town in Spain’s beautiful Andalucia region in its southwest corner is home to important monuments, charming restaurants and hotels, and a more authentic taste of local life.
Here’s what I loved about Córdoba and why you should definitely consider a visit on any trip to Spain:
Perfect old town
Think of Spain and you probably picture narrow cobbled streets with brightly painted buildings towering on either side, adorned with decorative shutters and facades.
That’s exactly what you’ll find in Córdoba – its old town is a World Heritage Site and a postcard setting that feels like walking through a dream.
Córdoba is sometimes called the city of flowers, and you will discover why in its old town thanks to the well-decorated courtyards and squares, especially during the Festival of the Courtyards in May each year.
Take some time to explore this area at a leisurely pace and you’ll find something new at every turn, from energizing flamenco performances to atmospheric local bars.
Melter of crops
The most iconic sight in Córdoba is undoubtedly its Great Mosque (Mezquita-Catedral), which is ranked as the sixth best attraction in Spain.
Located in the heart of the old city, close to the banks of the Guadalquivir River, this building is a window into the past of this region thanks to the combination of architectural styles.
It was originally built as a mosque in 785, during a period when Andalusia was the heart of Islamic Spain.
It features a maze of columns and ornate arches, as well as a mihrab, sometimes considered one of the most important in the Muslim world.
At the center of the mosque you’ll find an impressive Baroque cathedral that was built inside after the Christians conquered Andalusia during the Reconquista period in the 1200s.
After enjoying the unique and beautiful interior architecture, you can seek shade in the orange trees that line the beautiful courtyard outside the main building.
And if you want to take your historical tourism even further back, there are ruins of a Roman temple next to the town hall and a Roman bridge over the river.
Authentic and unique cuisine
There’s nothing I love more than finding a real, local place to eat, and Córdoba has no shortage of those.
Even in the old town, which is the most touristy part of town, you’ll find family-friendly places serving local food and, much to my delight, locally brewed craft beer.
Delicacies from this region include salmorejo, which is a tomato sauce like gazpacho, rabo de toro, which is beef stew, and berenjenas fritas, which is fried eggplant.
Sit back, relax and grab a tapas to try a little bit of everything.
Easily fits into routes
I visited Córdoba on a day trip from nearby Seville, a trip that only takes about 40 minutes by non-stop train.
Due to Spain’s excellent and reasonably priced rail network, you can easily stop off in Córdoba on a longer journey, exploring nearby attractions such as Cádiz, Seville and Malaga.
Many people do a point-to-point rail journey that starts in Seville and eventually ends in Barcelona, via Madrid.
Despite its relatively remote location in the Andalucian countryside, it’s easy to get to and well worth it.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com