Fiesta de los Patios video
What is the Fiesta de los Patios?
“The Cordoba Patio Festival,” “La Fiesta de los Patios Cordobeses,” also known simply as the “ Los Patios de Cordoba” is Cordoba’s most anticipated yearly event.
For 12 days in May, the people in Cordoba throw open the doors to their private patios and reveal the secrets within.
Carpets of flowers, handmade Islamic mosaics, striking water features and some of the most beautiful patios in existence. Patios that are normally hidden away behind heavy iron gates for most of the year are suddenly thrust into the public light releasing an exotic scent of jasmine, geraniums, carnations and orange blossom into the air. The Fiesta de los Patios is an event that cannot be missed.
The patios are authentic inner sanctuaries that date back hundreds of years.
The history of patios in Cordoba
Patios in Cordoba date back to Roman times.
In a land where temperatures are extreme, patios need to be well cared for and lovingly maintained. No small feat considering daytime temperatures often pass 40c in the summer months and night time frosts are not uncommon.
To compensate for this harsh climate, the Romans and later on, the Muslims built houses in a particular way, by incorporating courtyards into the centre of the building. These courtyards were special inner spaces where families congregated and escaped the summer heat. The Romans also used the patios to collect rain water.
But the Muslims are the ones that really took patios and inner spaces to a whole new level. They are credited with introducing water features and plants to increase the sense of freshness upon entering the property. Something that works surprisingly well. Temperatures are said to be between 10 - 15C cooler within some patios. A big difference in the summer months.
The Muslims also emphasised the social side. A patio should not just be a place of a beauty and tranquillity, but a place for people to meet and socialise.
This custom has been carried through hundreds of years and the results are nothing short of spectacular.
UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Fiesta of the Patios in Cordoba was the most recent Spanish addition added to UNESCO’s list of World Intangible Cultural Heritage sites in 2012, a prestigious honour that brings Spain’s total number of UNESCO recognised cultural highlights to thirteen.
Established in 2008, the UNESCO intangible Cultural Heritage list aims to safeguard “contemporary living expressions and traditions that countless groups and communities worldwide have inherited from their ancestors and transmit to their descendants.”
No stranger to UNESCO recognition, Spain has a total of 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites, second only to Italy that has 48.
Cordoba’s old town is the World's largest urban area designated a World-Heritage site by UNESCO.
The Patio Festival is also a competition and the competition is fierce. Known as the Concurso Municipal de los Patios de Córdoba. The prizes are much sought after.
According to Manuel Garrido Moreno, president of the Amigos de los Patios Association, says: “The Patio Festival is to Cordoba what the San Fermín festival is to Pamplona.”
The Patio festival was first organised by the Cordoba City Hall in 1918, with the first competition starting in 1921. The competitive aspect was seen as a clever tactic to preserve the tradition, which over the years was coupled with financial aid to help participants pay for expenses and make sure the tradition didn't die. The Patio Festival was suspended for three years during the Spanish Civil War, but has been going strong ever since.
Prizes are given for the most beautiful and best preserved patios. There are numerous categories including; traditional, modern, religious, Islamic, Mudejar, single family dwelling, community effort, artistic use of water, illumination, flower variety, architectural preservation and much more!
The biggest prizes have been donated and tend to be themed, the electricity company Endesa for example, provides a special prize to the best illuminated patio.
It is not all about flowers though. Most of the displays are accompanied by music, with traditional folk and flamenco performances, as well as a variety of wines and tapas for visitors to enjoy. Cordoba in May acts as a magnet to some of the biggest names in Flamenco with impromptu concerts and street parties on almost every corner.
The numbers of patios which are entered into the competition vary from year-to-year. In 2013 the town hall selected a total of 52 patios to be displayed to the public. Tickets are required, but entrance is free. Some of the patios have donation boxes.
Some of the larger patios can be visited throughout the year. Normally a small fee is charged and if travelling with a group (15+ people) special tours can be organised. At the time of writing, price per adult was €14 and children €5, see below for further information.
A visit to the Viana Palace should be high on anyone's wishlist. A living, breathing patio musuem that offers visitors over five centuries of history. For additional information - see here
The patios also opened up briefly around Christmas time and are decorated with Christmas ornaments and lights.
May in Cordoba
May is a big month in Cordoba. The biggest. The month long celebrations are known collectively as the Festival de Mayo. There are three main events throughout the month.
The month starts with the Cruces de Mayo (Festival of the Crosses) with Cordoba residents competing with each other for the best decorated cross made from flowers. There is also a procession of floats known as La Batalla de las Flores, the Battle of the Flowers.
This is closely followed by the Festival de los Patios. Far in a way the most anticipated event on the calendar.
The celebrations are finished off with the Feria de Cordoba (the Cordoba Fair). With visitors and locals alike dancing the nights away to traditional flamenco music.
There is no better way to welcome Spring. A welcome that is filled with flowers, aromas, lights and life!
The dates vary slightly from year-to-year for whole Festival de Mayo. Generally speaking, the Festival de Patios starts around the end of the first week of May, straight after the Cruces de Mayo.
The final dates are published by the town hall in mid-January each year and are published here
There are morning and evening visiting times. The patios are open every morning from 11h to 14h. From Sunday to Thursday evenings from 18h to 22h, Friday and Saturday nights from 18h to 24h.
Tickets are free but need to be reserved beforehand. You can do so here - www.entradaspatioscordoba.com - website is live when tickets are available.
The patios are divided up into six designated areas - you need to choose one when reserving the ticket. Each area has between 8 and 12 patios to visit.
The six areas are; Santa Marina-San Andrés, San Lorenzo-San Agustin, Regina-La Magdalena, San Pedro-Santiago, Judería and San Basilio.