Feria de los Patios
Every May, the courtyards and patios of houses in the old quarter of Córdoba are opened to the public for the city’s Feria de los Patios, in which locals compete for the honour of having the prettiest space, a prize is awarded at the end of the month.
This is Córdoba’s most unique cultural offering and something you won’t see in any other Spanish city. Designed, grown and arranged throughout the year, the patios are romantic oases of cool and colour, where the placement of every bright-red pot of geraniums has been carefully thought out.
Owners are often on hand and delighted to talk to you about the varieties of flowers and plants adorning their courtyards’ walls, and in some of the larger spaces live flamenco guitar is performed as you wander.
The visit to the Patios de Córdoba is free and free. You will no longer need special passes or reservations of any kind.
Here you can find the Map of Patios
Most cities in southern Spain have monuments from their periods under Moorish and – subsequently – Christian rule, but nowhere are they combined in the same structure as they are in Cordoba. The city’s Mosque-Cathedral is the greatest dual-identity monument in Spain and a powerful symbol of the two cultures that have shaped Andalusia.
After the Moors captured Cordoba in 711, what had previously been a Visigoth Christian church was split in two and used by both Christians and Muslims as a place of worship. But in 784, on the orders of the Emir Abd al-Rahman, the church was destroyed and work on a great mosque began.
Construction lasted for over two centuries and the building was eventually completed in 987, by which point Cordoba was the most important city in the Islamic Kingdom.
When the city was reclaimed by Christians in 1236, the mosque was converted into a church and in the 16th century Charles V added a great Renaissance nave right on top of the original Moorish structure.
The mosque’s most-photographed aspect is its vast main hall, which is supported by over 850 double-arched columns. Sunlight and shadows create unusual effects as you wander among them, contemplating the multifaceted history of this great building.
You can book your ticket here:
Palacio de Viana
The star of Córdoba’s patios feria is the opulent 15th century Palacio de Viana, a vast building used over the centuries as a residence for Spanish royalty.
For an admission price of five euros, you can access all of Viana’s thirteen patios and gardens – intricately designed and aromatically populated with colourful plants, flowers and trees, these are some of Córdoba’s most gorgeous public spaces.
Their cultivation has taken centuries: the Patio of the Oranges, for example, served as the palace’s entrance in the 15th century. Whilst the Alhambra-like Patio of the Columns was only added in the 1980s as a space for events and celebrations.
Allow a good hour to slowly wander around these scented, romantic spaces, peering in through the palace’s old windows as you go; another age of louche affluence and amorous intrigue, once played out amongst Viana’s orange trees and jasmines, comes instantly back to life.
River Guadalquivir and surrounding countryside
Snaking through Cordoba is the Guadalquivir river, the murky green waters of which flow down through Andalusia and its capital Seville before emptying out into the Atlantic.
The Guadalquivir played a crucial role in enriching the Spanish Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries, as its river port, the only one in Spain, provided privileged access to the newly discovered Americas.
Crossing the river is Cordoba’s famous Roman bridge – a great viewpoint from which to survey the mighty Mosque-Cathedral as well as the distinctively green and hilly landscape that surrounds the city.
This verdant countryside is pleasant change from the sun-scorched, mountainous terrain that usually prevails in Andalusia.
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
A visit to the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, it means “Castle of the Christian Kings”, is a must if you’re in Cordoba. As its name suggests, the construction of this royal palace was ordered by the Catholic King Alfonso XI of Castile in 1328 but – as is so often the case in Andalusia – it was built amongst the ruins of a vast Moorish fort.
In the late 10th century, when the Islamic Kingdom was at the height of its powers, Cordoba was the kingdom’s – and indeed one of the world’s – great intellectual cities, and the Alcazar housed the largest library in the west.
Though Alfonso used only a fraction of the remains of the original Moorish structure in building the Alcazar, he chose a Mudejar style, meaning the Moorish feel of the site has been preserved.
Cordoba's Old Town
Cordoba's beautiful historic centre is bound by the Guadalquivir river to the south and the Avenida de las Ollerias to the north.
Even when compared to the oldest neighbourhoods of other major Andalusian cities, Cordoba's is conspicuously charming, with its scrunched-together white houses decorated with pots of aromatic jasmine and geraniums.
Particularly attractive in this respect is the Calleja de las Flores, a narrow, winding lane lined with what must be some of the prettiest and most colourful houses in southern Spain.
Whilst wandering, keep your eyes open for this barrio’s hidden treasures – namely, the private patios and courtyards that are opened to the public every May for the city’s enchanting Feria de los Patios.
Juderia, the city’s former Jewish quarter, extends in a tangle of cobbled streets and squares to the north of the Mosque-Cathedral and is also well worth exploring.
Cordoba's Mosque-Cathedral takes some beating as a historical attraction, but Medina Azahara – situated some 8 km outside the city – is just as intriguing.
In the middle of the 10th century, ‘The Shining City’ was the administrative capital of Al-Andalus, as Moorish-ruled Spain was then known. Construction started in 936 on the order of the Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III al-Nasir.
Additions and alterations continued for decades, but in 1010 Azahara was looted and thereafter stood deserted for centuries.
Its remains were not discovered until the beginning of the 20th century and, although they only account for about 10% of the original city, they nevertheless give you a good idea of just how magnificent Medina Azahara must have been!
One of the pleasures of visiting Córdoba is being able to view monuments from all three of its most definitive epochs: Roman, Moorish and Christian.
It was not until the 1950s, when Cordoba’s town hall was being expanded, that the remains of what was probably the city’s most important Roman temple were discovered.
It was built during the reign of Emperor Claudius in the middle of the 1st century AD and was renovated in the 2nd century AD. Of its giant columns, 10 remain, reaching up into the sky amid modern apartment blocks and offices.
Archaeologists have theorised from the quality of marble and workmanship used in the construction of the temple that it must have been a particularly impressive structure, perhaps even one of the most beautiful in the Roman Empire.
The city’s famous Roman Bridge, or Puente Romano, dates from the 1st century BC and was extensively rebuilt in the 10th century during the Moorish occupation of the city.
Sitting low over the opaque waters of the Guadalquivir, which flows down all the way through Andalusia and out into the Atlantic, it is supported by 17 stone arches, of which just two once belonged to the original structure.
The middle of the bridge, next to a 17th-century statue of Saint Raphael, is the perfect spot from which to survey Córdoba and the green, hilly countryside that surrounds it: it’s a perspective that even locals stop to enjoy while walking over the Puente Romano.
Córdoba is steeped in bullfighting history, and you can visit a monument of its most famous matador, Manolete (1917-1947), in Plaza del Conde de Priego in the old town; right opposite the square is Iglesia Santa Marina, where many Córdobese bullfighters have been married.
Also well worth a visit is superb Museo Taurino, or bullfighting museum, which offers a fascinating insight into this controversial spectacle.