Published on February 4th, 2011 | by Mark Chesnut
The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Cordoba, Argentina
|A historic train station, now graced with a disco ball, is just one example of how Argentina’s second-largest city has successfully repurposed long-standing structures in creative new ways.|
Of course you’ve heard of Buenos Aires. Of course you know how wonderful, cultured and fascinating it is. But the problem when one city overtakes all others in the public’s imagination is that we end up less than informed about the wonders of that perennial also-ran, the second city.
In Argentina, the metropolis forever stuck in second place (in terms of population and geographic size) is Córdoba, which was founded in the 17th century by a bunch of Jesuits who were attracted by the region’s relatively temperate climate and strategic location between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Today, Córdoba is a hard-working, hard-studying and hard-partying place, a hub for business and education. Following a convention in Buenos Aires, I hopped on a speedy, comfortable LAN Airlines flight and in about an hour touched down in one of the nation’s lesser-known gems, checking in at the comfy, well-furnished Holiday Inn Cordoba (check out my hotel review here). Latin America specialist Metropolitan Touring helped to show me some of the best the city has to offer.
I wrote in depth about the wonders of Córdoba in Business Traveler Magazine, but if you’re looking for fast info, here are five of my top reasons why you should consider visiting.
1. History. The city’s original Jesuit complex, today a well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, was where Argentina’s first university, the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, was founded in 1622 — and it still functions today as one of the country’s most important centers of learning.
2. Museums. Considering the city’s importance as an educational hub, it’s no surprise that it’s a good place for art and museums as well. Among the noteworthy venues is the Museo Emilio Caraffa, which exhibits contemporary art and recently expanded, and the Museo Superior de Bellas Artes Evita, which opened in 2007 in a historic mansion and houses art ranging from the 18th to the 21st century.
3. Music. And no, not tango. That’s from Buenos Aires. In Córdoba, the local favorite is cuarteto. You can check it out live at Sala del Rey.
4. Attractive Urban Planning. Córdoba appears to have excelled at repurposing older structures and giving them new life. Patio Olmos, one of the city’s largest shopping malls, is set in a former school. Casa Tomada, once a bakery complex, is now one of the coolest places for funky gifts. And Paseo del Buen Pastor, an attractive complex that includes restaurants, shopping and cultural exhibits, is set in an attractively recast former women’s prison.
5. Small Towns and Lovely Scenery. Just outside the city, rolling hills lead to tiny towns, several of which were founded by the Jesuits centuries ago and still show their historical roots. You’ll also find one village, with the impressive-sounding name of Villa General Belgrano, that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Germany (I dined on schnitzel for lunch here).
And regardless of how you may feel about him, you’ll probably find something of interest at the Che Guevara Museum, located in the town of Alta Gracia, not far from the city of Córdoba. His modest childhood home has been converted into an exhibit space, where visitors learn about the early influences on his life.
Argentina National Tourist Office: http://argentina.travel/en/
Turismo de Córdoba: www.cordobaturismo.gov.ar
GETTING THERE: Several airlines offer international service to Córdoba. LAN offers the most number of flights, with nonstops from its hubs in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Lima.
You can use the links below to check airfares and hotel rates, and then compare using the booking tools along the side of this page (I’ve included everything you need to make informed travel decisions and get the best deals right here on LatinFlyerBlog.com — please share your tips as well!).