After seeing Iguazu Falls from both Brazil and Argentina, it was time to fly (2 hour flight) to Buenos Aires, a truly cosmopolitan city that rivals any European capital. I had always heard great things about Buenos Aires and so it was exciting to finally land and experience it for myself.
- Commonly referred to as BA
- Capital and largest city of Argentina
- Located on the Rio de la Plata, which is the widest river in the world with its widest point being 140 miles
- Most visited city in South America, second in Latin America behind Mexico City
- Known as an alpha city as the city is a province by itself with its own government as well as the capital of Argentina
- Melting pot of cultures with more than 70% of people having Italian ancestry
- Population of more than 16 million
- Local people are known as Portenos (people of the port)
- Catholicism is the dominant religion
- Progessive on human rights issues
With such an Italian influence in BA, it’s no surprise that pizza is a very important part of the culture. I was expecting a lot of meat oriented meals, which there were, but pizza is just as popular. Our guide had told us about this popular pizza place called Pizzeria Guerrin. If you like a lot of cheese, this is the place to go and it’s pretty cheap due to the strong US dollar. It’s located only a block from the obelisk. When you go in, there is a line for take out… bypass this line and go towards the back to be seated. English is widely spoken and it has a great atmosphere.
Plaza del Mayo
The next morning we headed out for a tour of the city’s highlights with our guide. First stop was Plaza del Mayo (May Square) which is where many of the most momentous events in history have taken place and a popular place for demonstrations. Today there were no demonstrations but the next day when I went back was a completely different experience due to the crowded demonstrations going on.
The Casa Rosada (or Pink Palace) is where the President of Argentina works (lives outside of the city). This is also where Eva Peron (Evita) famously spoke from the balcony. The Central Bank is located here as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The Metropolitan Cathedral was a little different from cathedrals in Europe and the rest of Latin America. The outside was purposely made to not look like a church… looks more like a government building. Inside was a spectacular cathedral with ornate carvings, mosaic tiled flooring, and beautiful altars.
La Boca Barrio
The eclectic neighborhood of La Boca retains a strong Italian flavor as many of its early settlers were from Genoa. The colorful street of El Caminito is definitely touristy but fun to photograph and experience the origins of Tango dancing . Plenty of good photo spots but watch out for the Tango characters who are happy to take a picture with you but expect a nice tip afterwards. It’s definitely an eclectic street with many good restaurants in the area. I’d plan to spend at least a couple of hours here and have a nice lunch.
La Recoleta Cemetery
One of the most famous cemeteries in the world is in the neighborhood of Recoleta. This is where the elite and famous are buried. It was interesting to learn that families buy plots for only 20 years that can be renewed but it’s up to the future generations to remember to renew and pay. There are also property taxes to be paid. You may ask… what if you don’t renew? Well, your remains are moved to another cemetery and your mausoleum can then be sold to a new buyer… crazy, right? Luckily the family units are tight here so I doubt that happens often.
The cemetery can be quite crowded as it’s a major tourist attraction as many come to see Evita’s resting place. The statue of Jesus below is actually different than most as it depicts him as an old man.
Our guide told us many tragic stories of how young people died and were buried here. It would have to be an interesting walk at night around here. The mausoleums were so ornate and beautiful. It’s like a mini city.
Evita’s Final Resting Place
Many people come to see Evita’s final resting place as can be seen with the line of people. Evita is buried in her family’s mausoleum (maiden name was Duarte) and there is nothing monumental about it. I learned a bit about Evita while there and she was very much for the underdog in society and against the rich and powerful. It is said that being buried in La Recoleta would not have been what she wanted but there’s a long story about how she was finally laid to rest here 20 years after her death.
We decided to leave our tour group and stay in Recoleta to enjoy the weekend market, grab lunch and explore. It was such a great weather day, being in the low 70s and blue skies. The flower is called Floralis Generica and is made of steel and aluminum and actually opens and closes its petals each day.
A Night of Tango Dancing
Tonight we went to Cafe de los Angelitos to experience a traditional Argentine dinner and Tango show. The show was terrific… the Tango is a difficult dance. We learned that the Tango didn’t become widely accepted in BA until some wealthy kids learned it from the less wealthy kids and introduced it to Parisians. The Parisians loved it… once the Parisians liked it, BA embraced it and the rest is history.
Buenos Aires at Dark
The main avenue of BA is 9 de Julio Avenue. The name honors Argentina’s independence day. It is one of the widest avenues and is one city block wide with up to seven lanes each way. In the middle of the street is the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, a national historic monument and icon of the city. It was erected in 1936 to celebrate the quadricentennial of the first foundation of the city. This area is known as Plaza de la Republica and would be comparable to Times Square in Manhattan.
Bird’s Eye View
From the rooftop of our hotel, I took some pictures to show how expansive the city is as well as how wide the 9 de Julio Avenue is. Such a great morning with sunny blue skies.
Touring the Teatro Colon
When visiting BA, be sure to visit the Teatro Colon for a performance or a tour… English tours are available but plan ahead as these tours sell out. This is the main opera house of BA and is one of the top 10 in the world as noted by National Geographic due to its acoustics. Luciano Pavarotti commented it was too good as any mistakes by him would be noticed by the audience. The building is just beautiful, inside and outside.
I had a free day to explore the city. I love getting lost in a city and just exploring… looking up at the buildings and being mesmerized by their style and beauty. There was no shortage of amazing architecture here. Here are my favorites. You can understand why it’s called the Paris of Latin America.
The Palace of the Argentine National Congress
This is the seat of the Argentina National Congress much like our Capitol building in Washington DC. This building sits on one end of Avenida de Mayo with Casa Rosada at the other end. This is the main thoroughfare for demonstrations. One word I would use to describe the people of Buenos Aires is passionate. The passion they had for their issues was definitely felt as I meandered throughout the many demonstrations (all peaceful and organized). Another example of stunning architecture!
Other Sites and Landmarks
Ritzy Puerto Madero
The newest part of Buenos Aires is the neighborhood of Puerto Madero where the elite, rich and famous reside. The pedestrian bridge lit up in purple is mean to symbolize Tango dancing partners.
Buenos Aires exceeded my expectations and there is still so much more to see and experience. A truly cosmopolitan city that delivers on architecture, culture, food, and passionate people. I look forward to coming back and spending time in the many museums and neighborhood of Palermo. It’s also easy to jump over to Uruguay for a day trip on the ferry.