Cordoba de la Nueva Andalucia
Re-entering Argentina to continue the tour in Argentina after a couple of days visiting Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, it is now time for one of the most visited places in the country, the beautiful Cordoba. Argentina’s second largest city, named after Cordoba in Spain was founded in 1573 by Conquistador Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, who claimed most of the northwest of current Argentina. Soon after, the original urban plan for the city was created: the traditional colonial orthogonal grid of streets, 70 blocks in total in a 10 by 7 with an epicentral square, the heart of the religion and politics where the City Hall and Cathedral were built.
It was not much later, in 1616 when the Jesuit Block started to take shape in its construction, becoming the first university in Argentina, and the 4th oldest in South America. Several other complexes ere built by the Jesuits in the province, receiving the name of Estancia Jesuistica, each had its own church and buildings around which, a town grew. Nowadays, these are one of the major tourist draws, and preserved for posterity by their inclusion in the UNESCO’s list as World Heritage Site.
Churches, basilicas, monasteries and palaces for wealthy merchants soon filled all available plots, rivalling in greatness with Buenos Aires to the point of been considered as the capital of the country before any other city. Its population kept growing, expanding beyond its original limits to create new districts around the old town; tending of new avenues and streets, infrastructure and another great boost to its economy after the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Italy and Spain at the end of the 19th century. The taste for the architecture change for a French, Italianate and Spanish colonial, same as it happened in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th century, and although beautiful, it meant the destruction of most of the original colonial fabric to make way for the bigger and greater.
Sadly, the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s did not add any value into the urbanism and architecture, but instead destroyed many beauties to create tasteless concrete block towers with questionable design. So while in Buenos Aires you have incredible streets and avenues somewhat intact, Cordoba does lack from it although does not mean there isn’t any. In the other hand when planning a trip here and deciding how long time will be appropriate, that’s an easy reply. For the city itself a day, while for the Estancias in the province another day. Two days in what relates to Cordoba, sightseeing and heritage. Of course more, even weeks for anyone perhaps on a sabbatical year trip with plenty of time and desire for visiting some of the countless towns and sites in the province.
With regards to food and drinks, this is a very similar note to what you will find actually everywhere in the country, and almost one to one to Buenos Aires. Offering a great variety and mix of flavours, legacy of the mix of cultures from the original native people, the colonial influence from the Spanish and the British, and the influence of the large immigration groups as the Italians, French and Germans. Finding an “asado” (mix of grilled meats) is an easy task, however considering the overall costing of living and income, it does not come cheap if that’s what you were thinking; but of course affordable to the average tourist. It generally includes steak, ribs, chorizo (pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), mollejas (pancreas or other glands) and served with Chimichurri sauce (mixed herbs, garlic and vinegar). At very fair prices you can get a nice grill at Negro El 11 inside the Patio Olmos shopping centre.
After an asado, another of the best known dishes is the empanada. Although from Spanish origin, South America has specialised in these more than ever. It is a pastry filled with meats, vegetables, cheese; or simply anything and the combination of these all, very similar to a British Cornish Pastry. And directly taken from the Italian influence, you have the milanga, a very popular dish which is basically a milanesa (breaded and deep-fried meat like chicken); and of course pasta of any kind. They do love pizza! And certainly they do know how to make a good one. Highly recommended restaurant offering any of these dishes and plenty more in a beautiful environment and setting is Solar de Tejada, just opposite the Cathedral. Considering its location at the very heart of the city and all the sights, their prices are very fair and amount and quality very good.
As for dessert, while there are countless sweets and pastries, chocolate and churros is widely served and so is the dulce de leche which they use to fill pastries, put over cakes, top ice creams or simply eat on its own as such.
For more information about Cordoba visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Argentina’s currency is the Peso ($, ARS). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Cordoba
- Colon Avenue – Emilio Olmos Avenue The northernmost edge of the city during the colonial times, nowadays a major avenues and transport hub linking west to east.
-La Mundial Building At the intersection of Emilio Olmos with Rivadavia Street. Listed as one of the narrowest buildings in the world.
- Our Lady of La Merced Church In Rivadavia Street, meters south from La Mundial. Dating from 1776.
- 9 de Julio – 25 de Mayo Streets Perpendicular to Rivadavia, and just a block north from the main square, San Martin, is one of the main pedestrian shopping street in the city, together with nearby San Martin, Obispo Trejo and Dean Funes.
- San Martin Square The heart of Cordoba since the colonial times, the place where all the streets radiate from to form the checkerboard urban plan. It is here and in the nearby streets where the major sights and most beautiful buildings are.
-Obispo Mercadillo House Along the north side of the square, this small fraction of a former bigger building, yet richly decorated, is one of the oldest in the city still standing, and unique as being the first with an iron balcony. It dates from the beginning of the 17th century.
-ANSES Building One of the very few worth architecturally in this side of the square, at the northeastern corner. In modernist lines.
-Plaza Hotel and Provincial Bank of Cordoba Both building mark the southeast corner of the square with great elegance in their architecture, with San Jeronimo Street in between them.
-Teatro Real Along the west side of the square, in eclectic style from 1927.
-Church and Convent of Las Teresas Occupying an entire block at the northwest corner of the square and just opposite the Cathedral. Founded in 1628, majority of the buildings date from the 18th century in baroque style. Part of it has been dedicated to the Museum of Religious Art, which costs 60 Pesos to enter (well worth it).
-Cathedral In existence in the same place since 1582, the current main building dates from 1709, with the later additions of the Spanish Baroque facade in 1729 and the twin bell towers in 1787. Located along the west side.
-Cabildo Also by the west side, the former City Hall, although founded in 1588, it was not until 1786 that the current building was erected, together with the opening of Santa Catalina Promenade and the completion of the Cathedral just across the road. Nowadays it is the City’s History Museum.
- Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera Square Literally behind the Cathedral, along the nice cobble stone Santa Catalina Promenade.
-Santa Catalina Monastery Built in 1625 although transformed through the centuries, was the first all-female monastery in Argentina.
- Plazoleta de la Compania South from Santa Catalina along Obispo Trejo Street, this cute little square opens to the Jesuit Block, directly over the church of the Compania de Jesus, the historical University headquarter and the Law School.
- Jesuit Block The most precious architectural and historical gem in the province of Cordoba, nowadays listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Originally built from 1615 by Jesuit Missionaries, expanding new buildings until the expulsion of the Jesuits from the South American continent in 1767 by decree of King Charles III of Spain. In the decades later it was taken over by the Franciscans until 1853, when the Jesuits could return. Composed of several building such as the University of Cordoba (one of the oldest in the continent) the Monserrat Secondary School, a chapel, library and residence buildings.
- Teatro Libertador The main opera house in Cordoba was inaugurated in 1891, built in eclectic Italian style, entirely with materials brought from Europe. You’ll find it along Avenida Velez Sarsfield, side by side with the southwest corner of the Jesuit Block.
- Patio Olmos A former boys school from 1906 in renaissance revival style turned into an up-scale shopping gallery. Located next to the Teatro Libernator.
- Intendencia Square Before continuing south or east from Patio Olmos, head west a block, then north along Avenida Marcelo T. de Alvear to reach this large square. Although not special, the only important building is the Palace of justice, where you can get the main facade from the other square at the north, Paseo Marques de Sobremonte.
- Inmaculada Square Exactly 2 blocks east from the Plazoleta de la Compania, along the same street. Very charming surrounded by important colonial structures.
-Inmaculada School Aligning the east side of the square, with Entre Rios Street along the north side.
-Saint Francis Convent Blending neoclassical, baroque and renaissance styles. One of the oldest church in Cordoba, originally dating from just 2 years after the foundation of the city. The current structure dates from 1813.
- Mitre Railway Station Continuing east Along Entre Rios Street after Inmaculada Square. The principal train station since its construction in 1886 in neoclassical style, located at the eastern edge of the historic town, north of the main bus station.
- Sarmiento Park South from the Railway Station. The largest in the city, located where Avenida Poeta Lugones marks its northern boundary having the bus station in the east, the Fine Arts Museum at the west, and in between, several other museums such as the Rueda Eiffel, a former Ferris-wheel dating from 1916 claimed to be designed by the Eiffel workshop, nowadays turned into a monument; the Zoo, Natural Science Museum; Cultural Centre and Caraffa Fine Arts Museum both designed in post-modern architecture.
- Evita Fine Arts Museum Housed in a beaux-arts mansion once home of the reputed physician and surgeon Dr. Martin Ferreyra and designed in 1912. Located at the southern end of Avenida Hipolito Yrigoyen, opposite the Sarmiento Park.
- Capuchinos Church By the intersection of Avenida Hipolito Yrigoyen with Calle Buenos Aires if you head back up north towards the city centre. Completed in 1934 it is the largest neo-Gothic building in the city.
- Outside of the city There are lots one can do having as a base Cordoba city. From nature and landscapes, to cities, towns and villages where time seems to have stood still. But to mention some of the most beautiful and historical, these would the Jesuit Estancias.
-Estancia Alta Gracia One of the largest and most complete of the Jesuistic sites. Located 37 kilometres southwest of downtown Cordoba, it should be included on anyone’s visit to Cordoba itself. Listed on its own as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The easiest way to get there is by bus, with frequencies of every few minutes at the cost of 280 Pesos return.
-Estancia Caroya 54 kilometres north of Cordoba’s city centre. It was the very first created, back in 1616
-Estancia Jesus Maria Merely 2.7 kilometres north from Estancia Caroya, within the same city of the same name, Jesus Maria.
-Estancia Santa Catalina Continuing north some 20 kilometres after Estancia Caroya. Together with Alta Gracia, it is one of the best preserved and complete, and a valuable jewel of the colonial architecture in Argentina.
-Estancia La Candelaria The farthest from Cordoba’s downtown, 230 kilometres northwest, and the smallest and less preserved.
Ingeniero Ambrosio Taravella International Airport is some 10 kilometres north of the city, hence really good connected with the downtown. The capacity and routes are mostly national and some international across South America, with only a direct flight far into Europe, Madrid. The need to interconnect in Buenos Aires is almost obvious, but with that many flights between Cordoba and the capital, it is very easy and straightforward, and the flights will be booked under the same PNR code.
The AeroBus runs between the terminal and the central bus terminal via several stops in the city centre, every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day for a cost of 126.50 ARS per way during the day time, and 145.50 at night time (01.00 through 05.00am). Some handy stops are Plaza San Martin, Plaza Intendencia, Patio Olmos or Boulevard Umberto Illia. Now, in order to be able to take this bus, you need to buy beforehand a travel card called RedBus for 50 ARS, where value is added and deducted every time you take a bus and tap at the access turnstiles, same as in any city in Argentina. On the bright side of the story, you can buy this card in the airport, and with only one, multiple people can travel.
But without any doubt, the time saver and most comfortable way, if you have got data allowance on your mobile phone while in Argentina, is to use both Uber and Cabify. Available everywhere, super efficient although sometimes during the rush hours it can get tricky to get one. Cabify is the best alternative to Uber in any Latin America country and Spain, where this service was born. The fares are really low, and moving from the airport or bus terminal to the city centre could not be any easier and faster.
Coming overland, your best option without hesitation would be by long distance bus. These are extremely comfortable, very reliable and very frequent all over Argentina. This is the principal option local people do since flying could be cost-prohibitive for a big chunk of the population. If, in the other hand, you like and even cheaper option than a bus then you have the railway. Not very helpful anyway at a frequency of twice weekly to Buenos Aires, but more often and possibly a great time saviour to other cities like Villa Maria and Rosario.
Once in the city itself, what relates to the old historic district there is no need for taking any public transportation, unless your hotel/place you’re staying is far away from the centre. Distances are short and likewise other cities, once you get outside of the main tourist area there is nothing else but residential districts.
For a city of this size you can expect to find anything in terms of accommodation you want. From the top of the notch luxurious and boutique hotels to something more modest and every range in between. Plenty of rental apartments, bed & breakfast and hotels. Name it and you have it. On a bright side, the overall cost per night at an already high quality property is really good and cheaper than expected. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
We stayed at the NH Cordoba Panorama, in 251 Avenida Marcelo T. de Alvear, just 2 blocks west from the Jesuit Block and therefore right by the old town with most of the sights waling distance away. Not only its location was great, was also the property itself, with very friendly and welcoming staff; comfortable, large and quiet room; all very up-to-date in decoration and care, and a nice breakfast too. The rooftop pool was a nice treat to terminate the day and refresh yourself.