Every year in May, the city of Cordoba in Andalusia celebrates its famous Courtyards Festival, a tradition which was declared a part of our Intangible World Heritage by the UNESCO in 2012 and during which many of the courtyards or “patios” in the historic quarter are open to visitors for a few days. The festival takes the form of a competition to discover the most beautiful of the city’s popular courtyards, and fills the streets with colour, the scent of jasmine and orange blossom and the strains of flamenco. In 2013, it is set to take place between 8 and 19 May.

The courtyards of Cordoba are a living tradition dating back to Roman times, and which continued throughout the Arab presence until being handed down to us today. The traditional houses in the city are noted for their courtyards surrounded by whitewashed walls adorned with hanging flowerpots filled with colourful geraniums, jasmine, carnations and orange blossom. Throughout the days of the Festival, most of the courtyards in the old part of town throw their doors open to the public, and often feature flamenco shows and the chance to sample the delicious tapas of Cordoba, accompanied by a glass of Montilla-Moriles sherry. The festival awards prizes for the most attractive courtyards, but outside the event, these “patios” can be visited every weekend between the months of April and June.

Where to see them

The popular quarters where you can visit some of Cordoba’s traditional courtyards include the Alcázar Viejo, between the Alcázar and the parish church of San Basilio, the neighbourhoods of Santa Marina and La Magdalena, and the area around San Lorenzo. You’ll also find some particularly attractive and historic courtyards in the old Jewish quarter in the area of the great Mosque and Cathedral.

May, a month of festivities in Cordoba

In addition to the Courtyards Festival, Cordoba also celebrates various other events in May, making this the perfect month for a visit to the city. Before the courtyards competition, visitors can enjoy the popular festivity known as the Cruces de Mayo (May Crosses) (during which the streets are adorned with crosses made from flowers); this is followed by the Balconies and Grilles Competition, held jointly with the Courtyards Festival when the city is garlanded with floral decorations; and finally, the month concludes with the celebration of the Cordoba Fair, when the fairground area and its surroundings throng with horse-drawn carriages, typical flamenco costumes, the sound of the dances known as “sevillanas”, and sherry.