A garden paradise at the Los Patios Festival in Córdoba

A garden paradise at the Los Patios Festival in Córdoba

A beautiful, colourful display of flowers which should be every gardener’s bucket list is the Fiesta of the Patios, which takes place annually in the ancient city of Córdoba in Southern Spain.

Held in May, this year from 2nd to 15th, the city opens a vast range of patios for your viewing. Private, family homes open their doors to show you their old-style courtyards, which are packed with vibrant blooms. A feast for the eye!

There are also larger, low-built, apartment-style buildings that have amazing courtyards where many gardeners will work together, often all year, to cultivate these special gems that are their shared meeting areas.

However, the patio displays go even beyond the wide array offered by the private sector to include numerous “monument” patios. For example, the Viana Palace, a 14th century edifice, is actually known as the Patio Museum and offers around 12 different patios to its visitors. It has also been classified as an official “Historic Garden” and is high on the list of recommendations for those wishing to see the best of Córdoba.

In December 2012 it was been UNESCO listed.

Patio Contest

The Patio contests is sponsored by the Córdoba City Hall and began in 1918.  Since 2012 it has been UNESCO listed.  To really understand why a contest of this type was created in Córdoba you must know something about the local architecture.

Due to a hot, dry climate homes were built with a central patio even back in the days of the Romans. This tradition was continued by the Moors and persists in many homes even today. Filling the central patio with plants and water features has always been a way to keep local homes cool.

But, thanks to human creativity and ingenuity, patio decoration ended up taking on a life all its own and at some point, someone realised that these hidden treasures were just too good to be kept tucked away behind heavy doors and iron grates. So, once a year, the doors open and everyone is invited in to see the wonders of Córdoba’s patios.

These patios not only offer a visual feast of colourful flowers, stone mosaics and ceramic decorations, but also bring out the classic scents of Córdoba: jasmine and orange blossom mixed with a myriad of scents from the many other flowers and plants that bring the city – and this festival – alive.

At the city’s tourism website, it is officially the “Córdoba May Patio Festival” and the locals offer a host of entertainment throughout this spring celebration. Some of the best names in flamenco are known to travel to the city this time of year to add sound to the sights, smells, textures and tastes enjoyed by locals and visitor alike. Yes, Córdoba is genuinely a feast for all five senses this time of year – but don’t miss the year round sights to see while you’re there.

Practical info for tourists

The 50 or so Patios from the competition are freely open to the public. Just pick up a map from the tourist office) and devise your own route. There is no entrance charge but there is a collection box by the door for a tip. On Friday Saturday and Sunday of the competition you may need an advance online ticket.

The Patios have unusual opening hours, they closed between the hours of 2pm until 6pm in the afternoon. Locals will tell you that they need to have time to spruce up their patios and take the essential Spanish siesta, so beware that you don’t miss out on this amazing festival. They are generally open from Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 2pm and from 6pm to 10pm; and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 2pm and from 6pm to midnight.  

We travelled by car from Alicante, but the quickest way is to come into Malaga airport.  Hotels are reasonable and the whole city has a welcoming atmosphere with food and drink good value.  Take comfortable walking shoes and use the maps provided.  And of course a camera.

by Tina Foster