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BUENOS AIRES, where to go... 

 

Buenos Aires, founded in 1580 by Juan de Garay,  is a big metropolis  (13 million town and suburbs separated in "barrios"  with  clearly defined  limits, but informal boundaries,  lately being discussed and most probably to be changed soon.  Buenos Aires people are called porteños (portenios) (inhabitants of the port. ) Microcentro is the area north of Avenida de Mayo and east of Av 9 de Julio, a sector that includes the Florida and Lavalle "peatonales" (pedestrian malls), Plaza San Martin and the "never sleeping"  Corrientes and "shopping" Santa Fe.  You  will find abundant maps,   leaflets and guides at all good hotels.   I would recommend you choose information published either by  the National Tourist Board or  the Townhall,  or  the commercial The Golden  Company  (their Quick Guide and BA city map are very good pocket size values,   and  you will most probably get them free at your hotel) 

Here´s my own quick and short guide to places you should not  miss to get some of the feeling of BA city life (either walking on your own or  in organized tours / choose those offered at your hotel or a good travel agency.  As specialists I would recommend Ethernautas a group of university professionals (in the arts and history)  and also Atelier.:   A different kind of interpreting Argentina and our art, culture and history. 

 

WALKING TOURS:

There are free BA walking tours organized by the City Hall during weekends.   San TelmoPalermo´s parks and lakes, Avenida de Mayo avenue,  Recoleta cemetery,  Palermo Chico area,  Parque Lezama and Flores are some of them.   Walking tours begin in the morning or late afternoon and last one/one and a half hours, depending on what there is to see.  They are cancelled if it rains and you can get information calling 4372 3612  when in BA.  

There is one special  paid guided historic visit (a combination of history and architecture)  to the Manzana de las Luces,  the block  between the streets Peru, Alsina, Bolivar and Moreno. close to Plaza de Mayo, with historical buildings as the church of San Ignacio, the oldest in town,  The Jesuits settled in the area in 1633 and many of the building are still standing:  Procuraduria de las Misiones (Missions Law Office) and Residencia del Procurador (Residence of the Public Prosecutor). The Jesuit´s tunnels  date back to the 17th Century,  the traditional Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires (1821). 

Places you should not be missing :  

Plaza de Mayo (Mayo Square) our main square, a good starting point,   witnessing  important events in Argentine history,   in the Monserrat area.    It has  since 1810 been   the stage of political and cultural activities.  The Piramide de Mayo,  on this picture, belongs to the colonial period and commemorates Argentine independence. The Casa Rosada (and its Museum  is our Goverment´s house - try to avoid visiting   during school year, anyway  afternoons are recommended)  This is the presidential palace (do not miss the ceremony of the changing of the guard every two hours), the seat of the National Government since Primera Junta (the First Council) in 1810. It was painted pink after the decision of President Sarmiento in 1873 as the union of both political sectors (red for federals headed by Juan Manuel de Rosas and white for unitarians).   The Catedral Metropolitana (Buenos Aires Cathedral)  considered a National Historic Monument with an end of the 18th C baroque altar  and the tomb of General José de San Martin,  hero of Argentina´s struggle for independence; the Cabildo (colonial town council) first structure erected in 1580, later remodelled and scaled down. Recommendable the small historical museum to sense "Argentine history in a nutshell" (Susie Blann, Herald staff)  In  1810 the Cabildo was the epicenter of  May revolution, beginning our country´s independence process. The building is guarded by the Regimiento de Patricios, a troop created in 1806.  

From Plaza de Mayo  you can take the very Spanish Avenida de Mayo  stretching from Plaza de Mayo to Plaza del Congreso  with a variety of splendid facades and cupolas, Pasaje Barolo inaugurated in 1921, built by Italian architect Mario Palanti,  the old Cafe Tortoni at Nbr 829 (oldest artist´s cafe intown  with tango and jazz music at night) You will pass on your right the Obelisk, a symbol of the town, at the intersection of Avenida 9 de Julio and Avenida Corrientes the "night life avenue".  If you walk on  as far as the Plaza de los dos Congresos, you will see  one of Buenos Aires´s best sculptures The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.  The Congress is the seat of the National Congress,  and houses the Chambers of Senators and Deputies. It is a a 9.000 sq meter palace built by the Italian architect Victor Meano.  Congreso is Kilometer 0 for all Argentinean routes. 

The Teatro Colon (our opera house) considered one of the four most important opera houses deserves  a special visit.  Opera season is usually from May to October.  Guided  tours  Mondays through Fridays.  Its construction was finished in 1908 and its dome  made by Argentine famous painter Raul Soldi. 

The Stock Exchange downtown is one of the beautiful buildings.  Its construction started in 1916 and was committed to architect Alejandro Christophersen.  The New Stock Exchange is  close to the old one.  From there you can walk along  Lavalle up to Lavalle Square,   the Courts Area and  the Courts Palace,   set up in 1822. Facing the square is the art nouveau Masssue watchtower, the only piece that survived after the demolition of the building constructed by architect Alfredo Massue.  

San Telmo is the historic city centre, the old town, once the wealthiest most important district,  where aristocratic families settled down until the yellow fever epidemic hit in 1871, when they decided for the northern parts and  immigrants moved in. Lately artists and craft workers installed in the old colonial houses.  Unfortunately it had been neglected and left to decay for too long and only  recently recovered, remodeled and repaved.  Today although very few buildings are from the colonial period, this area of narrow streets and colonial buildings,  treasures several antiques dealers and old objects,  excellent restaurants and tango dance halls.  On  Sundays you can enjoy the San Telmo Market  in Dorrego Square (Defensa and Carlos Calvo) and discover antiques and works of art and also meet street artists. A block south down Defensa Street you come across the old La Estrella pharmacy on the corner of Alsina,  and at the top of a marble staircase leading up from Alsina 412, the Museo de la Ciudad, exhibiting the city´s history.  Further down Carlos Calvo,  towards the river,  there are several old time restaurants. The Antigua Tasca de Cuchilleros was built in 1789 and the Remanso de San Telmo at Carlos Calvo 242  is a  colonial house built in 1806.    On the corner of Belgrano and Defensa is the beautiful Santo Domingo Church.   Walk along the newly cobbled Balcarce south and stop at The San Lorenzo Alley. In this  two blocks alley  you have the 2.10 m wide facade of Casa Minima (the tiniest house) built by a freed slave.   Then Parque Lezama and the Museum of National History.  If you  enjoy walking take the  old town walk along Humberto I,  Avenida San Juan,  Defensa, Carlos Calvo and Balcarce and discover old houses ornaments and iron fittings. Try the Self guided tourist circuit around San Telmo,  limits are Chile, Piedras, Caseros, Defensa, Martin Garcia, Paseo Colon, Brasil, Ing. Huergo.  Defensa is the oldest street in Buenos Aires. 

 

Plaza San Martin (San Martin Square) area  with the Circulo Militar and its Museum,  pedestrian Florida (lost some of its former glamour) Galerias Pacificio is a beautiful shopping mall.  San Martin Square is among most important squares in town,  The memorial to the General San Martin  (National Liberator)  was made in 1862 by French sculptor Louis Joseh Daumes.    Opposite the memorial is  the Circulo Militar (Officer´s Club),  a French style  palace which took 22 years to build and is one of  the palaces remaining in the area.   The Nations Arms Museum was set up in the same place.   Until 1935 the building belonged to Jose C. Paz, founder of La Prensa newspaper.   Another beautiful palace is Palacio San Martin,  the old Foreign Ministryopposite  San Martin Park and San Martin memorial. Just around the corner is the small,  beautiful museum Isaac Fernandez Blanco, containing Spanish and colonial art and objects.   Further down along Maipú towards Railway Terminal of Retiro there is the  English Tower with its own Big Ben,  facing The Sheraton Hotel.  The 70 m tower was a gift from the English people to Argentina in gratitude for having hosted them.   Retiro Railway Terminal  was one of the biggest terminals in the world, when completed in  1914,  and the largest metallic construction of the type.  Trains can be taken from Retiro to the northern areas of Buenos Aires,  Belgrano, San Isidro and Tigre.  

 

BUENOS AIRES BY NIGHT, Tango and milongas.  Corrientes Avenue used to be the centre of Buenos Aires night life (now moved towards San Telmo, Recoleta, Palermo Viejo, Las Cañitas, Costanera Norte and Puerto Madero)  with plenty of cinemas, theatres, shows, restaurants and pizzerias opened until early hours in the morning.      Tango has become  part of the background music of Buenos Aires.  There are lots of good (and bad) tanguerias,  the majoritiy  in the San Telmo area.  Bandoneons, violins and guitars are the classical instruments used.  Buenos Aires has two tango publications Tangauta (listing about 1000 milongas weekly)  and BA Tango: They are the best sources of information on classes and milongas.   Try to get good advice.   The National Academy of the Tango,  founded in 1990 offers classes too.   

La Boca and Caminito. Historically Boca is a portside neighbourhood reflecting the migratory influx that took place between 1860 and 1910. The area received a large part of the European (mostly Italian) immigrants. The Genovese painted their traditions into La Boca. It is the birthplace of the tango dance and its colourful flare was inspired by the painter Quinquela Martin. Today the street-museum Caminito is a pedestrian zone that includes a craft market and performing street artists.  Caminito was inaugurated in 1959.   The former home and studio of Argentine artist Quinquela Martin was made a fine arts museum and has recently been remodelled. 
 

Puerto Madero, Old Customs House area,  started  refurbishing  in 1991 and is now a 3 km recycled dockside, a beautiful  river  promenade with lots of restaurants (not cheap).  Brick warehouses were converted into apartments, offices, restaurants and movie theatres. The historic Argentine Navy corvette (a school ship for almost 40 years)  moored at Dock 3 near Plaza Colon and Government House,  is a museum vessel of the Argentine Navy.   All Puerto Madero is a new area and there is still hectic construction taking place.  Brand new Buenos Aires Hilton is one of the newest buildings  Big yellow cranes are now the symbols of the new neighbourhood. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5 pm and 7pm the Corporacion de Puerto Madero offers free guided tours of the docklands development and Costanera Sur information.   

 

Catalinas Norte is the name of the area between San Martn street and Cordoba,  Eduardo Madero and Leandro Alem Avenues. The area is made up of smart buldings,  where many of the most important domestic and international companies are located.   This is a most sought after area began three decades ago. Its name comes form the Catalinas Convent, which until 1974 was on the corner of Viamonte and San Matin.

 

Recoleta. This is an area extracted from Paris,  aristocratic airs,  French style buildings, elegant luxurious boutiques.  One of Buenos Aires most  beautiful residential and walking areas combining art,  stores, restaurants and boutiques stretching  along Alvear Avenue.   The Recoleta Cultural Center (former monastery) , the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Palais de Glace shelter an important part of Buenos Aires cultural activities.  During weekends you can also enjoy the crafts fair at Recoleta Square.    The Recoleta Cemetery,  lands that belonged to the church and convent of the Franciscan monks,  was founded in 1822 and it is the oldest in Buenos Aires.  The cemetery occupies four blocks and is one of the most prominent worldwide, where many of the most illustrious and wealthy families,   politicians and well known personalities  are buried and is part of the history of the town.  The Pilar Church,  next to the Cemetery,  with a baroque altar (brought form Peru),  made of engraved silver is one of the finest examples of Argentine colonial architecture.   Patio Bullrich,  close to Recoleta is a small,  exclusive (expensive) luxurious shopping mall.  

If you are keen to know something about  Argentine history a historical well guided tour of the Recoleta is recommended.

 

Towards the beautiful, more sophisticated  northern area beyond the city lines of  downtown Buenos Aires are: 

Palermo area, Libertador avenue, Palermo Chico,  Planetario Galileo Galilei,  Spaniards Monument,  Belgrano and Nuñez.

Tigre (the islands of the Delta del Parana) is located 30 kms on the northern rim of the Greater Buenos Aires.  The city of Tigre, once a port market, has become a waterworld where Buenos Aires people and visitors enjoy weekends resting,  birdwtching, hiking and rowing,  and  is a good starting point to visit hundreds of islands forming up the Parana River Delta.   There are residences, hostels and sports clubs.  Tours start from the port of Tigre.  The story of the city can be tracked down at the Reconquista Museum. Tigre is one of Argentina´s most interesting ecosystems and also a recreational area for the densely populated Buenos Aires.  The transformation and general awareness of the value of the place began only 6 years ago. The whole place covers an area of 10.000 km2 from Tigre to points within the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Entre Rios and if you have 7 hours to spend on a 80 passenger wood boat it is worth the trip.  There are noon and afternoon cruises with lunch or snacks on board and some will   take you to Martin Garcia Island in the middle of the Rio de la Plata River;   Catamaran Didactico is one of those offering excursions,  but there are also special cruisses dealing with architecture, flora and fauna, birdwatching and photo safaris.  From downton you can either take a tour or go by yourself and take  the train from Retiro Train Station straight to Tigre (around 1 hour) or take the  newer Tren de la Costa at Maipu 200,  by the President´s house.  This is a tourist eco friendly train,  worth the money. You can get off at any station,  walk around and then continue on with the same ticket.  Once you arrive in Tigre you can buy a Catamaran ticket, get on board and enjoy the islands. Tigre is also a nice place to stroll along the docks, the  peculiar fruit market specially inviting on a pleasant morning and  offering much more than fruit.    If you have time it is worth the experience.  A cruise through the Delta reveals different tpes of inns and restaurants,  run by peole who would not live anywhere else in the world,  in love with their work and surroundings.  It is also possible to spend a  peaceful night in the islands.  There are no five star hotels as yet (the place is one of the latest discoveries) but there is a farly good amount of hostels.   There is a youth hostel at only a 10 minute trip, that can accomodate 70 people.  
 

La Plata is the capital of the province of Buenos Aires.  Its Natural Science Musueum is one of the most important in the world with its collection of  fossils,  especially those of large prehistoric animals.   La Plata Cathedral has recently been refurbished and is also worthy the visit.  Simply strolling along La Plata´s university city diagonals is a relaxing outing meeting all kinds of lively young people everywhere you go. 

 

Nuestra Señora de Lujan (Our Lady of Lujan)  is the patron saint of Argentina. The basilica is located in the city of Lujan (west Buenos Aires)  You can  also visit the Cabildo (Town Hall of colonial times), the Casa del Virrey, seat of Enrique de Udaondo museum, the Colonial and Historical Museum,  the Arms Galleries, the Museum of Artillery.  There are several country hotels  (former estancias) in the area, where you can spend the day, enjoy a good "asado" or a fine meal,  stay for the day or longer and relax.   

 

Author and naturalist Willam Henry Hudson,  was born here in the family estancia Los Veinticinco Ombues,  which is now the William Henry Hudson Cultural Ecological Park,  mid way betwwen Buenos Aires and  La Plata,  now a short drive from BA,  but at his time a fair haul from the city,  and  part of the pampas (La Plata did not exist then, was  founded only in 1882)  Hudson was interested in all nature but his greatest love were birds.  In a  way he was a pioneer in ornithology in Argentina as he studied practically all the birds of our pampas.  In 1874 Hudson left for England and never returned.  But he left several books of "his" land. El Ombu (1902), Green Mansions (1904), A Naturalist in La plata (1892) , Idle Days in Patagonia (1893).   Hudson spent his last years longing for the open spaces of the Pampas he had willingly left behind and completed his  nostalgic Far Away and Long Ago in 1918 .  The William Henry Hudson Cultural Ecological Park  comprises an area of some 54 hectares of land and is located a few kilometres off Route 36.  

 

San Antonio de Areco, where tradition is highly valued, is a town located 115 kms form Buenos Aires and  considered the gaucho tradition capital of Argentina. It is there that  most genuine gaucho atmosphere homes and  buildings of the pampas have been preserved.   Some of the country´s oldest and most professionally run tourist ranches are a few minutes from San Antonio de Areco.  On tradition day,  November 10 each year,  you will find as many as 200 gauchos parading atop their criollo horses (reservations at ranches or hotels should be made several weeks in advance).  The 8 room Ricardo Guiraldes Museum.  built in 1938,  contains items that belonged to the Guiraldes family and famous people like 19th century strongman Juan Manuel de Rosas.    "La Porteña",   built in 1850,  was the home of writer Ricardo Guiraldes (Don Segundo Sombra) and is the only 19th century ranch that has remained in the same family all these years,  albeit in a reduced form.  The  oldest ranch  is La Bamba (1832) a Spanish style main house, former stagecoach station  remodelled in 1940,   taken into tourism business in 1986.   El Ombu was built in 1880. For horseriders and bird watchers this is the place.  You can also walk along the Areco River near the City, come across the Old Bridge built in 1852 (they  charged toll then!).  For a quick look at the art and crafts of San Antonio de Areco go to the Centro Cultural. 

 

 

 

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