Guide of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, the main neighborhoods

Geography and Demography

The city of Buenos Aires is the capital city of the Federal Republic of Argentina and the second agglomeration of South America. It is a port and industrial city which concentrates the economic and political life of the country. 35% of the Argentine population (13.8 million in 2001) lives in the capital city and outskirts of the Greater Buenos Aires. Its inhabitants are called porteños: people of the port. The city is divided into 48 neighborhoods, each with very different characteristics. Among the most well-known are the port quarters of La Boca and Puerto Madero, the animated neighborhoods of San Telmo and Downtown, and further north the more residential neighborhoods of Belgrano, Palermo and Recoleta.

Culture

Buenos Aires is considered the most “European” of the South American cities. In it we find architecture from Paris, Madrid, Milan and Barcelona. You can apreciate its beautiful architecture and wide avenues, its squares and gardens breathing pure air, thanks to the frequent winds which caress the city. It is the most important film producer in Latin America, and has the highest concentration of theaters and operas. 140 museums can be visited, such as the National Fine Arts Museum, which houses 12,000 paintings, sculptures and tapestries. Since August 24, 2005, Buenos Aires has become the first City of Design according to UNESCO. In terms of tango, the most representative cultural trait of Buenos Aires, you will find numerous establishments, milongas, bars and restaurants offering music and dance shows. Its nightlife features discos, café concerts and restaurants are distributed among different neighborhoods: Puerto Madero, Recoleta, Palermo Viejo, Las Cañitas… shopping, mainly on Florida and Lavalle streets, at Dorrego Square, and in San Telmo on Sunday morning.

Palermo

Palermo is the largest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, subdivided into several quarters with marked personalities. Palermo Soho has become a bohemian bourgeois neighborhood, filled with restaurants and signature clothing boutiques which are set on wooded streets which still conserve their with paving tiles, where beautiful family houses still subsist. North of the railroad is Palermo Hollywood, which owes its name to the TV channels which installed their studios there. Palermo Chico is much more select, with its high standing towers, its embassies and ample gardens. Two interesting art and culture spots to visit: the Evita Museum and the Malba, the first museum dedicated exclusively to Latin American artists.

The gardens of Palermo constitute Buenos Aires’ green lung. They were mostly designed by the landscape artist Charles Thays at the end of the XIX century, inspiring himself on the Bois de Boulogne of Paris. It covers over 80 hectares, distributed on both sides of Libertador Avenue. They are made up of a series of forests where porteños practice sports or simply enjoy walks. This is the neighborhood of the Botanical Garden with its Art Nouveau greenhouse, the Zoo, the Japanese Garden, February 3 Park, the Rosarium with its Garden of Poets, its polo field and golf course. And all around, jacarandas, which cover the city with blue and violet flowers twice a year.

Belgrano

In the northeast part of the city, near the very commercial Cabildo Avenue lies Belgrano, one of the most residential quarters of the city, for the middle and high classes, which possess luxurious houses there. The Enrique Larreta Museum is a must see: an antique Andalusia style house property of the writer, who donated his art collection. Belgrano Square, which surrounds the Inmaculada Concepcion Church, is home of the artisans’ fair and pleasant terraces where tea or ice cream can be enjoyed. The Barrancas (slopes) of Belgrano, located on a small hill, will present you with the surprise of a pleasant walk among chess players and tango dancers who marvel audiences under the stars.

Recoleta

With its green spaces, its museums, its restaurants and its beautiful edifications, Recoleta is one of the most refined neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. The privileged classes began settling there nearing the end of the XIX century and built private hotels, imitating the Parisian model. The Recoleta Cultural Center was built in the ancient convent of the Recoletos Fathers, who gave the neighborhood its name. This center is a place of intense activity of expositions and shows. During the weekend, in the gardens of France Square, an artisan’s fair is mounted, giving the place a bohemian feel. The National Museum of Fine Arts stands out, with the most important art collection in Argentina, offering the local artists a place of privilege.

Recoleta Cemetery is the “Père Lachaise” of the Argentine capital. In its 6 hectares the tombs of numerous personalities where erected, like the Eva Peron Mausoleum, which is without a doubt the most visited. The funerary architecture, with its immense marble vaults ornamented with statues, one next to the other, is quite extraordinary. At the entrance, we find the Church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, built in 1732, is one of the oldest in the city. In its interior a sacred art museum can be visited.

Microcentro

It is a place of intense activity during the day, regaining tranquility during the night and on weekends. Public offices, banks and shops are concentrated in this neighborhood, especially along the two pedestrian streets Lavalle and Florida. Some of the buildings of the Belle Époque are of incredible beauty, transformed into banks and into the Pacific Galleries, a cultural and commercial center built at the end of the XIX century based on the French model of the time. It is worth getting to know its marvelous painted dome. Corrientes Avenue, in that area of the city, exhibits a great number of theaters offering different artistic shows and concerts. It is Buenos Aires’ Broadway.

Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo – with an area of about 3 hectares, is the neuralgic point from where the construction of Buenos Aires began. Currently, touring the surrounding areas of this square represents an authentic trip to the history of the country. It owes its name to the May Revolution of 1810, prelude of the Independence of Argentina in 1816. From the balcony of the Casa Rosada, residence of the Republic’s president, Peron and Evita stirred the masses. May Avenue is born at the square and is considered the civic axis of the city, since it connects the Casa Rosada with the National Congress, respective homes of the Executive and Legislative Powers. Along this avenue the House of Culture, the Barolo Palace and the Tortoni Café can be observed, among other constructions.

Cabildo Histórico

Across Plaza de Mayo, on the sector opposite the Casa Rosada, is the white building of the Cabildo, site of the colonial government. In its interior the First Junta of the Native Government was proclaimed in opposition to Napoleon I, who had submitted the Spanish Crown in European territory. This construction, which counts with a colonial museum, was erected in 1748, but suffered multiple reforms with the pass of time. It has a lovely patio where a modest artisan’s fair is organized on Thursdays and Fridays. Across the street is the Metropolitan Cathedral, of neoclassical architecture decorated with Corinthian columns, which houses the mausoleum of General San Martin, libertarian hero of Argentina.

Congreso de la nación

The National Congress, built in 1906, is the home of the Deputies and Senate Chamber. This impressive building, with its bronze dome of 20 meters (65 feet) diameter, was inspired by the Washington Capitol. The Senate is open to the public. Various statues embellish Congress Square, such as the Rodin Thinker and the Monument of the Two Congresses, which evokes the Tucumán Congress meeting of 1816, historical event in which the Independence of Argentina was declared. This square also houses most of public protests and manifestations.

Obelisco - Avenida 9 de Julio

They say 9 de Julio Avenue is the widest in the world. With its 16 lanes extending over 140 meters (459 feet), it is very difficult to cross in one stretch. It owes its name to the country’s declaration of independence on July 9, 1816. It was necessary to destroy several apples to pave it. The impressive embassy of France, on the north end, is one of the few buildings which had better luck. The 67 meter (220 feet) obelisk, built with fast dry cement, is the icon of the city. It was inaugurated in 1930 to commemorate the fourth centennial of the first founding of the city. Installed on the corner of 9 de Julio and Corrientes Avenue, visiting this monument is a must for tourists.

Colon Theater

It was inaugurated in 1908 with a surface of 37,884 square meters (124,291 square feet) and designed according to the norms of Italian and French classic theater. The main hall, with a capacity for 2500 spectators, has one of the best acoustics in the world. The chandelier of 7 meters (23 feet) in diameter, the paintings of the dome, the Carrara marble, the French furniture and the stained glass done by the prestigious Gaudin House of Paris show the importance Buenos Aires gave to lyric at the turn of the XX century. Declared national historical monument in 1989, the Colon Theater, located on 9 de Julio Avenue, was suffering the pass of time. It was renovated to celebrate its centenary on May 2008.

Retiro

Retiro is one of the smallest neighborhoods of buenos Aires. It is the place of the Terminal Train Station and the city’s Long Distance Bus Terminal. At the north, San Martin Square, designed by the French landscape architect Charles Thays, is a pleasant place for walking under the shade of giant magnolias, rubber trees, cedars and palm trees. The equestrian monument to General San Martin reign in the center. On one of its flanks stands the Anchorena Palace, currently Ministry of External Affairs. Going up on Alvear Avenue towards Recoleta, we will find some of the most beautiful palaces of the city, some turned into embassies (France, Brazil, Vatican City)…

A monument gives tribute to those fallen in the Falklands War of 1982; 25 black marble plaques carry the names of the 649 Argentine soldiers killed during the conflict to regain control of these islands of the South Atlantic against England of Margaret Thatcher, from April 2 to June 14th of 1982.

Tower of the English

At the foot of the fantastic slope of San Martin Square stands the Tower of the English, built by English residents to commemorate the centennial of the May Revolution of 1810. After the Falklands war between the UK and Argentina, the Tower of the English was renamed to Monumental Tower, and precisely in front of it is the Falkland Soldiers Monument. The bells of this 75 meter (246 feet) tower are a replica of those of the Abbey of Westminster. It is possible to ascend to the last floor by elevator and visit a museum which offers testimony of its history. From there you will also enjoy an interesting panoramic view of the Retiro neighborhood, one of the smallest of the capital, and northeastwards.

Puerto Madero

Puerto Madero is the newest and most original neighborhood of Buenos Aires. It took its name from its founder, Eduardo Madero, who under the orders of the City Government, nearing the end of the XIX century, built a first class port. Numerous lofts and restaurants are distributed among the mirrors of water and the pleasant pedestrian walkway, surrounded by the red-bricked docks, refurbished in the beginning of the 1990s. You may visit the Sarmiento Frigate, the first school boat of the Argentine Marine. Near the Nature Reserve, by the river, high standing skyscrapers have been built, where the square foot is the most expensive in the country. Puerto Madero has become a touristic and residential neighborhood at the same time.

The Woman’s Bridge is the work of the Spanish architecture Santiago Calatrava, inaugurated in 2001. It symbolizes a couple dancing tango. This pedestrian swivel bridge, of 160 meters long by 6 meters wide (525 x 20 feet), weighing 800 tons, is a technical feat: to allow the pass of boats, it can swivel in just a few minutes, thanks to its 20 motors in its main axis. It was built in Spain and transported to Argentina in parts.

In the East of Puerto Madero, the Nature Reserve was conceived on an extension of 350 hectares of land won over the river, filled with the debris from demolitions carried out in the 70s and 80s for the construction of highways. An ecosystem developed in this area, which finally was declared nature reserve. You can only circulate on foot or by bike through its internal paths, thus enjoying the river’s coast of ponds filled with rush and acacias and the song of birds. How to miss the chance of seeing the Rio de la Plata?

San Telmo

San Telmo is a neighborhood where charm and character can be breathed with its old houses and paving tiles. The privileged classes left the area after a yellow fever epidemic at the end of the XIX century. Currently, it is a neighborhood appreciated by intellectuals and artists, who restore the beautiful houses to install their ateliers. Tango lovers will find here the greatest concentration of shows in the capital. At the southern end of the neighborhood, going towards La Boca, Lezama Park receives domino players at its small outdoor tables, and houses the National History Museum and the important Russian Orthodox Church. Inaugurated in 1904, its construction was financed by the Zar and today we can delight at the exotic beauty of its blue domes.

In the heart of the San Telmo neighborhood, Dorrego Square and the Old Stuff and Antiques Fair which sets up on Sundays is a common place of interest for porteños and tourists. When the salesmen gather their products at the end of the day, the bars set up their terraces and the tango dancers show off their skill under the moonlight. Dorrego Square is the oldest, after May Square. On the corner of Defensa Street, the air from past times can still be breathed at The Dorrego Square Bar, which dates back to 1880 and still conserves its time-colored tone.

La Boca

La Boca, a popular port neighborhood, is one of the most photogenic of the capital. Here settled in the middle of the XIX century numerous immigrants, mostly Italians, who lived in barracks made of ribbed metal plates decorated with the remaining paint from the boats at the port. The result was the multicolor neighborhood that attracts so many tourists, especially to Caminito. This small street filled with restaurants, artisans and painters, is animated by the presence of tango dancers. La Boca is the neighborhood of the well known soccer team of Diego Maradona, Boca Juniors, and its stadium, known as the “Bombonera”.

Barracas

In the South of the city, Barracas is one of the oldest places of Buenos Aires. Far from the turistic main routes, it offers a deep sight of the history of the city, alternating industrial buildings and residential architecture. Street art is really rich along the Riachuelo river, and around the Metropolitan Center of Design. And it contrasts with the air from past times still breathed in some popular milongas, which dates back to XIXe and still conserves its time-colored tone.