Behind Closed Doors: Why May is the Best Time to Visit Córdoba, Spain

Updated April 5, 2017

For most of the year Córdoba hides a secret behind closed doors…

But if you find yourself in Córdoba in May you might wonder about the lines of people outside average looking apartment buildings. What are they are waiting for? Well, they’re after a glimpse of the secret gardens of Córdoba, revealed during a festival in the first two weeks of the month called Los Patios de Córdoba, or ‘The Patios of Córdoba”.

Córdoba is a beautiful and fascinating place to visit at any time of year, but visiting in May is just a little more special. So much so that I’ve waited an entire year to write this post, just in time for the month of festivals in May, when you can have an insight into the Spanish culture and the lives of the residents of Córdoba.

Los Patios Festival Cordoba Spain

Where is Córdoba and why should you go?

Córdoba sits in the middle of Andalucía, within easy travelling distance of Seville, Malaga and Granada. It’s inland position lends itself to chilly winters and boiling summers, so May is actually the perfect time to visit Córdoba, after the freeze and before and heat hits!

Córdoba is history, upon history, upon history, literally. It was once the capital of a Roman province and estimated as the most populated city in the world. It’s one of those places that’s changed hands many times. Each group has left behind elements of their time in the city, making Córdoba the eclectic city it is today.

Córdoba has the second oldest Old Town in Europe, and if you’ve travelled in Europe you’ll know that almost every place has an Old Town, so that’s saying something!

There are so many great things to see and do in Córdoba and it’s a wonderful destination to visit at any time of year, but Los Patios makes May a particularly great time to visit.

Los Patios Spain Cordoba

What is Los Patios de Córdoba?

Los Patios began in 1918, but to understand it you need to know something of the history and architecture of Córdoba. Dating back to the Roman times, houses in Córdoba were built with a central courtyard. These were often filled with water features and plants to keep the homes cool in the heat of the summer and over time these secret gardens have become more and more elaborate. Often the houses will pass down through generations or group houses will have multiple gardeners working on them. Except all of this is behind closed doors, unseen from the concrete and stone streets.

Once a year the citizens of Córdoba open their doors and invite everyone in to see the beauty of these hidden gems. And seriously, these gardens in Córdoba are like works of art. It’s not just flowers, but mosaics, water features, trees and wells too. Honestly, my photos don’t even do them justice, not least because I didn’t have my camera at the time!

Los Patios Cordoba Spain

Practical info:

Los Patios usually happens in the first to weeks of May, across 2 weekends. This year (2017) Los Patios is from 2-14 May.

There are around 50 patios to see, and you can download a map or pick one up from the tourist office. The map groups the patios together to guide you in different directions but you could seriously spend days seeing them all! Especially since the most popular patios will usually have a line outside.

Our strategy for seeing the patios was to pick the ones we really wanted to see and were prepared to wait for, and pop into any others along the way where we didn’t need to wait in line.

Of course, this is the south of Spain, and so all but a few patios are closed during siesta time, which runs from about 2pm until 5 or 6pm. This is the perfect time to pause for some tapas!

Los Patios de Córdoba is a free festival, but often homeowners will leave out a tray where you can leave a tip if you enjoyed the patio. The upkeep of these beautiful gardens can’t be cheap!

While the weather in Córdoba in May is warmer it did rain when I visited, but this didn’t detract from any of the gardens. Just make sure you have an umbrella in case you need to wait outside in a line!

Patios in Cordoba Festival Spain

Where to stay in Córdoba during Los Patios Festival

Córdoba in May is a busy time with all the festivals going on. There are festivals running all through the month, and accommodation can book up in advance. If you’re planning to visit Córdoba during May then definitely book ahead, however that doesn’t mean you can’t make a last minute trip. If you have a car (or hire one) then you don’t need to stay in Córdoba itself. I stayed in accommodation outside of Córdoba, in a campground that had self contained cabins. Each morning we travelled into the city and parked for free near one of the shopping malls, spent the day exploring and drove back after dinner.

Of course if you’re travelling solo then check out hostels which will allow you to stay in the city at a cheaper rate, and experience more of the nightlife!

Los patios Cordoba Spain

Other top things to do in Córdoba

The Mezquita

I didn’t know much about the Mezquita, or Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, but it quickly became one of my favourite attractions in Spain. It was orginally a mosque, built when Córdoba had one of the largest populations in the world and was a very advanced city. After it came under Spanish rule again in 1236 the population of the city dropped from almost a million to only 20,000. In the 20th century Córdoba began to grow again and during this time the Mezquita was changed to have a cathedral in the centre, creating this one of a kind structure.

Inside the Mezquita Cordoba Spain

Mezquita Mosque Cathedral Cordoba Spain

City walls of Córdoba

The city walls of Córdoba used to separate the Arab and Jewish quarters. There are some great places to eat just inside and outside of them today! Don’t forget to try the speciality Córdoba tapa of ox tail, or Salmorejo, which is like a very thick gazpacho you can eat with bread or crackers.

Tapas in Cordoba Spain

Roman Bridge

Near the centre of Córdoba is the Roman Bridge, built over the shallow Guadalquivir River. It was once the main crossing over the river and helped to secure Córdoba’s importance in the region. You can wander across for a view back to the city and climb a tower for views along the river.

Roman Bridge Cordoba Spain

Córdoba sometimes flies under the radar, coming after Seville, Granada and Malaga as the top places to go in Andalucía. However, it’s well worth the visit at any time, if only to see the Mezquita. But if you happen to visit in May, then you’ll see the best of what Córdoba has to offer with the added addition of a glimpse behind closed doors, and the secret world of Córdoba’s stunning patios.

Do you plan your holidays to line up with local festivals?

Sonja x

If you liked it, pin it! 

Los Patios Festival Cordoba Spain

Los Patios Festival Cordoba Spain

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24 Comments

  • Reply Aryane @ Valises & Gourmandises April 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Wow! I had no idea of what was going on behind those doors. It’s such a cool tradition, letting people into your garden and showing off your skills. I can’t keep a succulent or fresh herbs alive, so I’m very impressed with their skills! haha

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 6, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Haha I’m terrible at it too so it was amazing for me! They were seriously so elaborate, the photos don’t even show half!

  • Reply Suzanne April 6, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    This is something I would definitely do if I visit Spain. Such a novel idea: secret gardens! On another note, The Secret Garden, was one of my favorite books when growing up. Imagine reading this on the way to Cordoba!

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 6, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      I love when books and travel intertwine! It’s actually something I want to explore a lot more on the blog. These are definitely an awesome example of secret gardens too 🙂

  • Reply Archana Singh April 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    WOW! Cordoba really looks stunning and secret garden is a beautiful place. I love the vertical garden. So tastefully designed. And you can’t go wrong with food in Spain. I would definitely want to visit this place.

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 7, 2017 at 8:59 am

      I hope you do sometimes! The gardens were all so stunning I’d love to have the chance to go again, and you’re right, you can’t go wrong with the food!

  • Reply tracy collins April 6, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    I hadn’t even heard of Cordoba and yet it looks like the most amazing city!! And those gardens – Oh my goodness – stunning!! I am going to figure out if we can fly near to the city in May as even a weekend in this place would be fantastic!

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 7, 2017 at 8:58 am

      We just had a weekend there and it was really great! I loved the Mezquita and exploring the old town, and Los Patios just added to it!

  • Reply Karen April 7, 2017 at 3:35 am

    Hey Sonja,
    Los Patios looks incredible. May sounds great to beat the summer heat and the crowds though a festival probably attracts them. We’re trying to get out of the Philippines and into Spain and Morocco but not sure if we can get away from work. Saving this just in case though. It’s always been a dream to check out some of the festivals in Spain! Thanks for this insight.
    Cheers,
    Karen

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 7, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Thanks Karen! It is a great time to go. We struck a little rain but it wasn’t cold and didn’t make the gardens any less beautiful! If you do make it I hope you can go to Córdoba!

  • Reply Riely April 7, 2017 at 6:11 am

    This is the best hidden gem I have heard of in awhile. Córdoba seems like the town for me with it’s hidden courtyards. I would spend hours searching every last courtyard. It’s such a neat idea to open your doors to strangers and allow everyone to find some joy in their living quarters. Thanks for sharing! I will be glad to visit Córdoba around Los Patios one day.

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 7, 2017 at 8:52 am

      It is a really wonderful festival and just adds to the great things to do in Córdoba at any other time of year!

  • Reply Iza Abao April 7, 2017 at 8:10 am

    The flowers are so beautiful. I want my house to have that kind of garden. I love the white wall with flower pots. It will brighten up your day.

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 7, 2017 at 8:51 am

      I would love my house to have this type of garden too!

  • Reply CJ Haughey April 7, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Being from Ireland, I’ve always overlooked Europe in favor of travel further afield. As you mention, it’s all about the history! Only in recent years am I taking more of an interest in that and areas like this start to look more appealing. I never knew it was such an ancient town – second oldest in Europe? For some reason, these things are now more alluring than the best place to get a bucket of vodka! I must be getting old! Salmorejo sounds great too!

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 11, 2017 at 10:57 am

      I think it’s funny how where we are from really affects where we want to go! I always wanted to get over to Europe to see things that were so much older than I ever have before. I think there’s a place for all sorts of travel, it’s just what you feel like at the time!

  • Reply Melbtravel April 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I have been wanting to go to Seville and Granada for a while now, after reading your post I definitely keen to go there while I am that way. How beautiful are the secret gardens, I love flowers as they make you feel so good. I don’t know if I would try the speciality Córdoba tapa of ox tail but I would definitely been keen on the Salmorejo with bread or crackers.

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 11, 2017 at 10:55 am

      I hope you do get to make it to Córdoba, it was really lovely! The Mezquita is stunning, and there are actually some gardens you can go and see all year round!

  • Reply Global Girl Travels April 8, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Cordoba is a UNESCO site so I am really curious to see it. It’s a great option for those who want to avoid the touristy spots but also want to experience the beauty of Spain. Those photos you took are so gorgeous and just had me imagining as I walk through the streets of Cordoba myself. Someday…

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 9, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Thanks so much! Hopefully you do make it someday :). I agree it’s a great option since most people seem to go to the other cities in the south like Seville, Granada and Malaga!

  • Reply Gülçin April 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    I saw the topic on pinterest came to visit the page to drop a line about it. I was lucky to visit Cordoba during the festival de los patios. The houses open their doors to show their amazing gardens full of flowers. The hospitality of the people create a positive vibe. Some even offer homemade vines with the flavor of the flowers and fruits they have in their garden. And of course Mezquita is pure beauty. Highly recommended ♡☆♡

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 11, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Thanks for your comment! It is such a lovely place and I think even more amazing in May. I’m glad you loved it too!

  • Reply Yvonne April 13, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Loved visiting in May for the festival and the city is just lovely anyway, to wander some of the narrow cobbled streets that open out to some beautiful small and larger squares. It was lovely to sit outside a cafe and relax and enjoy the atmosphere. During the festival we came across a horse arena where horse and riders were prancing and inside the stable area was a food and wine hall set up. It was fantastic! Loved Cordoba. ❤

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 13, 2017 at 10:47 am

      The stables with the food market were great! There are definitely some lovely places to eat near the city walls and in some of the plazas. The food is great too!

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