Córdoba is one of the many gems of Andalucía, the southern autonomous community of Spain, along with Sevilla, Málaga, Granada, and Cádiz, to name the most well-known. The Patios de Cordoba festival is unique to Cordoba and features what is, quite literally, a floral feast for the eyes. The festival is usually held in the first half of May, when the city’s patios burst in full bloom. We took the train from Sevilla to visit for the day in May 2019 – if you want to spend a night or weekend there, you should book way in advance. Although most of the patios are free and open to the public, we went with a tour group for the first part of the day. I enjoyed being on a tour (#nerd) because our guide gave us extra info about the festival and chose some notable patios for us to see. We then visited the patios on our own in the afternoon, so I think we had the best of both worlds. There are often lines to enter the patios, especially the more well-known ones. We used this site for extra background info; we also used this interactive map of the different patio routes, which was helpful when planning our own visits.
History and Info on Los Patios de Cordoba
Patios are typical in the traditional houses of Andalucía: the Romans and Moors who lived in the region built homes around a central patio or courtyard, often furnished with a fountain or well, designed to make houses cooler during the hot summers. The Moors also added vegetation and flowers to their patios, creating the tradition still celebrated today. If you’ve been to a Moroccan riad, the architectural design of the patios cordobéses should look familiar.
In 1921, Cordoba’s city hall organized the first official Patios de Cordoba festival, which is also a competition. The patios are usually in private homes that open to the public during the festival. Although these patios are now mostly located in homes that belong to one single family, these homes may have historically been occupied by several families and thus called “casas de vecinos,” which literally translates to “homes of neighbors.”
The Patios de Cordoba competition has several criteria, so different prizes are awarded according to different categories. The patios are judged according to two architectural categories: traditional and modern. The judges evaluate for elements like floral variety – only real flowers can be used – and natural light. Prizes are also awarded for details like the artistic use of water.
The patios are open during the morning session – generally from 11 am to 2 pm – and then during the afternoon session – generally from 6 to 10 pm. As you can see, “morning” in Spain often means before lunch, which often starts around 2 pm; “afternoon” usually means after lunch and before dinner, which often starts at 9 or 10 pm. Yes, that means you have a long Spanish-style lunch break in between sessions!
As I mention above, we were with a tour group as we saw patios during the morning session. I have to say I preferred the morning session because of the natural light at this time of the day. The patios were a little darker in the afternoon, so you lose some of the charm of the light dancing through the vegetation and flowers. If you’re planning your day and have to choose between the two sessions, I’d recommend prioritizing the morning slot.
Here are some of my favorite patios that we saw in the morning:
As I mentioned, we had a lot of time for lunch while the patios closed between morning and afternoon sessions. We immediately went in search of caracoles – snails – and cabrillas – larger snails, lol. Caracoles are typical in the month of May and beloved by many andaluces. During the patios de Cordoba festival, outdoor stands and bars around the city serve this tantalizing tapa. Pepe loves caracoles – usually served in a savory broth – and I love cabrillas – usually served in a delectable, thick tomato-based sauce. I recommend you grab a spoon or extra bread to sop all that goodness up. Wash it all down with a cold botellín of beer or a montilla, a typical wine from the province of Cordoba.
Since we had time to kill after lunch, we walked around town. I may have had one too many montillas at lunch because I was ready to dance a little flamenquito…(woopsi).
Strolling around town after lunch, waiting for the patios to re-open
Although we saw some beautiful patios in the afternoon, the lack of natural light made them feel just a touch less magical than the patios we saw in the morning. But don’t misunderstand – these patios were still awesome!
Here are some of my favorite patios that we saw in the afternoon:
The patios aren’t the only stars in Cordoba – so are the balconies! Balconies also participate in their own competition during the festival.
Cordoba is more than just patios…
Of course, los patios de Cordoba are not the city’s only claim to fame. The striking La Mezquita-Catedral (mosque-cathedral) reflects the city’s dazzling, rich history as the capital of Al-Andalus (the name given to Muslim-controlled Spain and the origins of the current name Andalucía) and one of Europe’s most thriving hubs under Islamic rule. The Roman ruins and general Andalusian charm don’t hurt, either.
Below are pics from my first visit to Cordoba in January 2017:
This bad boy is up there with the likes of Sevilla’s Alcázar and Granada’s Alhambra. The original mosque was built by the Islamic rulers of Cordoba over what was originally a Visigoth church. The mosque was then expanded in the 700s AD, but, after the Spanish Reconquista of Cordoba, a Christian cathedral was built right in the middle of the mosque in the 1500s. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, peeps. The Spanish-Moorish, Catholic-Muslim combo in this legendary structure is super cool.
You know I love me a good stroll. Cordoba’s up there with the best for a good paseo!