Cordoba is an incredible and lively city where you can walk in though history but is also very approchable. You will probably find yourself joking with the super friendly and quite laid-back Cordobese. The downtown is busy with the grand central Plaza San Martin and all of the busy pedestrian streets around it crammed with people and shops. Cordoba is a blend of classic colonial architecture with wide boulevards lined with old mansions and spacious plazas and rows of block apartment buildings from the early 20th century. After checking out some 17th century Jesuit ruins and some fantastic museums and galleries, here are three more fun and free places to visit that might not be highlighted in your guidebooks:
1) Córdoba Observatorium (Barrio Observatorio) – This is one of the most important astronomical observatories in the world historically until 1900 responsible for some of the first star atlases and photos. It is located right in the middle of Cordoba on a hill where the city as grown all around it. Today, it is a museum and administrative headquarters. It is open to visit every Friday night of the year except holidays between 8-11pm. It’s completely free and no reservations are required. There are guided tours every half hour through the museum and ends with a viewing through one of their telescopes. When we visited, we looked through the 130 year old telescope to see the crater filled white gray landscape of the moon and also to Jupiter. We got to see the stripes of colour on Jupiter, clouds and four of its moons. Incredible! For up to date info in visiting times, check out their website – http://www.oac.uncor.edu/ (For those who don’t speak Spanish, Google Translate is an awesome tool!)
2) Parque Sarmiento (Nueva Córdoba) – Parque Sarmiento is the biggest and most popular park of the city. It has a zoo, a flower garden and a beautiful artificial lake. There are many art pieces and monuments in the park including the rather random 102m tall Bicentennial Lighthouse monument (a little random since it is in a landlocked city in the middle of the country!) and a giant iron ferris wheel made by Gustave Eiffel that was in use until 1970. The time to visit this park is in the late afternoon/early evening when the city cools down and people come out from their siestas. You will see lots of people jogging and maybe even doing tricks on bmx bikes on some impressive homemade dirt ramps and halfpipes in the park. There are many people drinking yerba mate, some sitting on park benches, others who sit in the grassy areas under trees and still others who have brought their own lawn chairs.
3) Paseo de las Artes (Belgrano / Fructuoso Rivera) -In the first decade of the 20th century, there was a general store on the corner of Montevideo and Belgrano streets run by a Spanish immigrant that was a popular rendevous spot for singers and artisans. Today, the bohemian neighborhood of Guemes in central Cordoba continues to be an area for the arts. However, unlike the aloof grand art galleries and museums, this neighbourhood pays tribute to artisans and handcrafts with a nostalgia for its beginnings. There are many antique stores, second-hand clothing outlets and funky bars and restaurants in old-style buildings. There is always some live music somewhere either in a bar or performing on the streets. In the evenings on the weekends and holidays, the whole area of streets becomes a block party artisan market where there are stalls after stalls of locally made handicrafts and homemade tasty goodies. This market is highly recommended because it really features interesting, creative and innovated stuff that is actually made by local artisans. The hours for the amazing artisan market are 5-11pm in the summer and 4-10pm in the winter.