At first glance, Cordoba, Argentina's second largest city, is a sea of somewhat ugly concrete and red brick buildings, accented here and there with a Gothic spire, a European-style mansion, or a modern museum. Don't be entirely deceived, beneath this facade is a young, dynamic city with historical heritage, the friendliest people you'll ever meet, and access to the beautiful landscape and the Sierras of Cordoba that surround the city. It's true Cordoba is not Buenos Aires, and you will likely have to work a little harder to uncover hidden gems and unique things to do in the city, but I suppose for me, that's one of the most alluring aspects of travel - figuring things out on your own in an unfamiliar place.
THINGS TO KNOW
1| Cordoba is a cash city (as is much of Argentina), yet it can often be difficult to find cash as the ATM lines are long or the machines are out of money. Always keep a cash reserve on hand so you're not stuck in a bind. I always had luck with Galicia Banks throughout the city. Another option for getting larger sums of cash is to use the service called Xoom. Simply wire money from your home bank and pick it up with your passport at one of the pick-up points listed on the site throughout the city.
2| Cordoba and Argentina as a whole operate on what I call a late late schedule. Expect restaurants to open for dinner at 8pm or later, and if you arrive at opening you will likely be the only diner for some time.
3| Watch your step, dog feces on sidewalks is a rampant problem in Cordoba.
4| Peaceful protests and marches are as common as the sun rising in Argentina. Get used to it.
WHERE TO STAY
Azur Real Hotel Boutique | Located just a block from Plaza San Martin and Cordoba's main cathedral, this modern and delightfully designed boutique hotel is a charming oasis to call home while in Cordoba. The hotel has an outdoor patio and rooftop swimming area, a spa, and the fine dining restaurant Republica (see below).
WHERE TO EAT / DRINK
La Vieja Esquina | Arguably the best spot to sample local & traditional favorites such as empanadas, humita, and locro in Cordoba. If you happen to be in Cordoba on May 25th, you'll see people lined up around the block with their own pots looking to purchase a large quantity of locro, a hearty pork, bean and hominy stew, commonly eaten on this day. Items can be taken to go or eaten at a small number of bar seats inside.
El Papagayo | Cordoba's best fine dining establishment located in a beautiful Ernesto Bedmar designed space characterized by its narrow, passage-like quality, lofty ceilings, and textural contrasts. The food is locally sourced and prepared in a creative and inventive way. A crowd favorite is a soft boiled egg with cream cheese, salt, and crunchy bits served in its own shell. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner on Thursdays - Saturdays.
Al Malek | This friendly Middle Eastern spot in the General Paz neighborhood is a great spot to go with hungry friends. Order the Picada and you'll get a selection of hummus, labneh, baba ganoush, empanadas, kibbeh crudo (raw) and cocido (cooked), tabbouleh, dolmeh, and more at a very reasonable price. Service was friendly and efficient.
Crudo | Part specialty grocer, part restaurant/cafe, Crudo is an easy option for midday lunch or an afternoon snack. The bright & cheerful restaurant occupies the second floor of the space with the grocery downstairs. The menu changes weekly and offers a deal where you select a starter and a main or a main and a dessert for a flat rate. Service is friendly, albeit a tad slow.
Diran | A delicious & cozy, family operated Middle Eastern spot located in Mercado Norte serving what I consider the best Mediterranean food in Cordoba. They are only open for lunch Monday through Saturday.
La Mamma | The go-to Italian restaurant in Cordoba with an extensive menu featuring all the favorites. Don't miss the fresh pastas.
Republica | Located in the trendy chic Azur Real Boutique Hotel, Republica was perhaps the most unique dining experience I had in Cordoba. The restaurant offers two tasting menus, a 6 course and a 10 course, featuring somewhat strange flavor combinations with influences from a variety of regions. Although our particular menu wasn't my favorite, they seem to be moving in the right direction and the staff was lovely.
La Regional Empanaderia | Some of the best empanadas you'll find in Cordoba in an authentic, local spot. They also have great cazuelas, humita, tamales, and more.
Aquiles Cafe | They had me when I saw that the coffee cups come with complimentary felt cup holders, but the coffee is also tasty and the environment modern and lively. The two level cafe is a blend of grey tones with pops of yellow and has strong wifi, outlets, and couches/tables. They also have a selection of sandwiches and snack items to tide you over.
Veggie Burger Delivery | On Tuesdays & Fridays a local Cordobesa will whip up veggie burgers for purchase & deliver throughout the Nueva Cordoba area. The tasty burgers cost 60 pesos and are always slightly different. Whatsapp 351.331.5728 or 351.687.5169 between 11 and 1:30pm to place an order.
Festo | Grab & go wraps, salads, sandwiches, and tortes (some are better than others). The space is modern and clean, and also serves some of the better coffee in the area. Super friendly staff and they open early!
Milk | In the bar centric and uber trendy Guemes barrio of Cordoba you'll find Milk, a somewhat Victorian feeling bar serving up a selection of tasty cocktails.
Apartamento | Also in Guemes, Apartamento is a rustic chic multi level bar with both indoor and outdoor seating. The vibe is hipster heaven in the best possible sense and the cocktails are herbacious, varied, and all delicious. They also have a selection of food, so you can enjoy snacks or dinner with your drinks as well.
WHAT TO DO
1| Explore Plaza San Martin & the Cathedral.
2| Visit the Jesuit Block in the heart of town, the nation's intellectual center. Here you will find the Jesuit Church, the National University of Cordoba, the National School of Monserrat, and the Domestic Chapel.
3| Take a spin through the numerous museums throughout town. Some notable ones are Museo Palacio Ferreyra and the Palacio Dionisi Photography Museum.
4| Stroll the weekend Paseo de las Artes for local handicrafts.
5| Explore the bars and dining opportunities in the hip Guemes barrio.
6| Spend an afternoon in Parque Sarmiento.
7| Learn to dance the Cuarteto, the traditional dance of Cordoba.
8| Take a hike in the Sierras of Cordoba at Quebrada del Condorito National Park.
9| Live the gaucho life at Estancia Los Potreros.
10| Take a day trip the idyllic German towns of Villa General Belgrano or La Cumbrecita.
11| Learn how to make tasty vegan food or attend another workshop in the sustainable, hippie commune of Umepay.