This year I decided spontaneously that I want to visit the Cordoba Patio Festival. It was two weeks before the festival when I booked the Alsa bus from Malaga to Cordoba, and started to get excited for this experience. Whilst my May was already full, It also occurred to me that I don’t have the Fiesta de los Patios covered on this blog, and that was a good enough reason to go.
And I have to tell you, what a great decision that was! I spent two full days surrounded by beauty, by the hospitality of the locals, and by the joy of some like minded people that I met in the hotel, and with whom I wandered around town, finding the most beautiful patios.
In this article I want to tell you how to plan your trip to Cordoba during the fiesta. I aimed to see all 63 patios during my trip to Cordoba, but in reality, I have only managed to see 27. I’ve learned from my experience, and I’m sharing with you the best way to see as many patios as possible. If you are visiting Cordoba for a day only, it’s very important to know how to organise your trip in order to maximise your time in the city.
The Patios of Cordoba
Cordoba is famous for its gorgeous patios, which are decorated with flowers, water features, and the most elegant architecture. The story of the patios goes back to the Moorish times. These interior courtyards were built in a specific way in order to keep the houses cool in the scorching summer temperatures. It gets hot in Cordoba, very hot! 36 degrees Celsius hot in the first week of May, so you can imagine what it is like, mid summer. The patios can be up to 15 degrees Celsius less than the street.
The patios were functional, but were also designed to please the eye, with the addition of all the flowers. I visited Morocco back in January and I noticed the same type of architecture – the balconies were always facing the interior rather than the street, and the courtyards always had the water element – a fountain, or a well.
Over time, the patios have been transformed into an oasis of flowers, with hundreds of plants decorating the walls, staircases, and balconies. The owners are taking so much care of them all year round, and in May, they generously open their doors to strangers, to try and win the title of the most beautiful patio in Cordoba.
The locals are very proud of their patios and dedicate their time and work year round to keep them in pristine condition. None of them are trained gardeners, they just love their plants and enjoy taking care of them. It’s interesting how generations over generations have passed the knowledge on how to take care of their patio from one another.
Many of the owners are present in the patios during the visiting hours, welcoming the visitors. And this is a fantastic opportunity to chat with them for a couple of minutes, to compliment them for the patio and thank them for their hospitality. It’s worth learning a few phrases in Spanish for this, so as to immerse yourself in the experience instead of just watching for a distance.
What is the Cordoba Patio Festival?
The Cordoba Patio Festival, or Fiesta de los Patios, is a celebration of the locals and the hard work they put in to maintain their beautiful courtyards. It is the city’s most colourful and joyful event of the year.
In 2012, the Cordoba Courtyards Festival was included in the Uuesco Heritage List as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Whilst the Cordoba Patio Festival is still quite unknown outside of the Spanish borders, it is very popular among the residents. I rarely heard English being spoken around me, but I witnessed and took part in conversations between people from Barcelona or Galicia, who came to Cordoba especially for the festival.
When Is Fiesta de los Patios Taking Place?
Fiesta de los Patios takes place every year, in the first week of May, for 10 days. It is a very long standing tradition which started back in 1918. The first competition to decide which home has the most beautiful patio took place in 1921.
It is good to note that some of the private patios open one more time, for a few days, in December.
The Schedule of Fiesta de los Patios
The schedule of the Cordoba Patio Festival is published online, a few days before the competition opens. It is available on the official website of the Fiesta de los Patios, where I printed it from. It contains a map of the patios, alongside a suggested route on how to see them. It also has the schedule for all the events going on during the 10 days of the Fiesta, which include flamenco performances in the street, theatre plays, concerts, and exhibitions.
There are many cultural events happening during the Cordoba Patio Festival, and it’s good to take a look at the schedule before deciding on which dates you would like to attend.
Events Happening During the Cordoba Patio Festival
There are a series of events happening every day during the Cordoba Courtyard Festival. Most of them are flamenco performances by the most prestigious groups in Spain. There are also a series of theatre plays at night, as well as acoustic, opera, and even rock concerts.
The best part is that all these events are free. Most of them take place during the evening, with some starting as late as 10pm.
How to Visit the Cordoba Patio Festival
Visiting the Cordoba Courtyard Festival takes a little bit of planning in advance. I have written below my best tips on how to have an amazing time. Keep in mind that not all the patios allow taking photos. Please be respectful of this rule, as these are people’s homes and not touristy attractions. Most courtyard owners will allow photos.
Pick Up the Map at the Touristic Office
If you didn’t print the map, you can pick one up from the tourist office in Cordoba, located in Plaza del Triunfo, near the Mezquita. I recommend having a pen with you, to mark on the map the patios you’ve already seen. There are a lot of them, and it can get confusing.
Even if the patios look quite far from each other on the map, they actually aren’t. In fact the longest I had to walk from one to another was 15 minutes.
The patios are open between 11am – 2pm and 6pm-10pm every day. They close at 8:30pm on the last day of the competition. The patios that don’t take part in the competition, such as Palacio Viana or Casa Arabe have their own opening hours. Also, some of these places might also charge a fee to enter. All the other patios are free to visit, but donations are appreciated. Each patio has a plate at the exit where you can drop some spare change to help with the maintenance of the flowers.
Make a Plan
The fact is that it is impossible to see all of the patios if you visit Cordoba for one or two days. Making a plan is essential if you want to maximise your time in the city though. After I visited patios from all of the six routes, I would start with number 6 first, and be there as soon as they open. This way you can see 4 or 5 in this area, before they become really crowded. San Basilio street is one of the most popular ones, with 7 different patios open to the public here.
Routes 3 and 4 are the furthest away from the centre, and the ones with the least amount of people waiting to get in. You can visit them at any time, when the ones you really want to see become too busy.
It is good to research a little bit beforehand, and decide which patios you really want to see, and start your visit with them, at 11am or at 2pm. I highly recommend leaving space for some of the events taking place in town as well. The flamenco performances are well worth seeing – usually you have to pay quite a bit to go to a show, and during the Cordoba Patio Festival they are free.
The closer you are to the Mezquita and the Alcazar, the longer the queues are going to be, especially during the morning session. The patios on the Route 6, the Alcazar Viejo, have the longest queues and the lengthiest waiting times. You can easily spend half an hour waiting to enter a patio in this area.
On the opposite side, the patios located in the eastern part of the cities, have the shortest queues. In the morning, I barely encountered any queues on routes 1, 3, and 4.
I have stumbled upon quite a few guided tours as well, mostly on routes 5 and 6. These take longer to clear, and sometimes, if the patio is smaller, they enter in smaller groups, which make the waiting times even longer. Make sure to bring plenty of water and a hat, for when you have to wait in the full sun. Even if it’s the beginning of May, it is really hot.
Is the Cordoba Patio Festival accessible?
There are a few accessible patios in the Fiesta de los Patios. Because most of the courtyards belong to locals who open them for the competition, not all of them are accessible. There are 15 patios out of 53 in the competition that are accessible to people with reduced mobility, and 8 which can accommodate wheelchair users but are not 100% accessible. Out of the 10 patios which are not in the competition, 6 are fully accessible and one can accommodate wheelchair users. They are all marked on the map.
Can You Book A Tour?
Yes, you can book a guided tour of some of the patios. The tours usually include 5 patios in the neighbourhoods of San Francisco and Santiago. They last for two hours and are in English. Going on a guided tour is a great way to get a closer look at the patios and learn more about what it takes to maintain them. It is also a great start, if you don’t feel confident to visit them by yourself.
Where to Stay in Cordoba During the Fiesta de los Patios
Because Fiesta de los Patios is a very popular event, I highly recommend you book your hotel in Cordoba in advance. The prices tend to go up, and availability can be limited, especially during the weekends.
Budget: Libere Cordoba
On this particular trip I chose budget accommodation, the adults only Libere Hostel in Cordoba. I liked the look of it on Booking, with modern beds, bathrooms, as well as a pool – which I took advantage of as soon as I arrived in Cordoba. It was 36 degrees, and the patios were closed until 6pm. So I had a dip in the pool, a cold tinto de verano, and spent time getting to know the other guests at the hotel. It was a perfect welcome to Cordoba.
I stayed in an 8 bed dorm, which was surprisingly spacious. It had an ensuite shower and toilet, a separate sinks area, as well as two large storage lockers for each guest. The beds had two plugs, an individual lamp, as well as a small storage pouch for charging your phone at night and a water bottle. The temperature in the dorm was pleasant at night, due to the air conditioning unit integrated in the wall and not blowing out from a unit which isnt as nice, especially if your bed is near it. .
I paid 25 euros/night for a bed at Libere Cordoba. You can click here for the latest rates and options on Booking.
Mid Range: NH Amistad
Another great hotel in Cordoba which I loved staying at is NH Amistad. This is a photographer’s dream, with beautiful patios and a lovely pool in which I could cool off during siesta, when the temperatures were too high to explore the city. The room was very spacious and modern, and the hotel offered a car park with a valet as well. If you have driven in Cordoba you will know that the streets are extremely narrow and most of the garages are underground. Hotels particularly have underground car parks on different levels, so getting the car in the car park can be a struggle. This is where the valet comes to the rescue.
I paid 75 euros a night for a room at NH Amistad, during the low season in Cordoba. You can check the reviews on Tripadvisor, and click here for the latest rates and options on Booking.
For more articles about Cordoba, check out my recommendations below:
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