Flower Patios Festival of Córdoba - a vibrant expression of the peopleJun 26, 2022
If there is one very special occasion for you to visit Cordoba, it has to be in May during the annual Patios Festival of Córdoba.
In the short span of two weeks, private patios open up and beckon you to delight your senses. Spain has a vibrant culture and this splendour of flowers is such an uplifting expression of the people.
I was so glad that this year I was in Andalusia for a couple of months, and that coincided with this famed event.
What's special about Andalusian patios
Patios are a feature in the traditional architecture of many countries. I see similarities with the ones in Andalusia and Morroco. After all, there is a shared history and proximity between these two regions.
Stepping into Andalusian patios makes you appreciate space - a space for communal gatherings, an oasis to bring in light, air and a sense of wellbeing too.
The Andalusians beautify their patios in a charming way. You can admire typical decor such as the tiles (azulejos), earthen and ceramic pots. Some patios have fountains, which are always soothing and help bring down summer heat.
Each time I pass by a patio, it's irresistible to take a peek!
Some patios are grander while others might be smaller or quainter.
Here's the first patio that I visited.
And here's the 2nd one I visited, which was larger with several alleys like this.
What are some of the typical flowers to see in the patios of Córdoba
The website Patios de Córdoba has interesting info for those of us who want to get to know the flowers of these patios or of Andalusia. It’s in Spanish, so I’ll extract and translate.
The Arabs embellished their patios with species of flowers from different countries. The flower that has come to be symbolise the Andalusian patios is the Gitanilla (Geranium). Its origins actually are from South Africa, seeds and specimens travelling through Europe before arriving in Spain.
You can enjoy these styles of patios:
- Green Patios - these feature predominantly green non-flowering plants, rich in foliage. (For eg, the monstera)
- Flower Patios - the patio is an explosion of colours, predominantly with Geraniums. There are also bougainvilleas and claveles (carnations)
- Mixed Patios - they feature a mix of spring flora as well as flora for the rest of the year, mostly jasmines, Dama de Noche (Lady of the Night), citrus (lemons and oranges).
The patios also feature succulents. These are easier to cultivate.
Where there is a lack of interior space, the greenery overflows outdoors with figs and aloes.
As an anecdote, the "courtyard of courtyards" - the Orange Tree Courtyard has just about only 4 types: orange trees, olives, palms and cypress.
What started as a competition of courtyards, balconies and windows in 1921 would develop into a tradition accepted by UNESCO as a Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The official site tells you that the judges criterion include "floral variety, care of the flowerpots and beds, and natural lighting. The courtyards were distinguished as 'old' or 'modern' architecture, awarding prizes for specific aspects such as architectural preservation, natural decoration, effort and artistic use of water."
Get to know the people and their passions
The Patios Festival is such a great way to meet the locals.
Even if the owner is not there, you'll get to meet the local guides stationed there. There is pride and passion, and the collective attractiveness makes the city a compelling destination. (Having worked in tourism before, I appreciate all this!)
I think meeting the locals is so much of what travel is about. Sometimes, when we have a vacation, we might just be visiting the tourist spots, like the famed Mezquita/ Cathedral of Cordoba, and so we remain in that tourist bubble.
Walking the patio routes took me to other Barrios (neighbourhoods) that I would not usually have thought to visit.
I liked what one host in the first patio told me. She said that:
"It is a work of passion all throughout the year, not just a week."
In the same way, when we train in our flamenco dance (or whatever you are passionate about!) we have to do so with constancy, not just because it's 'show time'.
Tip 1. Download the official guide to the routes
Today, with that many patios to visit (52 of them in 2022) in private houses, convents and churches, where do you start?
Fortunately, the official page has a guide that charts out the routes.
In each route, there are about 5 to 12 patios.
You can also click each patio and info about it pops up.
There are other 'unofficial' routes too!
Tip 2. Give yourself time
Learn from my mistake and give yourself a full day at least to explore at a leisurely pace!
Why? Because there are specific visiting hours. From 11am to 2pm, and 6pm to 10pm. The patios close during lunch time.
I arrived around noon thinking I would have time to catch quite a few patios. BUT nooo!
The 2nd patio I visited was a bigger one, full of flower variety and charm, I walked a couple of rounds reluctant to leave it. I didn't manage to get out of it until close to lunch time. Which meant I had to dash to catch the third patio.
But alas, Patio #3 was in a concealed alley, and even though I referred both to Google map and the paper map, I still walked in a huge circle before locating a narrow alley right beside a church.
The kind owner let a frazzled me in, sacrificing some time from her lunch.
Point taken. We need to give ourselves time - to get lost!
All too soon, I had to get back to the station to catch my 7pm bus back to Sevilla.
Que lástima, as we say in Spanish, what a pity! But at least, I did get some impression of the event, and it truly is unique.
Tip 3. Consider staying overnight
If you, like me, are prone to wandering, admiring flowers, exploring nook and cranny and enjoying a drink while reading up about a place , then that's reason enough for you to spend a night at least in Cordoba!
Tip 4. Join cultural programmes, the Córdoba Flamenco Festival
What else to see and do in Córdoba during this time?.
The clever tourism people have grouped many programmes together, so you can experience flowers and more!
Chose from shows of the Córdoba Flamenco Festival, or catch exhibitions.
One event I would have liked to catch is the Balcon de Cantes (Balcony of Songs), where you can catch artists singing from the balconies of places like a tavern a library, a cinema and a convent!
Did you know that Cordoba is the hottest city in Europe and earns its name, 'Frying Pan of Europe?'
How to get to Córdoba / Getting Around
It's easy to get to Cordoba via train or bus, if you don't drive and are travelling solo like I was.
Trains in Spain are modern, comfortable. Tickets can be booked from the national rail, RENFE. Click here for the English site.
It's just as easy. I took the bus as the station was closer to the centre of Seville where I was living. It was about a two-hour journey.
You can check bus availability from different cities in Spain to Córdoba on this site.
Both bus and train stop at the same location in Cordoba. From here, it is about 20 minutes to the closest Patio route.
Accommodation in Córdoba
If you choose to stay overnight or two, you have to be aware that this is a 'super' peak season (just like Holy Week and Feria de Avril are peak seasons in Seville!).
So you really need to book way in advance.
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