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If you are planning on visiting southern Spain, then you will not want to miss out on the beautiful city of Cordoba. And, if you can tweak your trip to early May, even better, because then you will be able to enjoy springtime in all its beauty during the Patio Festival.
What is the Patio Festival?
The Patio Festival is a competition that happens every year in early May when private courtyards, beautifully curated, are opened to the public. In fact, the festival will celebrate its 100th year in 2018, so plan ahead if you are considering a visit. The significance the festival has on local culture was recognised internationally when UNESCO awarded it Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012.
The history of the courtyards dates to Roman times, but it was the Spanish Moors who made them what you see today- filled with cool fountains, fruit trees, and flowers galore. It is a dream to enter many of these courtyards. The owners are usually in the patio and you can ask questions. Don’t forget to get the kids to thank them on your way out especially as these are private homes not museums.
Visiting the Patios with kids
You can pick up a tourist map of the patios at the tourist office or even easier get a map online. While visiting the courtyards is free, bring coins, as there is usually a bowl within the courtyard where it is polite to drop some Euros on your way out. It’s not necessary to visit all of the patios, choose a path and plan for more than one day of visiting. While every patio you visit will be beautiful and unique in its own way, with kids, you will have to go for quality over quantity. The festival visiting hours are roughly 11am to 2pm and 6pm to 10pm. Check the website for up to date hours and locations.
The patio festival is a very popular festival, so if you go, try to schedule yourselves for the morning sessions during the week. Even then you will find yourselves waiting in a line, so be prepared by bringing water, sunscreen, hats and if your kids are like mine- snacks.
Our children were usually too tired in the evening, so we just did the earlier sessions. But, I imagine the evenings would be beautiful, but a bit more crowded. There are different routes that you can follow and these are indicated in the maps. However, as with most things, there is no need to go for quantity. With the website you can view past winners and see a photo of each patio. Whichever ones you choose try to resist the feeling that you will miss out by not seeing all of them as every one of the courtyards are delightful.
Enjoying the Patios Year-Round
If you are visiting outside this time of year- you can still enjoy the festival by visiting the Palacio de Viana as well as the Trueque Cuatro- Patio Visitor Center which are both open year round.
The Palacio de Viana has 12 courtyards and is absolutely beautiful. We were able to visit the Palacio when the Festival Patio courtyards were closed as it is open from 10 until 7 (Tues-Sun) throughout the year. (The festival patios are closed in the afternoon from 2-6.) The Palacio's hours are seasonal though- in July and August their hours are from 9 to 3, so check here for the most up-to-date timetable.
The Trueque 4- Patio Visitor Center was opened by the city council to provide visitors with a permanent patio exhibition to celebrate its recognition by UNESCO. The beautiful patio gives visitors another chance to experience the charm of southern Spain's courtyards. It is open from 10:30-2. For up-to-date hours click the city's museum & monuments guide- it's listed under patios.
Splurge on a Patio Restaurant
When we travel we aim to keep costs down by having breakfast and dinner at home. For lunch we look for cafes that offer family friendly affordable food options. Eating like this is great for the budget, but sometimes parents want to adventure deeper into the local cuisine or experience fancier restaurants. Cordoba was one of those places, while touristy, we really wanted to splurge and eat in one of the many patio restaurants. They are gorgeously set in large inner courtyards and decorated with flowers and fountains. Our kids loved it as much as we did and it was exactly how we wanted to complete our experience in Cordoba.
Some other great articles on traveling with kids:
Boating on the Canal du Midi with Kids
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7 Kid-Friendly Activities on Lake Windermere
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Easter in Sicily with Kids
Visiting Sicily, Italy, during Easter with the kids is a real treat as there are so many festivals and parades happening around the island. The only problem you will really have is deciding where to go.