Cordoba (city, Argentina)
Córdoba is the second largest city in Argentina, with about 2 million inhabitants, and is the capital of the Cordoba province. It is located in the heart of the Argentinian territory on the Pampas. The city is surrounded by valleys, formed up by three main mountain groups. It is known for the colonial buildings in the centre as well as for the beautiful hills in the surroundings.
The city is called La Docta because of the many universities and scientific institutes. Around 200.000 people study here, which make the city one of those with the youngest and liveliest appearance in South America. There is much cultural and night life, above all in the Güemes and Alta Córdoba areas and in the red light district, the Ex Abasto, called so because until 1990 there had been a huge market area (Mercado de Abasto, now in the city outskirts).
The colonial architecture of the city center is now cohabiting with many modern buildings. Although the oldest buildings are found in the surroundings of the Plaza San Martín (microcentro), the most pleasant areas are now the Nueva Córdoba district south of the centre and the area around the Cañada, a small river which crosses the city. These areas show a mix of well-designed modern buildings and old houses, often built in neo-colonial style. The Barrio Güemes, which is protected by municipal laws, is particularly pleasant, with an 19th century athmosphere rather similar to Buenos Aires' "San Telmo" district, but more movement.
The city district itself covers 529 square km and has 1,3 million inhabitants, but there are many satellite towns outside this area. Those west of the city lie in the hills of the Sierras de Córdoba and are residential areas with some tourist interest, such like Río Ceballos, La Calera, and the famous holiday centre Villa Carlos Paz near the San Roque dam, which provides the city with potable water and some electricity. North and east of the city, in the plains, there are poor suburbs with a slum-like appearance, like Juárez Celman and Malvinas Argentinas.
The climate in city and surroundings is pleasant the year round. Even in winter there are frequent warm, sunny days, although you must be prepared for cold nights and some chilly, cloudy periods, which never last more than a week or so. In summer, the rainy season (November to March) it is hot and humid and there are frequent innundations because of the bad state of the drainage system. Best time to visit is March to May and August to November, when it's not too hot nor too cool and there is very little rain.
The city was founded in 1573 and for a long time it was the largest and most important town in the region that today is Argentina, until 1776 when Buenos Aires was declared capital of the Virreinato del Río de la Plata. Its university was founded as early as 1613 by the Jesuits. The catholic church had much influence on social life until 1900, and Córdoba sometimes was called "Argentinas's Rome". In 1918 a student revolution, the Reforma Universitaria, led to a modernization of the university, which until this time had been very conservative and was full of corruption. This revolution spread to all cities of Argentina and most of Latin America.
In the 1950s the city was industrialized by Perón and Frondizi governments. Today, Córdoba is Argentina's second technology hub beyond Buenos Aires, leading above-all in motor industry and in high-tech sectors like software and electronics.
It is very easy to reach Córdoba from other parts of Argentina because of its position in the country's geographical center.
The International Airport Ingeniero Talavella, also called Pajas Blancas is 10 km north of the centre. There are flights to several towns in Argentina, to Santiago de Chile, Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) and Porto Alegre (Brazil), though now there are much less flights then in the 90s because of the economic crisis. If you come from overseas you must change in Buenos Aires (you can also do it in Santiago de Chile), where you probably will have to change from Ezeiza airport to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (shuttle bus service relatively expensive, more than half the price of a taxi!).
From the airport there is a normal bus to the central area (A5, 1,20 AR$), a minibus service (about AR$ 5 per person) and taxis.
Until the 1980's Córdoba was an important railway centre with many connections. Today, the only line left is that to Buenos Aires, via Villa María and Rosario, two times a week. The train is very cheap ($25 for tourist class) in comparison to buses, but the journey is about 5 hs. longer because of the deteriorated rails. There is also a daily local train to Villa María ($4). Train station (there were many, but most of them are out of use now) is near the omnibus terminal, on Boulevard Perón, another in the suburb of Barrio Ferreyra (south-east of the city).
The city is connected with most greater towns by good asphalted routes. A motorway to Rosario is been built to connect Córdoba with the Buenos Aires - Santa Fe highway, it's already done until Oncativo and between Carcarañá and Rosario. Another motorway links Córdoba with Carlos Paz. There is a plan to build other motorways to Santa Fe, Tucumán, and Río Cuarto.
Buses are now the most popular public transport. Ominibus terminal is at the crossing of Boulevard Illía with Boulevard Perón near the Río Suquía. There are direct connections to all greater cities and tourist centres of Argentina, with the exception of Ushuaia (you will have to change in Río Gallegos). Very frequent buses to Buenos Aires and Rosario. Also, the local buses to the suburbs stop here, another stop is at Mercado Sur near Plaza San Martín.
Since the abolition of the tramway in the 1960s, public transport is limited to buses. They now are divided in "corridors", each of them is associated with a colour and a letter: Red (R), Orange (N), Blue (A), Green (V), Yellow (C) and celeste (E). There are trolleybuses, too (A, B, and C), and a "Transversal" line (T). Most buses will charge 1,20 $, you must pay with bus coins (cospeles) or a special bus card. The buses of the lines 500-501, 600-601, and 700-701, which go around in the outskirts rounding the city, will charge 1,35 $, while the barriales (short-distance-buses) only charge 0,80 $.
There are also interurbanos which serve the suburbs of the city. They charge accordingly to the distance to the terminal, prices vary from about $2 to La Calera up to $6 to the peripheric suburbs of Villa Carlos Paz, Jesús María and Cosquín.
There are many colonial buildings in the city centre, most of them built by the Jesuits in 17 and 18 century. The Manzana de los Jesuitas, declared Humanity's patrimony by the UNESCO, is a whole block of such buildings, between 27 de Abril, Obispo Trejo, Caseros and Av. Vélez Sársfield.
There are many museums of all kind of things.
Parks and squares
Córdoba has a lot of cultural life, except in summer when the scene moves to Carlos Paz and other hillside resorts. But it's too a good centre for sports.
There are over 50 theaters, and many culture centers and "arte bars", where there are theater and art exhibitions. Every 2 years there is the Festival de Teatro del Mercosur, Argentina's most important theater festival, with many groups of South America.
Most important theaters include:
Modern theater is also shown in Cineclub Municipal Hugo del Carril (s.u.), where there are parodies of popular movies, each Monday.
The main cinemas are in the shopping centers of Patio Olmos, Showcase, Nuevo Centro and Córdoba Shopping, but there are some traditional cinemas in the city center.
Culturally interesting movies are shown at Cineclub Municipal Hugo del Carril, Bv. San Juan and Obispo Trejo, Teatro Córdoba Cine para ver, 27 de Abril / Belgrano, at the Facultad de Lenguas of the University, the Centro Cultural España Córdoba (see below) and the Sociedad Británica (British Society). Many "arte bars" show movies, too.
In the many cultural centres there are not only a wide variety of shows and exhibitions, but you can also assist at many courses:
There are also cultural activities at the CPC (municipal district centers).
In the Parque Sarmiento and Ciudad Universitaria you can do a wide variety of sports, including soccer, basketball, mountain-bike, and hockey.
The Universidad Nacional de Córdoba offers courses in a variety of sports, including climbing and sailing. Secretaría de Educación Física, Av. Valparaíso S/N.
The best-known soccer teams of Córdoba are Belgrano and Talleres, although they actually don't play in the First Division. The first division team, Instituto is less known. In Third Division there are Racing de Nueva Italia and General Paz Juniors.
Córdoba has a very good basketball team, Atenas, which holds the record of championships in Argentina and is known as one of the best outside the USA.
Although some locals do so, it is not recommended to swim in the polluted Río Suquía, except for the extreme north-west of the city.
You can swim at the following spots:
There are many buses (all 20 min) to all mentioned spots.
If your are on a hurry you can swim, too, in the many piscinas (swimmingpools) in the outskirts of the city itself, and even in the city centre, but most of them are rather poor and you will have to pass a medic examination.
Events like congresses, big concerts, and exhibitions are hold at the following centers:
Some events also take place in the soccer stadiums mentioned above.
There are many public and private universities, which are open to foreigners for studies and research. The greatest is the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, with 120.000 students, particularly good in technology, medicine and architecture.
Many organizations will give you a Spanish course, the cheapeste are the ones of the local university, but they are at least for a year. Intensive courses from private institutions can be very expensive, up to US$ 1000 for three weeks.
Córdoba has now a comparatively low unemployment rate (9 %), but wages are considerably lower than in Buenos Aires (but also the prices).
With English and Spanish knowledge you can work in many sectors, like gastronomy, tourism, or telemarketing (best chance for a part-time job).
The city actually has a fast-growing software industry and there is a lack of qualified personnel (the local university cannot satisfy the demand anymore). So if you are a software engineer you have good chances of finding a relatively well paid job in Córdoba.
If you want to work, get your work permit in your home country, but it's also possible to get it in the local Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (migration office), at Caseros / Ayacucho.
Córdoba is a good shopping city, where you can buy near all kind of things now at very cheap prices. The most active zone is the peatonal area and the nearby Mercado Norte, with cheaper prices. There are modern shopping malls, too: Patio Olmos and Garden Shopping (centre), Dinosaurio Mall and Córdoba Shopping (northwest), and the Nuevo Centro Shopping (west) where there is also the Sheraton Hotel. In the Nueva Córdoba area, but also in some central galleries, there are many modern-style shops and boutiques for young people, with often self-designed clothing. Note that electronic items like televisors, cameras and computers are the same price like in Europe and the US; particularly cellular phones even tend to be more expensive and are using old standards like GSM and CDMA.
Local arts and crafts are sold at the Paseo de las Artes (saturday and sunday recommended), where you also can buy some local food like salamis, honey, and alfajores (a local sweet with dulce de leche) in the very pleasant Güemes district (see above). There is also a arts and crafts market at Parque las Heras, on weekends, and some others at the main city squares and at the pedestrian mall at night after 8 pm. In summer most craftsmen move to the Sierras, where there is an attractive market at the dam Dique San Roque 10 km north of Carlos Paz, 15 km west of La Calera and 25 km from Córdoba itself, via route E-55.
Most restaurants are in the Cerro de las Rosas area, the Avenida Colón and in Nueva Córdoba, but nearly in all parts of the city you will find some good places to eat.
Cordoba has a very vibrant nightlife although it dies of somewhat during the university holidays over Christmas and doesn't get going again until March-ish. There are places to cater for all tastes from dingy bars to live shows to the latest and greatest music. The main events can be seen at the Site "Córdoba.Net" and in the La Voz del Interior newspaper. If you like electronic music, the web portal Cosmobeat will guide you to the main events in city and surroundings. Only the gothic scene is under-represented, there are only irregular parties. Also don't expect too much night life between sunday and tuesday, when only a few clubs are open (particularly monday).
In the following three districts there is the most active night life:
There are also some expensive clubs in the Cerro de las Rosas district. In Alta Córdoba and nearby General Bustos districts there are many arte bars with live music. In the suburbs of Villa Allende, Saldán and La Calera there are some popular clubs too. In summer there is a very active night life in Villa Carlos Paz, minibuses will take you to the biggest clubs from Plaza Vélez Sarsfield at 1 am if you pay the entrance fare in advance.
The authentic urban music of Córdoba is the lively, fast Cuarteto, invented in the 1940s but has changed greatly in the 1980s and 1990s, including more central-american (merengue) and pop influences. Bands of this genre play live several times a week, in the so called bailes, at sport centers, halls and great discotheques. Most of the visitors of these bailes are working-class youths or slum kids. If you want to visit a baile, particularly that of the most popular singer La Mona Jiménez, take a local with you, because there is frequent fighting and other alcohol excesses, but men generally only get in trouble if they speak to someone's girlfriend. For women there are no special dangers, because Argentine men are generally very polite to them, but don't feel disturbed if many boys want to speak to you...
The order of the following list is from cheap to expensive:
Most hotels are in the centre, with many cheap ones near the bus terminal. If you want to stay in a little bit more quiet environment, you can take a local bus and sleep in one of the pleasant resorts nearby (Note that in January and February the city itself will be more quiet than the resort suburbs!).
Telephone caracteristic of Córdoba is 0351, except for the Argüello area in the North-West, of which it is 03543.
Probably Córdoba is the city of Latin America with most internet cafés per capita, above all because of the many students. One hour of internet usually costs about $1 to $1,50.
The city is considered safer than Buenos Aires and Rosario, but it's not free of crime. Beware of pickpocketing in the local buses, above all when they are crowded (as it's normal). The avenidas of the Centro and Nueva Córdoba areas are safe around the clock, except the area near the Río Suquía from Monday to Thursday (at weekends there is much night-life there and it's safer). There are some dangerous suburbs, but they have no tourist attractions, they lie often near the outer ring-road (Avenida Circunvalación). Villa El Libertador and the Santa Isabel area, at the road to Alta Gracia, are considerated the most dangerous districts.
There are no special health risks, apart from homeless dogs in the suburbs which can transmit rabies if they bite, but this is rare. In some areas, particulary in the South-East and in the eastern Río Suquía area water and air are polluted, which is a great danger for the people who live there, but this districts are normally outside of tourist's itineraries.
There are many hospitals. Two of the best of the private ones are the Hospital Privado and the Sanatorio Allende in Nueva Córdoba. If you don't have medical security, you will be attended at the public hospitals, above all the Hospital de Urgencias in city centre, at no cost, but if you can we recommend you to donate some money for there is sometimes lack of medicines, and other things.
Tourist information at airport, bus terminal, and in the Cabildo building. Some other provinces, like Tierra del Fuego, Salta and La Rioja have tourist information offices in the city, they are called "casas de provincia".
Local magazines include Orillas (politics), Aquí (general information), Ocio Urbano (culture and events), Las Rosas (scene/boulevard magazine of the Cerro de las Rosas, expensive and poor), and Punto a Punto (economy).
You can continue to the Sierras de Córdoba, the hill district west of the city, which is the second most popular tourist destination of Argentina beyond the Atlantic Coast. The nearest resorts are only 20 km of the Circunvalación, but they tend to be crowded, so if you expect more peace and tranquility better go to the Traslasierra Valley (120 km west of the city), the huge plains and deep gorges of the Quebrada del Condorito national park between Carlos Paz and Mina Clavero (few services, but very pleasant scenery, superb views of nearly the whole Province of Córdoba and condor watching) or the more southerly resorts like La Cruz, Achiras or Río de los Sauces (particularly pleasant, with good trekking). In January and February, however, all the region is full of tourists.
About 250 km. NE is the huge Mar Chiquita lake, with an extension of about 6000 sq. km the second of South America. The only beach resort at its shoreline, Miramar, is far less crowded than most of the Sierras towns, and there is an interesting bird-life. Miramar, one of Argentina's most popular resorts in the 1950s and 1960s, still suffers an inundation from 1975 in which the lake destroyed half of the town and the coastal boulevard, but now has been re-modelled and is getting more popular again.
Córdoba is a good stopping point if you go from Buenos Aires to the Andean Northwest with its beautiful tourist attractions.