The Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back to the mid-10th century, when it served as the seat of power for the Umayyad dynasty in Córdoba. When the caliphate ended after a civil war in 1010, the city was laid to waste and forgotten until its rediscovery in the early 20th century.
There’s no better place to learn about Spain’s medieval caliphate than the ruins of this royal Moorish city, a popular excursion from nearby Córdoba. During a typical tour of the grounds, visitors explore the remains of palaces, ceremonial halls, mosques, and workshops that make up the largest archaeological site in Spain. An on-site museum and interpretation center showcase artifacts from the excavated site.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Medina Azahara is a must-visit for history buffs and those interested in Spain’s Moorish past.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces.
- Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat; not all areas of the site are shaded.
- Give yourself two to three hours to explore the museum and archaeological site.
How to Get There
To get to the interpretive center, catch a public bus from Avenida Alcazar in the Córdoba city center, or drive along the A-431 motorway. A shuttle takes visitors from the parking lot and interpretive center to the archaeological site itself, situated a couple of miles away.
When to Get There
The museum and archaeological site are open from Tuesday to Sunday throughout the year, with extended hours during high season (April through June). Expect temperatures as high as 100°F (38°C) during July and August.
Levels of Medina Azahara
This Moorish city was built on a gentle hill in three tiers, each with its own purpose. On the lowest level, you’ll find the mosque and homes of much of the city’s population. Many of these structures remain unexcavated. The second level comprised government buildings and a public garden. The top level—and the level with the best views—was the royal palace and residence of Abd ar-Rahman III.