Caliph Al Hakam II opened many libraries in addition to the many medical schools and universities which existed at the time, making Córdoba a centre for education. During these centuries it became the center of a society ruled by Muslims, in which all other groups had a second-class status. It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236, during the Reconquista. Today it is a moderately sized modern city; its population in 2011 was about 330,000. The historic centre was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Córdoba has the highest summer temperatures in Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37 °C in July and August.
The first traces of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 42,000 to 35,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy. The first historical mention of a settlement dates to the Carthaginian expansion across the Guadalquivir, when general Hamilcar Barca renamed it Kartuba, from Kart-Juba, meaning "the City of Juba", a Numidian commander who had died in a battle nearby. Córdoba was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC.
In 169 Roman consul M. Claudius Marcellus, grandson of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had governed both Further and Hither Spain, founded a Latin colony alongside the pre-existing Iberian settlement. Between 143 and 141 BC the town was besieged by Viriatus. A Roman forum is known to have existed in the city in 113 BC. The famous Cordoba Treasure, with mixed local and Roman artistic traditions, was buried in the city at this time; it is now in the British Museum.
It became a colonia with the title Patricia, between 46 and 45 BC. It was sacked by Caesar in 45 due to its Pompeian allegiance, and settled with veterans by Augustus. It became capital of Baetica and had a colonial and provincial forum and many temples. It was the chief center of Roman intellectual life in Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain). Its republican poets were succeeded by Seneca and Lucan.
At the time of Julius Caesar, Córdoba was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior / Baetica. Great Roman philosophers such as Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, orators such as Seneca the Elder, and poets such as Lucan came from Roman Cordoba.
In the late Roman period, its bishop Hosius (Ossius) was the dominant figure of the western Church throughout the earlier 4th cent. Later, it occupied an important place in the Provincia Hispaniae of the Byzantine Empire (552–572) and under the Visigoths, who conquered it in the late 6th century.
Córdoba was captured in 711 by a Moorish army. Unlike other Iberian towns, no capitulation was signed and the position was taken by storm. Córdoba was in turn governed by direct Moorish rule. The new Moorish commanders established themselves within the city and in 716 it became a provincial capital, subordinate to the Caliphate of Damascus; in Arabic it was known as قرطبة (Qurṭubah).
Different areas were allocated for services in the Saint Vincent Church shared by Christian and Moors, until construction of the Córdoba Mosque started on the same spot under Abd-ar-Rahman I. Abd al-Rahman allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches and purchased the Christian half of the church of St Vincent. In May 766 Córdoba was chosen as the capital of the independent Muslim emirate, later caliphate, of al-Andalus. By 800 the megacity of Cordoba supported over 200,000 residents, 0.1 per cent of the global population. During the apogee of the caliphate (1000 AD), Córdoba had a population of about 500,000 inhabitants; estimates range from 350,000 to 1,000,000. In the 10th and 11th centuries Córdoba was one of the most advanced cities in the world, and a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. The Great Mosque of Córdoba dates back to this time. After a change of rulers the situation changed quickly. The vizier al-Mansur–the unofficial ruler of al-Andalus from 976 to 1002—burned most of the books on philosophy to please the Moorish clergy; most of the others were sold off or perished in the civil strife not long after.
In the ninth and tenth centuries, Córdoba was "one of the most important cities in the history of the world." In it, "Christians and Jews were involved in the Royal Court and the intellectual life of the city."
Regarding Córdoba's importance, Reinhardt Dozy wrote:
The fame of Córdoba penetrated even distant Germany: the Saxon nun Hroswitha, famous in the last half of the 10th century for her Latin poems and dramas, called it the Ornament of the World.
Córdoba had a prosperous economy with its "skilled artisans and agricultural infrastructure," The manufactured goods for sale included "leather and metal work, glazed tiles and textiles." The agricultural produce included fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and raw materials such as "cotton, flax and silk."
Córdoba was also famous as "a centre of learning." Education was "taken seriously." Al-Hakam II had a large library. Knowledge in the fields of "medicine, mathematics, astronomy, botany" exceeded the rest of Europe.
Roger Collins wrote:
The Arab conquest created the conditions for a state of almost permanent warfare in the Iberian Peninsula... and in scale and intensity exceeded anything to be found elsewhere in Western Europe in these centuries.
In 1002 Al-Mansur was returning to Córdoba from an expedition in the area of Rioja when he died. His death was the beginning of the end of Córdoba. Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar, al-Mansur's older son, succeeded to his father’s authority, but he died in 1008, possibly assassinated. Sanchuelo, Abd al-Malik’s younger brother succeeded him. While Sanchuelo was away fighting Alfonso V of Leon, a revolution made Mohammed II al-Mahdi the Caliph. Sanchuelo sued for pardon but he was killed when he returned to Cardova. The slaves revolted against Mahdi, killed him in 1009, and replaced him with Hisham II in 1010. Hisham II wore a veil, used makeup, kept a male harem, and was forced out of office. In 1012 the Berbers "sacked Cardova." In 1016 the slaves captured Cardova and searched for Hisham II, but he had escaped to Asia. This event was followed by a fight for power until Hisham III, the last of the Umayyads, was routed from Córdoba in 1031.
After 1031, Córdoba lost its prosperity and fame and became an isolated city. The "ruling elite" were well known for their "disinterest in the outside world... and intellectual laziness."
During the process known as the Spanish Reconquista, Córdoba was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile on 29 June 1236, after a siege of several months. The city was divided into 14 colaciones, and numerous new church buildings were added. The centre of the mosque was converted into a large Catholic cathedral.
The city declined, especially after Renaissance times. In the 18th century it was reduced to just 20,000 inhabitants. The population and economy started to increase again only in the early 20th century.
With the most extensive historical heritages in the world declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO (on 17 December 1984), the city also has a number of modern areas, including the districts of Zoco and the railway station district.
The regional government (the Junta de Andalucía) has for some time been studying the creation of a Córdoba Metropolitan Area that would comprise, in addition to the capital itself, the towns of Villafranca de Córdoba, Obejo, La Carlota, Villaharta, Villaviciosa, Almodóvar del Río and Guadalcázar. The combined population of such an area would be around 351,000. The Plano de Córdoba was also known for its books and how they created it.
The city is on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, and its easy access to the mining resources of the Sierra Morena (coal, lead, zinc) satisfies the population's needs.
The city is in a depression of the valley of the Guadalquivir. In the north is the Sierra Morena, which defines the borders of the municipal area.
Córdoba is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city – Hamilton, New Zealand.
Córdoba has a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa). It has the highest summer average daily temperatures in Europe (averaging 36.9 °C (98 °F) in July) and days with temperatures over 40 °C (104 °F) are common in the summer months. August's 24-hour average of 28.0 °C (82 °F) is also among the highest in Europe, despite relatively cool nightly temperatures.
Winters are mild, yet cooler than other low lying cities in southern Spain due to its interior location, wedged between the Sierra Morena and the Penibaetic System. Precipitation is concentrated in the coldest months; this is due to the Atlantic coastal influence. Precipitation is generated by storms from the west that occur most frequently from December to February. This Atlantic characteristic then gives way to a hot summer with significant drought more typical of Mediterranean climates. Annual rain surpasses 600 mm (24 in), although it is recognized to vary from year to year.
Registered maximum temperatures at the Córdoba Airport (6 kilometres (4 miles) from the city) are 46.9 °C (116.4 °F) (13 July 2017) and 46.6 °C (115.9 °F) (23 July 1995). The lowest temperature ever recorded was −8.2 °C (17.2 °F) (28 January 2005).
Córdoba has the second largest Old town in Europe, the largest urban area in the world declared World Heritage by UNESCO. The most important building and symbol of the city, the Great Mosque of Córdoba and current cathedral, and the Roman bridge, are the city's best-known features. Other Roman remains include the Roman Temple, the Theatre, Mausoleum, the Colonial Forum, the Forum Adiectum, an amphitheater and the remains of the Palace of Emperor Maximian in the Archaeological site of Cercadilla.
Near the cathedral is the old Jewish quarter, which consists of many irregular streets, such as Calleja de las Flores and Calleja del Pañuelo, and which is home to the Synagogue and the Sephardic House. In the extreme southwest of the Old Town is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a former royal property and the seat of the Inquisition; adjacent to it are the Royal Stables, where Andalusian horses are bred. Near the stables are located, along the walls, the medieval Baths of the Caliphate. In the south of the Old town and east of the great cathedral, in the Plaza del Potro, is the Posada del Potro, a row of inns mentioned in literary works including Don Quixote and La Feria de los Discretos, and which remained active until 1972. Both the plaza and the inn get their name from the fountain in the centre of the plaza, which represents a foal (potro). Not far from this plaza is the Arco del Portillo (a 14th-century arch).
Along the banks of the Guadalquivir are the Mills of the Guadalquivir, Moorish-era buildings that used the water flow to grind flour. They include the Albolafia, Alegría, Carbonell, Casillas, Enmedio, Lope García, Martos, Pápalo, San Antonio, San Lorenzo and San Rafael mills.
Surrounding the large Old town are the Roman walls: gates include the Puerta de Almodóvar, the Puerta de Sevilla and Puerta del Puente, which are the only three gates remaining from the original thirteen. Towers and fortresses include the Malmuerta Tower, the Belén Tower and the Puerta del Rincón's Tower, and the fortress of the Calahorra Tower and of the Donceles Tower.
Palace buildings in the Old Town include the Palacio de Viana (14th century) and the Palacio de la Merced among others. On the outskirts of the city lies the archaeological site of the city of Medina Azahara, which, together with the Alhambra in Granada, is one of the main examples of Spanish-Muslim architecture in Spain.
Other sights are the Cuesta del Bailío (a staircase connecting the upper and lower part of the city) and the Minaret of San Juan, once part of a mosque.
The city is home to 12 Christian churches that were built (many as transformations of mosques) by Ferdinand III of Castile after the reconquest of the city in the 13th century. They were to act both as churches and as the administrative centres in the neighborhoods into which the city was divided in medieval times. Some of those that remain are:
Scattered throughout the city are ten statues of the Archangel Raphael, protector and custodian of the city. These are called Triumphs of Saint Raphael, and are located in landmarks such as the Roman Bridge, the Puerta del Puente and the Plaza del Potro.
In the western part of the Historic Centre are the statue of Seneca (near the Puerta de Almodóvar, a gate of Islamic origin, (the Statue of Averroes (next to the Puerta de la Luna), and Maimonides (in the plaza de Tiberiades). Further south, near the Puerta de Sevilla, are the sculpture to the poet Ibn Zaydún and the sculpture of the writer and poet Ibn Hazm and, inside the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, the monument to the Catholic Monarchs and Christopher Columbus.
There are also several sculptures in plazas of the Old Town. In the central Plaza de las Tendillas is the equestrian statue of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, in the Plaza de Capuchinos is the Cristo de los Faroles, in Plaza de la Trinidad is the statue of Luis de Góngora, in the Plaza del Cardenal Salazar is the bust of Ahmad ibn Muhammad abu Yafar al-Gafiqi, in the Plaza de Capuchinas is the statue to the bishop Osio, in Plaza del Conde de Priego is the monument to Manolete and the Campo Santo de los Mártires is a statue to Al-Hakam II and the monument to the lovers.
In the Jardines de la Agricultura is the monument to the painter Julio Romero de Torres, a bust by sculptor Mateo Inurria, a bust of the poet Julio Aumente and the sculpture dedicated to the gardener Aniceto García Roldán, who was killed in the park. Further south, in the Gardens of the Duke of Rivas, is a statue of writer and poet Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas by sculptor Mariano Benlliure.
In the Guadalquivir river, near the San Rafael Bridge is the Island of the sculptures, an artificial island with a dozen stone sculptures executed during the International Sculpture Symposium. Up the river, near the Miraflores bridge, is the "Hombre Río", a sculpture of a swimmer looking to the sky and whose orientation varies depending from the current.
Córdoba has seven bridges.
As of 2017 Isabel Ambrosio (PSOE) was the mayor of Córdoba.
The City Council of Córdoba is divided into different areas: the Presidency, Security, Mobility, Equality and Participation; Planning, Housing, Infrastructure and Environment; Economy, Trade, Employment and Management; Social; Cultural Services and Tourism. The council holds regular plenary session once a month, but often holds extraordinary plenary session to discuss issues and problems affecting the city.
The Governing Board, chaired by the mayor, consists of four Spanish Socialist Workers (IU) councillors, three of United Left (PSOE), three non-elected member. The municipal council consists of 29 members: 11 of People's Party, 7 of PSOE, 4 of IU, 4 of Ganemos Córdoba, 2 of Ciudadanos and 1 of Unión Cordobesa.
Since July 2008, the city is divided into 10 administrative districts, coordinated by the Municipal district boards, which in turn are subdivided into neighbourhoods
Tourism is especially intense in Córdoba during May because of the weather and as this month hosts three festivals.
The May Crosses Festival takes place at the beginning of the month. During three or four days, crosses of around 3 m height are placed in many squares and streets and decorated with flowers and a contest is held to choose the most beautiful one. Usually there is regional food and music near the crosses.
The Patios Festival is celebrated during the second and third week of the month. Many houses of the historic centre open their private patios to the public and compete in a contest. Both the architectonic value and the floral decorations are taken into consideration to choose the winners. It is usually very difficult and expensive to find accommodation in the city during the festival.
Córdoba's Fair takes place at the ending of the month and is similar to the better known Sevilla Fair with some differences, mainly that the Sevilla one is private, while the Cordoba one is not.
Córdoba was the birthplace of the following philosophers and religious scholars:
Córdoba was also the birthplace of
The Renaissance philosopher Abraham Cohen de Herrera and the Jewish mystic Moses ben Jacob Cordovero both descended from families which lived in Córdoba before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
The painter Julio Romero de Torres (1874–1930).
More recently, several flamenco artists were born here as well, including
The city is connected by high speed trains to the following Spanish cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Málaga and Zaragoza. More than 20 trains per day connect the downtown area, in 54 minutes, with Málaga María Zambrano station, which provides interchange capability to destinations along the Costa del Sol, including Málaga Airport. The city is also well connected by highways with the rest of the country and Portugal.