Festivities

Cordoba’s Fiesta de los Patios: a Celebration of Andalusia

April 28, 2016
Cordoba Patio Festival

A classic patio of Cordoba. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Every Spring the city of Cordoba throws open the doors to its gorgeous courtyards for the Fiesta de los Patios (Courtyard Festival). During the festival (which UNESCO declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage site), visitors can tour approximately 50 of Cordoba’s private courtyards (los patios), which are brimming with colorful flowers, plants and traditional decor. Adding to the festivities are concerts, flamenco performances, street parties, and lots of tasty tapas.

This year Cordoba’s Fiesta de los Patios takes place May 2nd – 14th, 2017.

Cordoba Patio Festival

Even as evening falls, the patios dazzle with color. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Cordoba’s Patios and Festival

Cordoba Patio Festival vintage posterCourtyards provide Cordoba’s homes with light, air, and a cool retreat from the harsh Andalusian sun. The patios have long been the center of family life. In local tradition, the courtyards are decorated with flowers and plants in beds and pots, many of which hang from whitewashed walls. Wells or fountains are common features, as are antique furniture, iron cooking utensils and other vintage decorative elements.

While central courtyards have been a domestic feature since ancient times, Cordoba’s courtyards are a remnant of the city’s Islamic occupation (717 – 1236). These private sanctuaries evolved slightly over the centuries, with components coming in and out of fashion.

In 1918 residents of Cordoba first began to open their courtyards to the public and the first patio competition was held in 1921. After a break necessitated by the Spanish Civil War, the competition and festival continued to grow as a way to promote the city and its culture.

Visit Cordoba’s Fiesta de los Patios

Entry to the patios is free. Many hosts put out a basket to accept donations that help cover the costs of maintenance. A modest donation is always appreciated.

During the festival, patios are open from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. On the festival’s helpful map, patios and sites are organized into tour routes by neighborhood. Some patios have restricted hours, so check the festival map/guide for details.

The courtyards and routes can become very crowded on weekends and some evenings. Most patios are small with very limited capacity, so busy times result in lines and waiting to enter. If possible, visit the patios on a weekday. For real time crowd alerts, check the festival’s website, Twitter feed or Facebook page.

Cordoba Patio Festival

A communal courtyard ablaze with color. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Patios are located in private homes and hosts are on hand to answer questions (and accept compliments). As guests, visitors should maintain the tranquility of the space (the sound of trickling water is a common feature) and not touch the plants or personal objects on display. Since the spaces are small, be particularly careful with large bags, backpacks or strollers.

Most of the patios are accessible to visitors with disabilities. Cordoba’s City Council provides special group visits for guests with disabilities. See the festival website for dates and information.

Cordoba Patio Festival

The fiesta spills into the streets with an impromptu dance party. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Cordoba Patio Festival

Fountains and wells are a classic feature in the patios. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Check the map/brochure for locations of public restrooms.

The festival includes plenty of great events, including free concerts and dance performances in the patios, theaters and churches. One of the highlights is the Sunday afternoon Flamenco on the street, with performances in city squares. While a few performances are ticketed, most are free of charge. Check the festival website for schedule and information.

Another entertaining occasion – impromptu song and dance parties when revelers spill out of tabernas along the designated routes to celebrate local traditions.

As with most festivals, Cordoba will fill during festival dates (particularly the weekends, when folks from all over Andalusia arrive to enjoy the patios and events). Accordingly, accommodations should be reserved as early as possible.

Seville is only 45 minutes away by frequent trains, so it is possible to visit the festival as a day trip from the city.

Cordoba Patio Festival

A cool, tranquil retreat in the heart of the city. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

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2 Comments

  • Reply Sandhya (Sandy) July 6, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Jeff the pictures are gorgeous. I was there in the end of May this year and clearly missed a colorful show. Saw just a couple of homes done up. Sigh! I have to come back to South of Spain for this and the fest in Seville. Lovely really and makes me feel like I missed out on something mega 🙂

    • Reply Jeff Dobbins July 6, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks, Sandy. Cordoba is always lovely (and there’s a mini patio tour available year-round). But, yes, head back for the fiesta. There are other great Spanish festivals that time of year as well, including Girona’s Temps de Flors.

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