Get Mezquita tickets for free; pay nothing to explore the Alcázar; take a freebie tour of the Bellas Artes. All this and more in our best free things to do in Córdoba.


If you’ve been following this blog you’ll probably know that, while we’re not total cheapskates, we do like to get good value on holiday. Córdoba is a great place to get a good value good time. There are lots of fantastic free things to do in Córdoba, which means that anyone and everyone can come and learn the fascinating story of Córdoba through intriguing buildings, delightful patios, and interesting museums.

Some sites are free every morning; some are free on a particular day a week; others have free access for EU citizens and discounts for kids. And it is not just great small sites that are free, you can pick up Alcazar and Mezquita tickets for absolutely nothing as well. So, continue reading our favourite free things to do in Córdoba to learn how to experience the best of this Mediterranean gem for absolutely nothing.

BEST FREE THINGS TO DO IN CÓRDOBA

Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba  / Admire the blend of architectural styles in this impressive building

Baños del Alcázar Califal / Explore the location of the execution of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman V,

Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs  / Roam the fortress of Roman, Islamic and Visigoth Ruins

Palacio de Viana / Soaking up the sights and smells of Córdoba’s most famous gardens

Madinat al-Zahra / Strolling the heart of the Islamic Caliphate in Western Europe

Archaeological Museum of Córdoba / Renaissance-style palace with fascinating ancient discoveries

Museo del Bellas Artes / Admire Córdoban artists from the 15th to 21st centuries

1 / MEZQUITA-CATEDRAL DE CÓRDOBA

Remarkably, if you are willing to rise early, you can snap up Mezquita tickets for free. Each morning, from 8:30 to 9:30 (except Sundays), you can gain access to this remarkable sight without paying a bean. But whether you get your Mezquita tickets for free or not, it deserves top billing on any list of things to do in Córdoba. It was originally commissioned in 785 CE by Abd al-Rahman, emir of Al-Andalus and ruler of a Caliphate in Europe. The Mezquita would take 200 years to complete, but the end result is vastly different to what you see today.

In 1236 the Christian’s invaded Córdoba, bringing to an end the period of Islamic rule. They originally converted the Mezquita into a church by inserting chapels and Christian icons. But later, King Carlos V authorised a cathedral to be built inside the mosque. This is largely the building you see today: an expansive Islamic prayer hall with a towering cathedral punching through the roof. To get the full impact of this unique place, climb up the bell tower for a bird’s eye view over what was probably one of the most controversial extensions of its time.


Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba is free from 8:30 – 9:30 Mon-Sat / Regular Price: €10 entry / Hours: 10:00 – 19:00 Mon-Sat; 8:30 – 11.00 and 15:00 – 19:00 Sun.  Bell Tower Price: €2 / Hours: 9:30 – 13:30 and 16:00 – 18:30 Mon-Sat.

2 / BAÑOS DEL ALCÁZAR CALIFAL

The Baños de Alcázar Califal are 10th-century baths that were attached to the Caliphal palace on the site of what is today the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs. They are located in a large metal shipping container that only a cash-strapped local council could be proud of. Bright green signs which provide some poorly written, vague information are difficult to read in the dark and clammy rooms. Rather shabby reimagining of scenes from its original glory cover the walls, and any sense of atmosphere is lost in the reverberating echoes of noisy groups of visitors on packaged bus tours.

But, there is a very good reason to visit the baths, well two actually if you include the fact that they are free Thursday evenings. It was in this building on 17th January 1024, that the people of Córdoba rose up and executed Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman V, draining the power from Córdoba that was snapped up in a flash by Seville.


Baños del Alcázar Califal are free 18.00 – 20.45 on Thu / Regular Price: €2.50 / Hours: 08:30 – 20:45 Tue-Sat; 08:30 – 14:30 Sun.

3 / ALCÁZAR OF THE CHRISTIAN MONARCHS

For an indulgent stroll among perfectly coiffed cypress trees and stately water features, Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (The Palace of the Christian Monarchs) doesn’t disappoint. The fact that it opens its gates for no charge on Thursday evenings – making it another of the best free things to do in Córdoba – only adds to its allure.

The Alcázar was built in 1328 on top of previous Roman, Islamic and Visigoth Ruins, and was both fortress and palace for many Christian Kings after they conquered Córdoba in 1236. The interior has a strange chapel and some interesting mosaics. However, most of your time at the alcázar will be spent on the roof or in the gardens. A climb up to the Lion Tower – the northwest and oldest – divulges the alcázar’s primary purpose as a defensive fort. The other tower – the Tower of the Inquisition – divulges it’s past as the headquarters for the Spanish Inquisition.


Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs is free 18.00 – 20.45 on Thu / Regular Price: €2.50 / Hours: 08:30 – 20:45 Tue–Fri; 08:30 – 16:30 Sat; 08:30 – 14:30 Sun; Closed Mon.

4 / PALACIO DE VIANA

Apart from the fascinating Moorish history, the patios of Córdoba are one of the city’s best-known tourist attractions. If you are visiting during the first week of May, many of the patios will be open free of charge during the Patio Festival. However, if you’re not there during this floral extravaganza, Palacio de Viana is free Wednesday afternoons and is one of the best free things to do in Córdoba.

Built in the 15th century, Palacio de Viana is an expansive palace that has slowly engulfed the neighbourhood dwellings. The palace complex contains a whopping 12 courtyards and a garden. So, even if it’s your first and only patio, you get a good sense of the garden delights of Córdoba from this one palace. The patios range from formal hedged symmetry to pot-filled nooks. There are a number of nods to the Arabic-Hispanic roots, such as water features and interesting mosaics. Read our review of our favourite Córdoba patios.


Palacio de Viana is free Wed between 14.00 – 17.00 / Regular Price: €5 / Hours: 10:00 – 19:00 Tue-Sat; 10:00 to 15:00 Sun and holidays. Closed Mon.

5 / MADINAT AL-ZAHRA

Anxious to keep the public onside with their UNESCO status in progress, Madinat al-Zahra is currently free for all EU citizens. But we found our visit so interesting that even if there was a charge, we would probably pay it anyway. Built in the 10th century as the heart of the Islamic Caliphate in Western Europe, Madinat al-Zahra was the palace of Abd al-Rahman III, Umayyad heir and emir of Al-Andalus.

First stop is the shiny new museum, built partially underground so as not to distract from the view at the site. The museum has an interesting display of artefacts collected from the Madinat and shows an interesting movie of what it all looked like in its prime. A free shuttle bus takes you up to the ruins which were strategically placed on the side of the Sierra Morena Mountain Range, offering Abd al-Rahman III uninterrupted view over his territory. Since it is currently attempting to become a UNESCO heritage site, it may not be one of the best free things to do in Córdoba for very long. Combining this with free Mezquita tickets means you get to cover the complete story of the Islamic caliphate for nothing.


Madinat al-Zahra is free for EU citizens, otherwise €1.50 / Hours: 09:00 – 21:00 Mon-Sat & 09:00 – 15:00 Sun; Directions: Bus from Córdoba leaves from outside the Almodovar Gate at 10.15, 10.30, 11.00 and 17.15 returning 13.30, 13,45, 14.15 and 20.15; Bus: €9.

6 / ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF CÓRDOBA

The Archaeological Museum is built in a former Renaissance-style palace and houses archaeological remains found near Córdoba from prehistoric times up to the period of Arabic rule. The museum is spread over 8 rooms and 3 courtyards. It’s well laid out with information in both Spanish and English explaining what you are looking at. The recently restored Roman theatre is the exhibit they are most proud of. A series of ramps leads you down to the basement to get a closer look at what was once the largest Roman theatre in Spain.

The museum isn’t exactly the attraction in Córdoba that gets us most excited, but if you’re interested in archaeological discoveries from pre-historic times, it’s a good stop to include. The courtyards in the museum, with their palm trees and sculptures, are enough to draw us in. Moreover, it’s in a beautiful square that’s the perfect spot to enjoy a late afternoon drink after a quick scoot around the museum. As it’s free for all EU citizens, it’s well worth adding to your list of things to do in Córdoba.


Archaeological Museum of Córdoba is free for EU citizens, otherwise €1.50 / Hours: 09:00 – 21:00 Tue-Sat; 10:00 – 19:00 Sun.

7 / MUSEO DEL BELLAS ARTES

The Museo del Bellas Artes contains paintings, prints and drawings by artists from the middle ages to the present day. It specialises in work produced by Córdoban artists from the 15th to 21st centuries and is complemented with contemporary art and sculptures. The gallery has no major artistic celebrities, but for a free museum, it’s a great thing to do in Córdoba. It’s located on Plaza del Potro, one of the prettiest squares in town.

For us, their standout piece is Calvario de la Inquisición by local artist, Antonia del Castillo. It was recovered from the Chapel of the Inquisition in the Alcazár of the Christian Monarchs. It features Jesus on the cross with the Virgin Mary, said to be the artist’s wife and St John; a self-portrait.


Museo de Bellas Artes is free for EU citizens, otherwise €1.50 / Hours: 09:00 – 21:00 Tue-Sat; 10:00 – 19:00 Sun.

MORE READING

To collect all these sights in a weekend, see our 2 day Córdoba guide, or read our highlights of nearby Cádiz, another charming Spanish town. For more European ideas, read our guide to Norway, our 14-day epic European road trip or our favourite hidden gems in Iceland.

Fancy an update? 

To stay up to date with our latest posts and travel updates, subscribe to our monthly newsletter. No junk. No spam. We’ll never share your email address with anyone.

LIKE THIS ARTICLE? PIN IT!

Our guide for the best free things to do in Córdoba

Our guide for the best free things to do in Córdoba

159 Shares
Share via