If you've planned your trip to Spain to include just Barcelona and the southern region of Andalusia, you'll have to traverse the entire country to get there. The most logical itinerary is to pass through Madrid for a few days before continuing south, but if you don't mind skipping out on the Spanish capital, then Cordoba is the Andalusian city best connected to Barcelona and the perfect jumping-off point to explore the rest of the region.
The direct train from Barcelona is the most convenient and comfortable way to get to Cordoba, but tickets can soar in price unless you purchase them far in advance. There's no commercial airport in Cordoba, so if you wanted to fly you'd have to start your trip in another city in southern Spain. If you want to explore Andalusia, then renting a car may be the best option to give you the freedom to move around once you get there. The bus ride is slow, long, and expensive, so you're better off with one of the other options.
How to Get from Barcelona to Cordoba
|Train||4 hours, 40 minutes||from $36||Arriving quickly|
|Bus||13 hours||from $89|
|Car||8 hours, 30 minutes||535 miles (861 kilometers)||Exploring the south of Spain|
All trains from Barcelona to Andalusia have to pass through Cordoba, so it's the perfect city to begin your journey before continuing on to neighboring hotspots like Granada, Malaga, and Seville. The best train option is the direct high-speed AVE train, which takes a total of four hours and 40 minutes and can be purchased directly from the Spanish Renfe website. You'll also see options that include a change of train in Madrid, but these take longer and are usually more expensive.
There is also one daily Talgo train that makes the route, which is slower and goes along the eastern coast through Valencia. The Talgo train is often cheaper than the high-speed AVE, but the journey takes almost 10 hours to Cordoba—more than twice as long as the high-speed train. But if you enjoy train travel and want to soak in the Mediterranean views, it's another available option.
The seats on the trains are comfortable, with a rack above for luggage and often outlets to charge electronics. Onboard you'll find a small cafeteria area that offers hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are also available for purchase.
Trains depart from Barcelona at the main Barcelona Sants station, which is located in the center of the city. The Cordoba rail station is also centrally located and is walking distance from almost all of the main sites.
The bus takes much longer than even the slowest train and doesn't save you much money—if any. Bus tickets from the Spanish bus company, Alsa, start at almost $90 for a one-way ride and the all-night journey takes over 13 hours. You're likely to find a much better deal on the train, even if you didn't plan ahead. If you want to save money by taking the bus, try looking at cities closer to Barcelona such as Valencia, Zaragoza, or even Madrid.
If you've rented a car, it will take about nine hours to drive from Barcelona to Cordoba. The route is short enough that could do it all in a day, but Valencia is a perfect mid-way point to spend a night and break up the trip. The first half of the journey is all along the Mediterranean coast with stunning views of the sea, but after passing Valencia, the route turns inland and cuts through the endless olive tree orchards that make up Andalusia.
Spanish highways do use tolls, so keep that extra cost in mind before setting off. Toll booths don't always accept foreign credit cards, so be sure to carry some spare euros with you just in case.
What to See in Cordoba
Cordoba is most famous for its centuries-old mezquita, a historical mosque in the city center that dates back over 1,000 years to the times of the Islamic Empire in Spain. Today, the building is technically used as a Catholic cathedral, but the distinctly Moorish architecture and Arabic artwork hark back to its days as a capital for the Muslim community. Just steps away from the mosque is the city's Jewish Quarter, with its quaintly narrow streets and quintessential whitewashed buildings. The neighborhood is especially stunning in mid-May during the Festival of the Patios, when residents elaborately decorate their homes with explosive flower displays. If you miss the Patio Festival but still want to see impressive plant displays, the Cordoba Royal Botanical Garden is open year-round and is a must-see attraction while visiting the city.