Hip city in Argentina, which surprises time and time again with many European influences
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Buenos Aires in Argentina is a wonderful mishmash of cultures. It is the famous home of Eva (Evita) Perón and the birthplace of the tango. This vibrant city has a rich and exuberant architecture, with good food and a relaxed atmosphere.
Thanks to the usually soft climate, daily life here takes place outside, in the streets, especially in the small alleys with little bars and shops. As a tourist, you can simply sit down on a bench somewhere and watch the women do some shopping, while couples in love will only have eyes for each other and the men will have a chat in the park, often with lively hand gestures.
All this takes place against a décor of rich and exuberant architecture, where the many authentic buildings allow you to sense the atmosphere of the past. There are many modern influences as well. This is Buenos Aires, typically Argentinian, but also with a European touch. This is the land of Máxima, but also of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (locally called Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo) and of course Eva ‘Evita’ Perón.
The Argentinian capital lies on the estuary of the Rio de la Plata river. Despite its awkward location in an area with a lot of water, the city’s architecture is amazing. Almost all roads are built symmetrically, as are the barrios (districts). Still, each barrio has its own distinctive features and there are no less than 47 of them.
In this article you'll find the best attractions and things to do and see. I've visited Buenos Aires twice and thinks these are the best tours for your trip.
Plaza de Mayo (meaning May Square) is the heart of Buenos Aires. The square dates from 1580 and was often the center of history. This included Eva Perón, known to many as Evita, but also numerous presidents who spoke from the balcony of the Pink House. It is also the place where Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo still protest against the countless disappearances of people over the decades. The Plaza de Mayo is also the site of various coups d'état. The name therefore comes from the May Revolution, on May 25, 1810, which was the first step towards independence.
This Pink House is one of the most striking buildings in the city. This is the presidential palace where Argentina's government resides. Scholars disagree as to why the palace is pink. It could be a mix of the colours worn by the two opposition parties (red and white). But many more residents think that in the past the paint was deliberately diluted with cow's blood. This is to better protect it against the high humidity in this area. The building houses a museum where you can see all kinds of government affairs. The imposing building was built between 1860 and 1880 and is located on the Plaza de Mayo, on the eastern side.
The presidential palace, is heavily guarded by the Granaderos de San Martin. Every day there is the changing of the guards. It starts at 7 am and takes place every two hours. The last changing of the guards is at 9 pm.
The Banco de la Nación is one of the many historic buildings in Buenos Aires. It is located in a rustic location on the Plaza de Mayo. The high columns at the front give it an extra imposing appearance, but it is mainly the size of the building that appeals to the imagination.
The first Argentine government was established in this building. We are talking about 1810, at the time of the revolution. The oldest stones of El Cabildo date back to 1600, when the Spanish were still the rulers. Hence the Spanish name, which means town hall. Several adjustments were made later, but the colonial design has been preserved. A museum is also located in El Cabildo. So you can see here the historically valuable remains of the revolution.
Buenos Aires Cathedral has been around since the 16th century, but the historic church collapsed in 1832. The reconstruction has resulted in a special mix of styles. The church is remarkably low. You can clearly see the neo-classical style from the 19th century, including 12 Corinthian columns. These represent the 12 apostles. Inside, a mix of neo-Renaissance and neo-baroque can be seen. The church can be found on the corner of San Martín and Rivadavia.
Avenida 9 de Julio is the widest boulevard in the world, but surprisingly, not very pedestrian-friendly either. One of the few places to cross it on foot (or actually walk under it) is via the 67-meter-high Obelisk. It was erected here in 1936 as a reminder of the city's 400th anniversary. The road is about a kilometer long and runs through the city from north to south.
This theater opened in 1908 with the opera Aida by Verdi. Teatro Colón quickly grew into one of the most important opera houses in the world. Where people like Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti have performed. But it is also a place for the famous tango. This theater can seat as many as 2,500 people. The architectural style is typically Italian Renaissance. The theater is located at Toscanini 1180.
This shopping center is located in the heart of the city. The architecture is a copy of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping center in Milan, Italy. The immense building also houses a striking number of wall drawings. In addition to many exclusive shops, there are often lunchtime concerts. It is located on Florida, between Cordoba and Viamonte Street.
Skulls and human bones at the entrance lead to the silver altar of this church with its many chapels. The Iglesia del Pilar dates from 1732, making it the oldest surviving church in the city. This white church is considered one of the best examples of Argentine colonial architecture. The church is located at Junin 1904.
This 32-storey apartment building was built in Art Deco style. The 102-meter-high building is made of concrete and stands on a hill in the Retiro district. Three architects worked on the job: Gregorio Sánchez, Ernesto Lagos and Luis María de la Torre. Built in 1936, "Edificio Kavanagh" was the tallest building in South America at the time. It is located at 1065 Florida.
MALBA stands for Museo de Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires. Opened in 2001, this museum has quickly become a famous gathering place for Latin American art. At first it was nothing more than the private collection of director Eduardo F. Constantini, but nowadays a complete picture of the history of this colourful art can be seen. Changing exhibitions can also be seen. Admission to the museum is free.
If you want to escape the city, you can rent a boat in Palermo Park. Especially during the weekend, this is the park where joggers, cyclists and hikers come together. The layout of the park is beautiful and it is an ideal spot for a picnic or a romantic stroll. Beware: at night, this is a place where prostitutes hang out.
Anyone who loves tango, or likes to watch the dance, can visit this great festival. The open classes for beginners are particularly popular. Special are the performances in which tango is mixed with other dance and music styles. A kind of circuit is set up for tourists to find out the history of the tango.
The Museo de la Policia Federal is worth a visit if you have a couple of hours to spare. This museum is one of the strangest, most intriguing in the world. It was founded in 1899, by one doctor Julian Beazley, who did research into all sorts of crimes during the reign of president Roca. His tools and appliances are on display here for all to see. Pay attention to the many photographs that often tell the story behind the crime. It’s almost like ‘camp’ seeing it like this, in an old, dusty building.
Recoleta is a luxury area, but also the name of the famous cemetery. Many famous people from Argentine history are buried at this cemetery. The most famous is probably Eva Perón, also called Evita in the Spanish-speaking countries. Her remains were kept for years in Italy, among others. For a number of years she has been buried in the tomb of the Duartes family. Many tombs are made of marble and are elaborately decorated. You can also see countless architectural styles in the cemetery. It's well worth a visit and take your time to wander around.
See my tips for Cementerio de la Recoleta
The mouth of the river, just outside the city, is ideal for a trip in a kayak. The Parana River is particularly suitable for this. You will also see an entirely different way of living here. The local population inhabits the many islands and the river serves as a lifeline. Although the area has suffered under human activity, it is still an oasis of green.
This restaurant is the place-to-be if you want to discover the national specialty. The grill restaurant first opened in 1905 and is now housed in a converted warehouse in Puerto Madero, near the harbour. The bulls are raised on a hormone-free diet of grains, so the meat is very low on fat. It is an obligatory course for anybody who loves good food.
Argentinians are crazy about football. To attend a football match is quite the experience. You can purchase tickets for the professional league on line. Boca Juniors is the most popular club of this city, but in fact, every match here is something worth seeing.
Boca Juniors is the club where Maradona played for years and became a famous football player. In the middle of the La Boca barrio lies the football stadium of Boca Juniors. Tourists can get a tour around the stadium; walk past the numerous football trophies and admire their success. The whole stadium breathes the legend Maradona. Besides the statue of the football player, there are many paintings of Maradona on the walls.
If you like the Argentine cuisine, you may take up some cooking courses. There are courses that last a couple of days; you will be taught how to make empanadas, how to grill meat, or learn to prepare complete dishes. You can even arrange a package deal with an overnight stay, so you will have the opportunity to really get busy preparing food.
Calle Calminito in the Barrio de la Boca is one of the most extraordinary streets in Buenos Aires. Here (and in the surrounding streets) are houses painted in bright colours. Residents really go out of their way to make their homes an eye-catcher. Roam the streets and get lost in the countless colours of Calminito.
A city like Buenos Aires has countless attractions which are not included in travel guides. Specifically where popular bars and restaurants are concerned. A local guide is the way to go, also if you wish to have more background information on the many sights worth seeing. You will be able to ask all your questions and it is recommended to get a guide at the start of your visit, so you may quickly feel at home.
After the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century, Buenos Aires remained relatively small for about two hundred years. The Spaniards gave preference to other supply ports, like Lima in Peru. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the city started to blossom. The Europeans arrived in numbers again, this time to build a life here.
The depression that hit Argentina in 2001 was world news. The country is slowly recovering from this and tourism is gradually picking up. The Palermo barrio has city parks with many playing fields and dozens of small bars, outdoor cafés and little shops. The barrios of La Boca (where many artists live) and San Telmo are well-known for their typically South American architecture and atmosphere, with a modern lick of paint…
Contrary to what many people think, Buenos Aires does not have a very warm climate. The seasons are the opposite of European seasons. So winter in Europe means summer in Buenos Aires.
This is why January is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 25°C. The atmosphere is muggy in this period so many local people spend their holidays elsewhere.
In winter, which is July, the temperature drops to 10 or 12 degrees. It doesn’t get very cold here.