The Patios of Cordoba are a multi-coloured bonanza of pots and plants. Tucked down alleyways and backstreets they offer a beautiful escape from the sun on those hot Spanish afternoons.
We have the Romans to thank for the patios of Córdoba. Founded by General Claudius Marcellus between 169 BCE and 152 BCE, Córdoba was – in its early years – the favoured conquest of a Roman empire expanding into Spain. But, after picking the wrong side in the civil war, Córdoba was sacked by Caesar to pay for the allegiance it formed with Pompey.
What was a bruised town thanks to vengeful Caesar, later became a building site for the new emperor Augustus. He made it a Colonia Patricia, built the walled perimeter and dished out generous land to war veterans. A housing boom was underway in Roman Córdoba.
MUSLIM INFLUENCE ON THE PATIOS OF CÓRDOBA
Due to the hot dry climate, the Roman style was imitated. Houses were built around a central courtyard with a well or fountain in the middle to collect rainwater. When the Muslims captured Córdoba in 711 CE, they continued the tradition of the patio, adding an entrance from the street and filling the patios of Córdoba with plants to add an element of lush coolness.
This Roman/Muslim fusion lives on today with the courtyard (patio in Spanish) being the central feature of both house and palace. Never to be outdone by predecessors, the Christian’s added their own flair to the city by constructing the ostentatious Castle of the Christian Monarchs shortly after they conquered Córdoba in 1236.
No visit would be complete without seeing the influence of Roman, Muslim and Christian heritage through their gorgeous patios and gardens – one of the many interesting things to do in Córdoba. With the scent of jasmine and orange blossom wafting in the air, strolling around the colourful streets and popping into the patios of Córdoba is the perfect way to earn that late afternoon glass of fino.
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1 – PALACIO DE VIANA
Of all the patios of Córdoba, Palacio de Viana is probably the finest. Built in the 15th century, Palacio de Viana originally stuck to the Roman rules with a single courtyard in the centre of the house. But, after 5 centuries of expansion by the previous 18 owners, Palacio de Viana is now a sprawling palace that has slowly engulfed its neighbours. With a whopping 12 courtyards and a garden, it’s a great place to start a tour of the patios of Córdoba.
The patios at Palacio de Viana range from formal hedged symmetrically pleasing designs, to pot-filled colourful nooks. Thanks to the Arabic-Hispanic roots, water plays a key role in the look and feel of many of the gardens.
Orange trees create a sense of Moroccan allure, while sculptured cypresses provide that dignified regal atmosphere you get after 5 centuries of entertaining royalty. Intricate mosaics, inviting blue doors, and interesting features all combine to create a beautiful atmosphere.
If you have some flexibility in your Córdoba itinerary, Palacio de Viana is free Wednesday afternoons. More information is in our guide on the best things to do in Córdoba.
2 – LA CASA ANDALUSÍ
Located in the Jewish Quarter, La Casa Andalusí is a step back in time, reflecting the glory days of the Caliphate. It’s a beautiful house/museum which contains one of the smallest patios of Córdoba, complete with water features and beautiful mosaics. Inside the house, there is a scale model of one of the first paper factories.
This Chinese invention moved to Baghdad then across the Islamic Empire and entered Europe via the caliphate in Spain. This mix of cultural influences is one of the many reasons a summer holiday in Spain is so rewarding.
The house is full of Moroccan trinkets, books and exhibits that are interesting to inspect. A number of corners are covered in intricate Visigothic bas-relief, left over from the Germanic tribes who sacked old Imperial Roman cities.
The basement has remnants of the tunnels that ran under the houses in the Jewish Quarter and out under the city walls.
3 – SAN BASILIO
The patios in the San Basilio area are all part of privately owned houses with their garden oases on show for public pleasure. A ticket for €5 provides access to 5 great patios of Córdoba. Your ticket is often personally stamped by the owner on the way in, nobly standing proud as punch at the entrance to his realm.
On our visit, number 5 was locked for some reason, but we made a bit of a racket out the front and the owner let us in. This worked beautifully for us because we were the only people in his little courtyard; no busloads of tourists to get in the way of our shots.
There are a number of free patios in the area you can pop your head into as well.
The walls of the patios are covered with small plant pots which look like they require some diligent watering from dedicated owners. And they’re happy to do it. Each year patio owners compete in the coveted Courtyards and Crosses competition which takes place during the Patio Festival in the first week of May.
All the patios are free during the festival and best enjoyed with a glass of fino from the nearby Montilla-Moriles region.
4 – ALCÁZAR OF THE CHRISTIAN MONARCHS
After conquering Córdoba, the Christian Monarchs set about building an impressive palace to house themselves. The Alcázar was built in 1328 on top of previous Roman, Islamic and Visigoth Ruins. Acting as both fortress and palace, it was the favoured home of many Christian Kings. It is also infamous for serving as the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition in 1482.
The interior doesn’t have much to see, except for a few mosaics and a weird chapel. A climb up to the tower, however, is well worth it for the great views of the Alcázar’s showpiece: the stunning gardens. While it may be a push to call these gardens on of the patios ofCórdoba, the expansive grounds consist of large ponds framed by extremely well-maintained trees. With the water features, excessive use of marble and beautiful mosaics, the whole compound has a spectacular grandeur. Most probably just what the Christian kings were going for.
Like Palacio de Viana, the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs also has a free period. See all the details in our Córdoba guide.
POPULAR TOURS IN CÓRDOBA
There’s a host of fantastic things to do in Córdoba. Here are some great tours to help you get acquainted with this Andalucían gem. For more information read our guide to Córdoba.
MORE READING FOR YOUR SPAIN TRIP
Andalucía is one of our favourite areas in Spain. With an excellent climate, world-class cities and beautiful nature parks, it’s a fantastic southern European destination. Here are more of our guides from the area.
Traditional Tapas & Spanish Masters – get the most out of 3 days in Seville
5 best pueblos blancos (white villages) of Andalucía
Our favourite things to do in the fascinating city of Córdoba, Spain
Complete Guide to hiking El Torreón in Sierra de Grazalema
Our favourite things to do in Seville
Uncovering an enlightened caliphate in Córdoba
Complete Guide to hiking El Pinsapar trail in Sierra de Grazalema