Today’s article about the Córdoba Patio Festival is a guest post by Charlotte Russell, Founder of The Travel Psychologist
Bio: I’m Charlotte Russell, a clinical psychologist with a specialist interest in travel and well-being, and the founder of The Travel Psychologist. I love travelling around the world, but Greece and Spain are favourites of mine, partly because I am a foodie and love the cuisine in both countries. I’m a curious and relaxed traveller and love to observe and take in the sights, sounds, culture and customs when travelling.
Welcome to Cordoba Patio Festival
In the heart of inland Andalucia, Córdoba is the third biggest city in the region. It is most famous for it’s patio festival which takes place for two weeks each year in early May. The ‘fiesta’ celebrates the beauty of local gardens that have been decorated with an abundance of flowers, plants and decorations to embellish the patio spaces. Unusually the festival has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, despite only taking place for two weeks each year. This gives an insight into how spectacular it is!
History of the Córdoba Patio Festival
The Cordoba patio festival celebrates the architecture and outside space in Córdoban houses. Historically houses in the area were built with a courtyard in the middle, which provided light and ventilation to the surrounding rooms. Over the years these courtyards were decorated with flower beds and pots to provide a picturesque space. In the romantic period in the early 1800s, courtyards began to be embellished further by including archaeological elements such as wrought iron.
Since 1921 the city municipality have hosted the festival, which is a competition for the best courtyard. There are two categories; courtyards with old architecture and those with a that have been renovated and have a more modern touch.
As well as these competition courtyards, you can also visit the courtyards of notable religious and stately buildings in the area including the Mezquita (the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba) and the Cordoba Synagogue.
Why might I want to visit the Cordoba Patio Festival?
As a psychologist and I am always interested in these kinds of questions! There are a few reasons psychologically that might draw us to the patio festival.
Firstly it’s a celebration of the time of year. Spring is associated with new life, new beginnings and is a time to renew and spring clean our lives. The patio festival is a beautiful and vibrant reminder of that. The seasonality of the event helps us to live by the seasons and feel connected to nature.
Secondly, the courtyards are a great opportunity to be mindful and present, and they provide a relaxing and tranquil space. If we can really take the time to absorb experiences like this, we can use them to provide a sense of tranquillity and calm when we return to our everyday lives. For more on this see my previous article Beaches, benches and nature: travel and our sense of calm.
Thirdly, the competition element helps us to appreciate and celebrate the creativity and dedication of the owners. This provides a sense of connection and community; we know that both of these are essential for well-being. Many of the owners are present when you visit, and its really lovely to see how proud they are to see others enjoying what they have created.
Lastly, the festival celebrates the historical house layouts in the region. This gives us an insight into how people lived in the past and connect us to thousands of years of history. We can imagine how people lived their lives in simpler times and how the courtyards may have provided a sense of solace throughout challenges and transitions. Psychologically all of this can help to feel engaged and connected.
Practical tips for visiting the Patio Festival
Entry to each of the patios is free and you can enter between 11am and 2pm, and 6pm and 10pm. There are usually queues, particularly the patios that have been winners in the past.
It is worth prioritising which ones you want to visit. The festival website offers a virtual visit which can help you to plan your route in advance.
When visiting, remember that temperatures in Córdoba in May are high so don’t forget to take a hat, suncream and a bottle of water.
Which Patios should I visit?
I enjoyed seeing the four competition courtyards on Calle Maese Luis; house numbers 3, 4, 9 and 22. These four are good examples of the traditional patios in the area. You will find a wide variety of flowers and plants but also pretty examples of the local wrought iron gates and wall and floor tiles that are typical of the region.
My absolute favourite was the convent Patio of Santo Marta which is a large space with beautiful archways and a cobbled floor. As well as never-ending pots of beautiful flowers, chairs have been carefully placed around the garden to provide a peaceful place to take it all in. Along with the presence of jasmine and lemon trees, this makes the space particularly Instagram-able.
The patio at the López Diéguez public school was also particularly memorable. It is a garden created by the young students and teachers in the school. Very cute. However, what makes this space particularly important is that there has been considerable effort to make the space accessible to wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.
What else is there to see in Córdoba?
The ‘Mezquita’ or Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is a UNESCO Heritage sight and a must-see. The building originated in the 6th century and has a rich history to discover. Before entering you will find a huge Islamic courtyard with orange trees and fountains. Inside the Mezquita is equally grand with archways as far as the eye can see, and a really spectacular level of detail. It is one of those buildings that has to be seen to be believed! Make sure you book your tickets in advance here.
The Roman Bridge of Córdoba sits over the River Guadalquivir and is huge at around 250 metres long. It’s great spot for photos and for people watching. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may recognise the bridge as it was used as a location for filming in series 5.
How to get to Córdoba
Córdoba train station is part of the high-speed rail network across Spain and can be reached directly from Seville, Granada, Malaga or Madrid. With international airports in each of these cities, this makes Córdoba accessible from a wide range of destinations.
Where to eat in Córdoba
My absolute favourite restaurant in Córdoba was a small garden restaurant in the Old Town called Rincon de Carmen. They serve delicious local dishes including tapas, and their menu is reasonably priced. The garden was a little haven despite being in a busy part of the city.
A good choice for lunch is the Mercado Victoria. This is a food market about 10 minutes’ walk from the Old Town. Like many other food markets in European cities, you will find a great selection of food and drink vendors to choose from.
Where to stay in Córdoba
Hotel rooms during the patio festival have limited availability and are more expensive than usual so try to book in advance if you can.
I stayed at La Casa del Río which is a short walk from the Old Town across the Roman Bridge. It was a great location, just far enough from the busy parts of the city. The rooms contain a small kitchen which was useful for preparing breakfast prior to a day of exploring the patio festival. It is a good mid-range option.
If you’re looking for luxury then Hotel Balcón de Córdoba is in the heart of the city with views of the Mezquita from the roof terrace. The hotel has its own beautiful patio where you can enjoy breakfast.
For a more basic and affordable option that is still in the heart of the city, Hotel Don Paula is a good choice.
Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this blog article on the Cordoba Patio Festival, you might also like to read about….
- How to spend one day in Cordoba
- Guide to the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba
- Cordoba Synagogue – A unique hidden gem