Originally the site of the Christian Visigoth Church San Vicente, Córdoba’s Mezquita -- or Grand Mosque -- stands as the city's most proud monument and one of the most exquisite Islamic structures in the western world.
Its initial origins date back to the year 600 and, following the Islamic conquest in the 8th century, the site of the Visigoth church was actually split between Christians and Muslims for a time. Ultimately, it was bought out by the governor of al-Andalus, with the construction of the Islamic mosque beginning in 785 by Muslim emir Abdurrahman I.
Since then, the structure has evolved right along with Spanish history. A minaret was added, and the building was enlarged, reaching its final size in 987. Then, when Kind Ferdinand conquered Córdoba during the Reconquista in 1236, the structure was consecrated as a Christian Cathedral. Following that, more changes ensued, such as the conversion of the minaret to a bell tower, and the addition of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the mosque.
Nowadays, visitors can still witness these layers of history, appreciating the mosque-cathedral's 850 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite, the Muslim mihrab (prayer niche), and the striped horseshoe arches, which are so representative of the structure.
Located in the heart of Córdoba, you can access the Mezquita via its Patio de los Naranjos (Orange Tree Courtyard), which is free to enter. Once there, you can purchase tickets at a kiosk. You can also enter the Mezquita at night with a separate -- albeit more pricey -- ticket, or enter during the day for free between 8:30am and 10am, Monday through Saturday.