Argentina‘s second most populous city after Buenos Aires is Córdoba, a cliched mix of the old and new. This university city, bustling with a young population is a cauldron of style and culture, reflected in the number of reputed museums, galleries, and ‘hip’ cafes. The diverse architectural styles around Córdoba, from the Gothic to the modern, point to the rich heritage of the city. Founded in 1573 by Spanish conquistador Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera who named it after the Spanish city by the same name, Córdoba served as one of the first Spanish colonial capitals of the region. Its colonial past is evident in many of the distinctive Christian monuments around the city, especially in the UNESCO World Heritage, Jesuit Block.
Cathedral of Córdoba – Córdoba’s Cathedral has the distinction of being the oldest church in continuous service in the whole of Argentina. Work on the church began in 1582, but almost a century later in 1677, much of it collapsed and was destroyed. The church was partially rebuilt and inaugurated in 1709 although it was still incomplete, it was eventually consecrated in 1787. Various elements were added through the years giving the cathedral its mixed architectural form. The inside of the church is especially beautiful with a sterling silver altar which was created in Peru.
Evita Fine Arts Museum – The iconic Palacio Ferreyra which houses the Evita Museum of Fine Arts is an impressive building built between 1912 and 1916 for a prominent local physician and surgeon. The mansion was refurbished and opened as the Museum of Fine Arts in 2007. There are 12 exhibit halls, a library and a 120 seat auditorium within the museum, showcasing over 500 works. For those interested in art or architecture it’s a great place to visit.
Church of the Society of Jesus – Forming a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Jesuitic Block, the Baroque church stands out prominently from the other buildings in the area. The Church of the Society of Jesus was built by the Jesuits between 1645 and 1671. The simple stone facade stands in sharp contrast to the lavishly decorated interior with a carved wooden altarpiece and a cedar roof resembling an inverted hull of a ship.
Paseo del Buen Pastor – What is now a cultural center and space for performances was once a woman’s prison, monastery, and chapel. The jail was functional until the 1970s and was later closed and demolished to accommodate the new center. However, the chapel with its beautiful frescoes was restored and transformed into an arts center. A shopping gallery and a few cafes also form part of this interesting space.
Plaza San Martin – Flanked by some of the most important colonial-era buildings, the Plaza San Martin is the historic core of the city, dating back to 1577. Two of the most iconic landmarks, the Cathedral and the Cabildo are both located in this square. Also within the square is the statue of General Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Argentina. The square is popular with visitors and locals for the live shows that happen daily as well as the cafes that line the area.
Cabildo – The historic Cabildo dates back to 1749 when a more permanent structure was built to replace the wood structure that was used as a meeting place for the local government. The Modernist building has been used by the city government since the 1960s and was also used as a detention center during the last dictatorship. Today the Cabildo houses the Historical Museum of the city.
Basilica of Santo Domingo – One of the most important churches in Cordoba is the pink-colored Basilica of Santo Domingo which belongs to the Dominican order. The current church which was the third to be built on the same grounds dates back to 1861. Of particular note are the four domes of the towers that are adorned with blue and white tiles, the Latin cross inside the building and the silver altar from Peru. The shields belonging to the wealthy benefactors of the church are also visible inside.
Emilio Caraffa Fine Arts Museum – The Provincial Fine Arts Museum was established in 1915 and the neoclassical building that houses its collections was commissioned the following year. Designed by architect Juan Kronfuss, the initial structure had one exhibit hall the Kronfuss Salon. It was later expanded to its present size of nine exhibit halls which showcases some of the best contemporary art in the city. The museum was renamed in 1950 to honor local artist Emilio Caraffa.
General San Martin Theater – Argentina’s most historic theater is located in the city and is definitely worth a visit just to marvel at the opulence of the interior. Inaugurated in 1891, the theater built in the Beaux-Arts architectural style which was predominant at the time, outsourced all its materials right down to the fabric and machinery from Europe. The concert hall which was designed to seat 1,000 spectators features a rising floor that can be raised to the level of the stage so that the venue could also be used for social balls.
Church of the Sacred Heart (Capuchin Church) – Another of Cordoba’s iconic landmarks is the neo-Gothic Sacred Heart Church of the Capuchins which dominates the skyline of the Nueva Cordoba. The church which was built between 1928 and 1934 is even more distinctive because of the missing steeple which was deliberately left out of the structure to symbolize human imperfection. Besides the stunning exterior, the inside of the church with its vaulted ceiling is also worth a visit.
Sarmiento Park – The 43 acre Sarmiento Park is the city’s largest public park, envisioned in 1890 and opened in 1911. A rose garden, duck lake, natatorium, and the city zoo are all located within the verdant environs of the park. Also part of this ‘Belle Epoch’ space created by French landscape artist and architect, Carlos Thays, is a Greek amphitheater. This green space is a welcome sojourn on a hot day for locals and visitors, given its proximity to the city center.
Just So You Know…
- Cordoba’s Manzana Jesuitica (Jesuit Block) and five Jesuit estancias in the province were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2000. The University of Cordoba, the oldest university in Argentina is also part of this block.
- The weekend street market Paseo de las Artes spread out over several blocks of the hip Güemes neighborhood is a great place to pick up some interesting souvenirs.
- Get Some Culture:
- Museo de la Memoria – To get a feel of what times were like under the military dictatorship, head to this somber museum which was once a detention and torture center.
- National Beer Festival – On similar lines to the Oktoberfest of Munich, this 11-day beer-guzzling festival held every year in the district of Villa General Belgrano in the province of Cordoba, attracts visitors from all over.
- Grab A Bite:
- Los Infernales de Güemes – This classic bar in a historic townhouse is a great place for a relaxed evening with its eclectic music and great Argentinian cuisine.
- El Papagayo – Traditional Argentine flavors are blended with a Mediterranean touch in this sleek restaurant, to create some of the most mouth-watering dishes served in small quantities. The set menu offers customers a choice between 11 or 8 small plates of delectable tastes.