Córdoba, the second-largest city in Argentina, has a different personality than the metropolis of Buenos Aires. Across the country, the people of Córdoba (known as Cordobesas) are known as fun-loving folks with a fondness for cuarteto music, rally car racing, and the drink of Fernet and Coke. While most people visiting the country will no doubt explore the capital city, Córdoba is worth the trip for its blend of new and old, with 17th-century Jesuit ruins alongside modern art galleries, and a huge student population that makes the city fun and hip.
It’s home to the country’s oldest surviving university and its rugged outskirts provide plenty of adventurous activities like parasailing and horseback riding. Córdoba is much more relaxed than Buenos Aires, so feel free to linger over a long lunch, relax in the square with a coffee or ice cream, and meet a few of the laid back locals.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Córdoba:
1. Plaza de San Martin
The city’s central square is a good place to start your time in Córdoba.
You’ll find a statue of the famous General Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Argentina (and Chile and Peru) in the center.
For architecture buffs and cathedral enthusiasts, there’s the Iglesia Catedral Córdoba which was built in the 1500s and a 17th century colonial cabildo which once housed the town police and now provides tourist information.
Almost daily, you’ll find shows by bands or street performers and vendors plying their wares here.
You can have a coffee, people-watch, or feed the pigeons in this attractive central plaza.
2. Museo de la Memoria
If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with the devastating history of Argentina’s “Dirty War” during the 70s and 80s yet, this museum provides an enlightening look.
Visitors can see some photos of the many thousands of people who disappeared at the hands of the government during this time of political turmoil.
Gain some insight into the military dictatorship of la Guerra Sucia and the kidnappings and tortures that occurred in secret.
The stark space that houses the museum was used as a secret torture and detention location by the dreaded Department of Intelligence (D2). Families of those who were “disappeared” have donated the information and photos that are featured all over the walls here.
3. Parque Sarmiento
It’s the largest public park in the area.
If you fancy a little downtime, relax by the picturesque lake or the rose garden inside.
The park is centrally located, with families playing and joggers passing through on its many trails.
If you wait around long enough, an ice cream or doughnut vendor might just pass by.
Take out a paddle boat, use the exercise equipment, feed the ducks, or just lounge in the grass.
The park is even home to a zoo! There are occasional live performances at the amphitheater inside, and it’s open until late in the summer.
4. Evita Fine Arts Museum
Located in the grandiose Beaux-Arts mansion, this museum contains over 500 works and a sculpture garden.
You can traipse through rooms filled with paintings by many important Argentine artists as well the likes of Picasso and Goya.
The museum was once the opulent private residence of the aristocratic doctor and businessman Martin Ferreyra.
The art collection is worth the visit alone, but the magnificent house (well, palace) contains an impressive staircase and a lovely cafe with a balcony.
5. Paseo de Las Artes
A great place for shopping or just browsing, this weekend street market contains original handicrafts, souvenirs, and vintage clothing and accessories, all spread out over several blocks in the Güemes neighborhood.
Check out the food for sale and street performers trying to make a buck as you wander the stalls of vendors.
There might be quite a lot of repetition in what you see, so make sure you check around for the best prices.
Even if you don’t want to buy anything, the market is surrounded by lots of great restaurants, cafes, bars, and art galleries.
6. Iglesia de Los Capuchinos
A beautiful church in the Nueva Córdoba neighborhood, the inside might seem a little subdued when compared to its impressive, multicolored neo-Gothic exterior.
Designed by Italian architect Augusto Ferrari and built through the 1920s and 30s, make sure to walk inside to peek up at the ceiling for a glimpse of the painted night sky.
There are murals and religious artworks on the inside, with locals still coming and going for a quick prayer or confession throughout the day.
7. Dance to Cuarteto Beats
Possibly the city’s most popular export, the upbeat cuarteto music is a Córdoba invention that’s now popular all over Argentina. But especially in Córdoba.
It was made famous by the singer Rodrigo Bueno who was able to take the music outside the city and into the capital, and the style involves a catchy blend of piano, accordion, bass, and violin.
La Sala del Rey is a good place to check out a cuarteto show, with popular bands often playing live on Sunday nights.
Note that cuarteto shows can sometimes attract a down-market crowd, but they’re sure to be foot-tapping.
8. El Paseo Buen Pastor Cultural Center
Once a women’s prison, monastery, and chapel, this renovated performance space and cultural center is a fun meeting place in the center of town that’s good for a wander.
You can catch shows, check out live music, and view the artwork that’s on display inside.
Have a coffee, a snack, or a drink at one of the many eateries and outdoor tables in the Nueva Córdoba barrio.
And be sure to stick around at night for the fountains that light up during one of their “dancing waters” shows.
9. Get Adventurous in the Village of La Cumbre
Tourists and local Cordobeses alike enjoy a getaway to the nearby village of La Cumbre.
A tiny town located in the Sierras de Córdoba mountain range, it’s less than a two-hour drive away from the city.
Famous for its winds and launch cliffs, La Cumbre put itself on the map when it hosted the 1994 World Paragliding Cup.
Try the exciting sport yourself up at Cuchi Corral or with Hernán Pitocco, a world famous instructor who resides there.
If that’s not your thing, take a horseback ride through the gorgeous mountain landscapes with Carmelo Cabalgatas or one of the local estancias.
10. Teatro del Libertador General San Martín
Completed in 1891, this is the city’s most historic theater and it’s worth a visit just to check out the absolute opulence of the interior.
With all sorts of performances from rock to classical music to ballet, you’re sure to find a show you like.
At night, it’s impressive to see the exterior facade all lit up as you walk by.
Acoustics here are reportedly phenomenal, so check the schedule to see what’s on while you’re in town.
11. The Jesuit Block
Possibly the reason that many tourists visit the city, the Jesuit Block or Manzana Jesuítica in Córdoba is one of the best preserved European settlements of its kind.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it contains the University of Córdoba, the oldest university in Argentina and the fourth-oldest in the Americas.
It also includes a church (la Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús), a secondary school, and several residence buildings all built by the Jesuits in the 1600s in pursuit of religion and education.
The one-hour guided tours offered at the Museo Histórico de la Universidad Nacional de Córdoba will make your time here much more enlightening.
Learn all about the history of the area and check out the Jesuit’s Grand Library with its collection of 17th century books.
12. Drink a Fernet and Coke
Argentines drink three-quarters of the world’s Fernet, a bitter, brown, herbal liqueur brought to the country by Italian immigrants in the 19th century.
Though the Italians usually drink it as a digestif, Argentines prefer to mix it with Coca-Cola.
Fernet Branca is the preferred brand (and pretty much the only one you’ll see around), and the people of Córdoba drink about one-third of all the fernet in Argentina.
This aromatic concoction is an acquired taste to say the least, but when in Rome, right? Order a Fernet con Coca and grab a seat outside at a funky bar like Dada Mini to say you’ve at least tried one.
13. Visit Nearby Villa Carlos Paz
Just minutes away from Córdoba, Villa Carlos Paz is a lovely little tourist town and the gateway to the beautiful Punilla Valley.
Located on the shores of Lake San Roque, visitors can easily go swimming, kayaking, sailing, or windsurfing.
There’s also plenty of fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking to be had within a few miles of this scenic town.
It’s close enough for a day trip, but there are a growing number of hotels in the vicinity if you want to stay for a night or two.
Be sure to take the chairlift up to El Cerro de la Cruz for views of the lake and the town below if the weather’s good.
14. Try Empanadas and Locro
While you’re in Córdoba, be sure to try some of the regional Argentinian cuisine.
You might be familiar with empanadas throughout the rest of the country, but empanadas cordobeses are a little different than the rest – they tend to be sweeter and juicier.
(They even have dessert empanadas!) You should also try locro, a hearty stew of meat and filling ingredients like potato, corn, and pumpkin.
Cepa Salteña, La Vieja Esquina, and La Candela are great places to taste both of these local dishes!
15. Spend Some Time in Güemes
This bohemian neighborhood is perhaps the coolest and hippest place in Córdoba.
With a plethora of trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants, you’ll be more than occupied for an afternoon.
Check out the charming array of boutiques and food joints in Muy Güemes, a modern and well-designed shopping area or galería filled with local businesses.
Then grab brunch, wander the nearby feria, or head for a drink.
We suggest Rooftop, Don’t Worry, or Okupas Resto Bar for cocktails or Quilmes.
16. Watch the Rally Car Drivers
While the rest of Argentina is all-consumed with fútbol, Cordobeses love their rally cars.
Head out to the sierras in April to watch a sport that’s become super popular with locals over the past 20 years.
It’s one of the biggest spectator sports in the nation, and it’s a bit different here than in Europe.
Rally Argentina is filled with the slippery rugged terrain of the plains and mountains, complete with river crossings and gravel roads.
Events are held on the city stage in downtown Córdoba and in the little village of Carlos Paz.
Thousands of fans come out, and you’ll find them watching their favorites from the hills, throwing big parties, and barbecuing for the festivities.
17. Visit Cosquín for Folklore
The nearby town of Cosquín is known for its folklore festival in January and it stays filled with tourists for the remainder of the summer before dying down completely.
If you’re lucky enough to be there during the nine-day Festival Nacional del Folklore, you must visit for a taste of Latin American culture and music.
They have a huge stage and amphitheater, ballet troupes, workshops, and tons of folk music performances.
Attendees set up tents and hold bonfires alongside the river where revelers sing and dance at all hours.
There’s a waterfront promenade that runs through the town with swimming spots where you can stop along the way.
18. Patio Olmos
If you need to do a little shopping or just some window shopping, check out Córdoba’s mall.
It has a several stores, a food court level, a bowling alley, and a cinema.
It houses lots of local brands and a handful of international ones within its 150 retail outlets.
The mall can draw big local crowds on the weekends, but it is a great way to get out of the heat for a little while.
Even if you don’t care for shopping, the architecture is worth a look from the outside as it was originally a boys’ middle school in 1909. After being damaged by an earthquake in 1977 it was revamped in the 1990s as a mall.
19. Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Caraffa
This contemporary museum is located alongside the Plaza España and Parque Sarmiento, and it’s another solid place to see art in this city.
The neoclassical building contains works by its namesake as well as several other famous Argentine artists like Juan Carlos Castagnino, Fernando Fader, and Emilio Pettoruti.
They also have exhibits that change monthly.
You can even find a few lithographs by Picasso and some paintings by Goya on display.
20. Cripta Jesuítica
This crypt and crematorium was originally built as a novitiate in the 18th century by the Jesuits. It’s small and runs beneath some of the main streets in town, but it’s worth a quick walk inside as it now houses a small museum and some contemporary cultural exhibits.
After the expulsion of the Jesuits, this historical site was lost when it became abandoned and buried beneath the town.
Rediscovered by a telephone company burying cables in 1989, it’s now been refurbished for performances, artwork, and tours.
21. Visit an Estancia Outside of Córdoba
You’re in the land of gauchos after all! Get outside the city and experience some rural culture and regional traditions.
There are several working farms and ranches (estancias) that you can visit to go horseback riding, hiking, and bird-watching.
Take in a display of professional horsemanship by some real-life gauchos, eat grilled meats at an Argentine barbecue (asado), and drink plenty of Malbec in the hills between the plains (las pampas) and the Andes.
You can plan a day trip from Córdoba or spend the night if you really want to immerse yourself in nature.
22. Stroll on Hipólito Yrigoyen Avenue in Nueva Córdoba
Nueva Córdoba is the neighborhood where you’ll find the Buen Pastor Cultural Center and a large student population, due to its proximity to the National University of Córdoba (with over 100,000 enrolled). You’ll see mansions, embassies, boutique hotels, as well as plenty of apartment complexes where the students reside.
They keep the area hip, with its many bars and cafes for a meetup or casual cocktail.
This barrio is also home to some of the best restaurants in the city where you can soak up the cool, university vibe while enjoying a variety of cuisine from Italian to Arabic to sushi.
Stroll the adjoining Calle Rondeau after midnight to discover some great nightlife.
23. Visit 220 Cultura Contemporánea Gallery
This super interactive contemporary gallery is open Thursday through Sunday and features local works of art as well as nightly events and traveling exhibits.
They have static artwork displays, but also documentaries, workshops, graphic design and photography exhibitions, and stand-up comedy courses. (Obviously, you should expect most of these things to be in Spanish.)
But even if you don’t want to join their classrooms for anything, you should check out 220 CC to browse the work that’s on display and visit the amazing “gift shop” area where you can buy unique local products and works of art by designers and artists from Córdoba.
24. Iglesia Catedral Córdoba
Located right on Plaza San Martin so you can’t miss it, take a few photos of the beautiful Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.
Work on the cathedral began in 1598, and much of the initial structure collapsed before a Jesuit architect was commissioned to restart the work.
It’s separated from the cabildo by the promenade, and you can take a look at the inside and outside to see the progression of architectural styles throughout the years.
The cupola was designed by a Franciscan friar, the portico is Neoclassical, and the facade is Spanish Baroque.
Visitors should venture in to see the ornate interior and sterling silver altar that was crafted in Peru.
25. Check Out the Cerro de Las Rosas Barrio
One of the higher end residential areas in Córdoba, “The Hill of the Roses” has some of the trendiest restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and boutiques in the city.
There’s lots of eye-catching architecture and two parks where you can relax.
Head to Antares for a wide range of craft beers, a nice outdoor terrace, and platters of picadas – an assortment of meats, cheeses, and olives that go great with a few drinks before a late-night dinner.
Or grab a burger at the impressive Peñón Cervecería where there’s plenty of al fresco seating and a variety of beer on tap.