Courtyards Festival in Cordoba – BATTLE OF THE FLOWERS!

Are you ready to indulge in a sensory overload of spectacular color and beautiful architecture?

Spring Flowers Decoration of Old House Patio, Cordoba
Spring Flowers Decoration of Old House Patio, Cordoba

Festival de los Patios Cordobeses

Imagine this; you are walking down a cobbled pathway, into someone’s garden. In the center, you see an old fountain and the yard is so colorful with blooming flowers that you fail to notice the music playing in the distance. All around, people interacting and taking in the scene that has been so carefully displayed, just for them. And yet there you stand…judging the beauty….one courtyard after another. You are drinking local wine and the atmosphere is full of energy. You are in Cordoba, Spain and you are participating in a yearly festival, where locals compete in The Festival de los Patios.

visitors during the Festival of the Patios on May 09, 2015
visitors during the Festival of the Patios on May 09, 2015 / Pabkov /

In May, every year, since 1918, the city of Cordoba comes to life in a way that can only be described as beautiful.

It starts off with a parade known as “THE BATTLE OF THE FLOWERS!” (Seriously…how can this not be incredible to witness?) Can you imagine how fresh and fragrant the air must be this time of the year? Imagine the colors!  But wait, it gets even better… Not only are they doing this on the streets, but now, once a year, residents also compete in The Festival de los Patios! That’s right – They all decorate their courtyards and gardens and leave them open for the public to view and judge. Claiming the prize for having the most beautiful patio is a BIG DEAL in Cordoba. They have even expanded on the competition by allowing two categories, instead on just one. One for ancient architecture and one for modern. They have even turned it into and educational festival to help students appreciate heritage and architecture.

Courtyards Festival in Cordoba
courtyard during the Festival of the Patios /Andrey Lebedev /

This all started a long time ago. First the Romans added to their home architecture, a center courtyard. They usually put a well or fountain in the middle so as to cool down the home. It was pleasing to the eye and made each home functional in the warm, dry climate. Then the Muslims improved on the pleasing building design by adding decorative plants and cobbled pathways. Together, they created one of the most visually appealing cities in the world.

Visitors to Cordoba do not usually get to see the beauty behind the heavy doors, but if you come in May, you will not be disappointed. The streets come to life around this time of the year as residents start preparing for a battle. The patios become the focus of the town. Flowers, mosaics, ceramics, decorative art and spectacular water features are all put on display. Luxury homes and palaces open up their gates for the public and everyone gets excited as to who is going to claim the final prize.

An old church with the traditional flowers set up of this town

Viana Palace is a 14th century palace and has been declared a National Historical and Artistic Landmark. It is one of the most visited attractions in Cordoba and It has 12 patios – yes twelve. They have even called it “The Museum of Patios.” One would think it would be very hard to compete with a palace boasting so many decorated gardens. But each garden does compete – and compete Very well! You see, in Cordoba, this is a big title and no one competes without having put in a lot of effort. Each proud patio decorator tries to outdo the next. There is an explosion of intrigue and envy as each garden gets unveiled. Can you imagine living next door to some of these competitors. It must be stressful. Good thing it only happens once a year and that we get to enjoy it for its visual splendor.

Festival de los Patios Cordobeses
Viana Palace at the courtyard gardens. /Sean Pavone /

Cordoba is filled with numerous religious buildings and spectacular architecture.  It is no wonder that they host such an extraordinary festival. The streets also come alive with music and dancers. The local wine, Montilla-Moriles, is celebrated and the people that live there welcome each visitor with such warmth.

Of course, Cordoba can be visited all year around and it will always be a beautiful destination because of the buildings and history behind it. But to go there in May, during the festival…now that definitely sounds like a cultural extravaganza of color. Visitors can even spend a pre-arranged night in someone’s patio. Yes, you get to camp out in someone’s garden. Some of the most sought after flamenco artist, travel to Cordoba this time of the year just to be part of the festival; as well as other well-known singers and dancers that perform daily. There is also no entry fee. You just go there and join in on the festivities.

Maybe it is the wine…maybe it is the competition…Maybe it is the pungent scent of Jasmine and Orange Blossom…Who knows! All we do know is that when you get there, you feel warmth and cultural beauty like nowhere on Earth.

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