Beyond Barcelona: 16 Spanish destinations you must visit

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2. CÓRDOBA

CórdobaHistorians have speculated that Córdoba, a sun-drenched city in southern Spain, once boasted the largest population anywhere in the world. In fact, some of the greatest thinkers of ancient Rome and the Middle Ages—Seneca, Lucan, and Maimonides, to name a few—were cordobeses. As you might expect, there’s no shortage of historical sites to discover in Córdoba, but one in particular eclipses the rest: the Great Mosque. Dating to the 10th century, this sprawling compound was a symbol of Islamic grandeur as the city rose to become the European capital of culture and the arts. Since its initial construction, the mosque has undergone several controversial renovations, the most significant taking place in the 16th century, when dozens of original arches were demolished to make way for a Renaissance cathedral nave.

Insider Tip: It’s a painless two-hour journey from Madrid to Córdoba, provided you take the AVE, Spain’s fast train that reaches speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour. Buy your tickets ahead of time to secure the lowest price.

Where to Eat: Córdoba’s culinary claim to fame is salmorejo, gazpacho’s richer, more unctuous cousin that gets its velvety texture from copious amounts of olive oil and soaked bread. White-clad waiters at Taberna La Viuda ladle out a particularly killer version, garnished with a dainty spoonful of jamón and hard-boiled egg. For a more laid-back experience, you can taste other Cordovan classics like berenjenas con miel, fried eggplant batons drizzled with molasses, or flamenquín cordobés, a juicy pork and Serrano ham roulade, at Restaurante Plateros María Auxiliadora.

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