BUENOS AIRES GUIDE 2013
Buenos Aires is the capital and biggest city of Argentina, and the second-largest in South America after São Paulo. Population of around thirteen million. People from Buenos Aires are referred to as porteños (people of the port).
It is hard to say what is so special about this city, many find themselves returning time after time and some like ourselves, find it impossible to leave.
B.A. as its inhabitants call it, has vast tree lined avenues and some wonderful architectural treasures but also there are derelict buildings and cars, like most Latin American cities it is a place where opposites are drawn together. Buenos Aires enjoys a special energy and it can really grab you. Shopping, cultural life and food are all World class. Costs are not unlike those of other Global World cities, inflation is ticking away at around 25%. You must be aware that as tourists you are instantly recognizable as such and should always exercise caution and not carry too much money or big ticket jewellery and watches.
This guide is a brief overview of some of the most important attractions, However, we feel Buenos Aires is best explored by Foot/Metro and its a place to soak up the atmosphere and not necessarily just try to see all the traditional Touristic sights. Walk, shop, drink many coffees and enjoy just being here.
- La Boca
- Puerto Madero
- La Recoleta
- San Telmo
- Casa Rosada
- Central Post Office
- City Legislature
- Kavanagh Building
- Metropolitan Cathedral
- National Congress
- National Library
- National Museum of History
- The Obelisk
- Teatro Colón
- The Water Company Palace
- MALBA: Museo de Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires
- Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
- Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo
- Museo Evita
OVERVIEW OF MAIN STREETS
Calle Defensa is one of the main streets of Bohemian San Telmo.
Avenida Alvear passes through the upscale of Recoleta and is the address for five-star hotels and embassies, many of them former mansions.
Calle Caminito has been colorfully restored by local artist Benito Quinquela Martín.
Avenida Corrientes is a principal thoroughfare in Buenos Aires and intimately tied to the Tango and Porteño Culture.
Avenida del Libertador connects downtown to upscale areas in the northwest, passing by many of the city's best-known museums, gardens and cultural points of interest.
Avenida de Mayo is often compared with those of Madrid, Barcelona and Paris for its sophisticated buildings of Art Nouveau, Neoclassic and eclectic styles.
Florida Street is a downtown pedestrian street with plenty of shops but very crowed and hectic.
Avenida 9 de Julio is one of the widest avenues in the world and its name honours Argentina's Independence Day.
Belgrano: type-lined residential streets with Tudor Architecture and numerous museums.
La Boca: the old port district still maintains its 19th century ambience.
Palermo: a trendy neighborhood filled with restaurants and shops.
Puerto Madero: these 1880-era dock lands are now the city's newest neighborhood.
Recoleta: the traditionally upscale district combines Parisian Architecture with trendy high-rises and a variety of cultural venues.
Retiro: Art Nouveau Cafés and Restaurants among Art Deco Office Architecture.
San Telmo: one of the oldest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, this area is characterized by well-preserved 19th century architecture.
- Cementerio de la Recoleta
Location: Junín 1760 - La Recoleta
Phone: 4803 1594
Open: Daily 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
The ominous gates, doric-columned portico and labyrinthine paths of the oldest cemetery in Buenos Aires (1822) may leave you with a sense of foreboding. The final resting place for the nation's most illustrious figures is a virtual city of the dead covering 13 1/2 acres that are rumored to be the most expensive real estate in town. The cemetery has more than 6.400 elaborate vaulted tombs and majestic mausoleums, 70 of which have been declared historic monuments.
The mausoleums resemble chapels, greek temples, pyramids and miniature mansions. The administrative offices at the entrance provide a free map and caretakers throughout the grounds can help you locate the more intriguing tombs.
- The embalmed remains of Eva Perón, who made it here after 17 years of posthumous wandering. The brutal caudillo (dictator) Facundo Quiroga, buried standing, a sign of valor; at his request. The prominent landowner Dorrego Ortíz Basualdo, in the most monumental sepulchre complete with chandelier.
- Avenida Corrientes
It is one of the most representative streets of Buenos Aires and one of the most beloved by the "porteños". Corrientes is the avenue of the bookstores, the cafes, the theatres and the pizzerias.
Corrientes runs 70 blocks long from Puerto Madero to Chacarita. Between 1910 and 1938 a great construction was built which expanded the street and turned it into an avenue. Its name, as the nearby avenues Córdoba and Santa Fe, are names of provinces from Argentina. It goes through downtown and the areas of Once, Abasto, Almagro and Villa Crespo, very typical places from Buenos Aires and with a strong relationship with the tango.
An association of friends of Corrientes installed in some of its corners tango scenes with sculpted figures, like the one at the corner with Drago Street.
Most traditional pizzerias are on Corrientes Avenue, especially in downtown: Guerrín, Los Inmortales, Banchero, Las Cuartetas and El Palacio de la Pizza, but also in Villa Crespo, Almagro and Chacarita.
Around the Obelisk between Callao Avenue and Esmeralda Street (in downtown), Avenida Corrientes has the biggest concentration of libraries and theatres from the entire city. Practically all the most important theatre halls from Buenos Aires are located in this stretch, such as the Maipo, the Gran Rex, the Ópera, the Avenida, the San Martín, the Astral, the Lola Membrives, the Multiteatro, the Metropolitan and the Alvear, among others.
The bookstores at Corrientes are usually opened until after midnight, especially on weekends, and the biggest ones have bars and show rooms. This stretch of the Avenue also concentrates many of the most famous bars and cafes from Buenos Aires, such as La Giralda, La Paz or El Vesuvio.
- Parque Los Bosques de Palermo
Location: Avenida del Libertador and Avenida Sarmiento
With more than 80 hectares, it is one of the biggest green areas in Buenos Aires. The "porteños" visit the park to have picnics or to practice sports.
The park was started to be built in 1874 by the initiative of President Domingo F. Sarmiento. The original design was in charge of architects Oldendorf, Mauduit and Wysocky. Belgian Architect Jules Dormal (one of the architects of Teatro Colón and Congreso) participated in the buildings too. Since 1892, Carlos Thays was in charge of the many changes and extensions. Thays was the main landscape gardener who worked in Argentina at the end of the 19th Century and at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The park has two artificial lakes which can be travelled by boat or by water-bicycles. The park has around 12.000 trees: many of them are yellow-flowered hardwood trees, eucalyptus, talas and ombúes.
Inside the park, at the Plaza Holanda, "El Rosedal" is located: a garden with more than 12.000 rosebushes.
Location: between Garibaldi, Araoz de Lamadrid, del Valle Iberlucea and Magallanes Streets
Neighborhood: La Boca
Covered with paintings and sculptures, Caminito Street is one of the favorite walks of tourists and "porteños". It is surrounded by typical houses from La Boca, with painted sheet walls of different colours.
Its winding route is because it follows the course of a stream that flowed until the beginning of the 20th Century. The area was traditionally known as "Puntin" (bridge's diminutive in Genovese Dialect).
In the 50's, a neighbor decided to clean and recover the land. He called for help painter from La Boca Benito Quinquela Martín, who named the 100 meters street as "Caminito", due to the famous tango from 1926 by Gabino Coria Peñalosa and Juan de Dios Filiberto (the tango lyrics refer to a road in La Rioja's Province). Other works by artists such as Luis Perlotti, Roberto Capurro, Juan Leone, Ricardo Sánchez and Julio Vergottini were added to the walk, until 1959 when Caminito was officially inaugurated as an opened sky museum.
In Caminito and its surrounding areas, street shows and craft works fair open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm.
Location: Plaza de la República in the crossroad of Corrientes and 9 de Julio Avenues
Architect: Alberto Prebisch
Height: 67,5 meters
The "Obelisco" reminds in each of its faces a historical "porteño" fact:
- The first foundation, in 1536.
- The second and definitive, in 1580.
- The first time the National Flag was raised in the city, in 1812 (in the church of San Nicolás, which was raised precisely where nowadays the "Obelisco" stands).
- The constitution of Buenos Aires as the Argentine Capital in 1880.
The building was in charge of Alberto Prebisch, one of the main architects from the Argentine Modernism and also author of the "Teatro Gran Rex", at Corrientes and Suipacha.
For the building of the Obelisco, white stone from the Province of Córdoba was used. Its only door leads, through a 206 steps and seven rests stair, to the four windows of the top.
The monument is one of the meeting points in the city for the political demonstrations and for the celebration of sports achievements.
- Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo
Stately trees shade outdoor tables in the city's second-oldest square. The surrounding architecture provides an overview of the many historical influences that have shaped the city's history. Highlights of Bohemian San Telmo include Sunday Strolls, Antiques Shopping at Feria de San Pedro and Surrounding Stores, and the Tango Halls that come to life nightly. Cobblestone streets teem with 19th-century buildings, once inhabited by affluent Spaniards. Thanks to preservation efforts, the area is now a cradle of history and culture, and all its landmarks have been declared national monuments.
It is the heart of the old Neighbourhood of San Telmo, at the south of the city. It is one of the few "porteño" squares completely asphalted.
In the colony times, the area was known as "Alto de las Carretas" because the carts pulled by oxen used it as a stop before crossing a stream to arrive to the city of Buenos Aires. Since 1822 there was a food market in this square and in 1990 it was named "Plaza Dorrego."
Around the square, many big houses from the 19th Century were recycled and changed into cafes, antique shops (especially on Defensa Street) or first-class restaurants.
The pubs from the area place their tables in the square and it is one of the places with more street artists in the city.
On Sundays there is a great antique and handicrafts fair at the Plaza Dorrego, which gathers more than 10.000 visitors and has 270 sale stands. At the fair you may find fonolas, used books, tango albums, out of stock collectible magazines, valuable antiques, époque clothes, cloths and embroidery. The stands of country items are very common at this fair. Tango classes in the centre of the square are also offered.
Looking to take something interesting home, Stock up on a few bottles for your dinners in Buenos Aires. Or even to take with you to the far flung trip extensions. Here is the definitive guide to shopping for wines in Buenos Aires.
LARGE WINE STORES
One of the better outlets in Buenos Aires. 11 Outlets in total. Good Service.
This is one of the most successful wine shop chains in Argentina. The Mendoza shop is our favorite. Tax free benefits here.
Not so good and very select choice which we do not think is exciting, staff often incompetent.
SOMETHING FOR THE SPECIALIST
Terroir Buschiazzo 3040, Palermo. Phone:11/4778-3443
A wine-lover's heaven is tucked away in a lovely Palermo town house. Alex has Amazing taste and selection. He is a gifted salesman and before you know it you will have 20 cases of Icon and specialist wines sent home probably to arrive before you. Tell him we sent you and the wine will flow. Lovely space to open something special up.
La Bodega del Pintor, Arte y Vino Carlos Calvo 420, Phone 11 4362-5186
It’s first and foremost a wine shop, but by combining wine, art, and design, the shop creates a stimulating link between taste and visual indulgences. Situated on a historic cobblestone street in San Telmo, La Bodega is an interesting place once you start to look around. The wall décor is a gallery of pastel works, offset by a hodgepodge of antique pieces that have been recycled in to funky ornamentation. Everything in the shop is for sale, with the idea that the space should be constantly changing. The shop also offers great gift ideas by pairing unique selections with distinctive food products packaged in wooden boxes, decorative bags or handy totes.
Lo de Joaquin Alberdi Borges 1772, Phone 11 4832-5329/4831-7720
Entering this cheery, yet intimate local in Palermo, is like being invited into someone’s home. Owner, Joaquin Alberdi, says his philosophy is all about attention to the customer. In fact, several bottles of wine are always open and laid out on tables in the middle of the shop, beckoning you to to sit down for a moment and enjoy a glass. Many of the clientele are tourists who are interested in travelling to Mendoza or other wine-producing regions, and Alberdi is more than happy to advise them on where to go and the logistics of visiting several wineries within a limited time frame. Special attention is paid to climate control, and the air inside the shop is kept cool in both summer and winter. Even the lighting has been especially designed so as not to release heat. One thing visitors can be sure of when they walk in to the shop is that they won’t be ignored. “It takes a lot of time to know wine,” says Alberdi. “So I take a lot of time with my customers.”
Autre Monde Borges 1985, Phone 11 34832-1402
If your interest lies in literature and Sparkling wines, this space in Palermo, is a place that will keep both your interests well catered for. Although they operate as two separate businesses, their products are so complementary that the atmosphere itself feels much like a married couple. Many of the books focus on wine and gastronomy, but there is a good selection of fiction and historical reads, as well as a substantial section of English language books. Owner, Victor Nastasi, specializes in sourcing boutique wines that fall outside of mainstream labels.
Cabildo: seat of government house during colonial times.
Caminito: renowned for Benito Quinquela Martín's pastel hues and wall reliefs.
Casa Rosada: the official seat of the executive branch of the Argentine Government.
Central Post Office: soon to be reopened as the Bicentennial Cultural Centre.
City Legislature: the monumental neoclassical building also houses two libraries and a museum.
Kavanagh Building: the Art Deco Residential Building was the first true skyscraper in Buenos Aires.
Metropolitan Cathedral: mother church of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.
National Congress: Argentine Parliament.
National Library: the largest library in Argentina and one of the most important in the Americas.
National Museum of History: original documents, former presidents' belongings and recreated historical rooms.
The Obelisk: one of the city's iconic landmarks and a venue for various cultural activities and other events.
Teatro Colón: an internationally-renowned opera house opened in 1908.
The Water Company Palace: perhaps the world's most ornate water pumping station.
This is Latin America and unless you have a great interest in arts and/or are attracted by some Latin American Artists and Traditions, then I would spend your time soaking up the city having a café in the wonderful boulevards.
Buenos Aires is a place to feel as opposed to see everything. These are the top choices.
- MALBA: Museo de Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires
Location: Figueroa Alcorta - La Recoleta
Phone: 4808 6500
MALBA is one of the cornerstones of the city's cultural life, with a memorable collection of 19th and 20th Century Latin American Art. It also houses the Restaurant Café de Artists, a great place to stop for lunch. SHUT ON TUESDAYS.
It is one of the most modern museums in Buenos Aires. It hosts the Constantini Collection: more than 200 pieces (paintings, sculptures, engravings, pictures and objects) by Latin American Artists from the 20th Century.
The complete collection of Eduardo Constantini was exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1995. Three years later, the business man called for international bidders to design a museum for the collection.
The building is covered with limestone and has great glass and steel surfaces.
Among many others, the museum hosts works by Frieda Kahlo, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Diego Rivera, Joaquín Torres-García, Antonio Berni, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Jorge de la Vega, Tarsila do Amaral, Pedro Figari, Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica, Liliana Porter, Guillermo Kuitca and José Bedia Valdés.
The museum has a cinema, a café, a gift store and a bookstore.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Location: Avenida del Libertador 1473 - La Recoleta
Phone: 4803 0802
Open: Tues-Fri 12:30 am - 7:30 pm and Weekends 9:30 am - 7:30 pm
The best museum in Buenos Aires. At the National Museum of Fine Arts some 11.000 works drawings and paintings to statues and tapestries are displayed in a huge golden colored stone building whose elegant columned front belies the fact that it used to be the city's waterworks. The ground floor European collection has 24 rooms of dimly lit galleries arranged chronologically. Information about the works is in Spanish only. It is also lengthy and overly academic, so if you don't speak Spanish you're not missing much. The wing at the left has medieval religious paintings and minor works by El Greco, Goya, Rubens, Tiepolo, Titian and Zurbarán. The circuit leads you back behind the entrance hall to some of the museum's many Rodin sculptures.
The right wing contains 19th and 20th century French art, including paintings by Manet, Degas, Monet, Pisarro, Gaugin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Look also for works by Klee, Kandinsky, Modigliani, Chagall and Picasso.
You're much better off heading straight to the first floor galleries, while you're still feeling fresh. Leave the European Collection for later if at all.
The Argentine Circuit starts in Room 102 with works from colonial times through the 19th Century. Overviews on the wall are clear and interesting but in Spanish only. Don't miss the María Luisa Bemberg Room, tucked away off to the right, with pieces by artists from the River Plate Area. Follow the galleries around to the right, where early 20th Century works include 1920s salon art and scenes of port life in La Boca. The huge final gallery down the ramp shows the involvement of Argentine Artists in European Avant-Garde Movements before adopting home grown ideas. Works here include geometric sculptures and the so-called informalismo (informalism) of the '60s, marked by its innovative use of collage. Psychedelic paintings, op art and kinetic works follow. The circuit finishes with contemporary Argentine Artists. Be sure to check out the corner covering 30 years of conceptual art.
Highlights of the Argentine Collection:
- Battle paintings by Cándido López, who learned to paint with his left hand after losing his right arm in the War of the Triple Alliance of the 1870s (his work spearheaded contemporary primitive painting).
- Landscapes by Eduardo Sívori.
- Turn-of-the-century gaucho portraits by Cesáreo Bernaldo de Quirós.
- The highly coloured depiction of port labourers in Elevadores a Pleno Sol by Benito Quinquela Martín, La Boca's unofficial painter laureate.
- Emilio Pettorutti's El Improvisador (1937), which combines Cubist Techniques with a Renaissance Sense of Space.
- Lino Enea Spilimbergo's Terracita (1932), an enigmatic urban landscape.
- The early figurative paintings and latter-day collages of Antonio Berni, enfant terrible turned grand old man of Argentine Painting.
- Autodidact and '60s cultural guru Jorge de la Vega's huge abstract canvases.
Check out the MP3 audio guides (15 pesos) in the gift shop at the bottom of the stairs. They make a big difference.
- Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo
Location: Avenida del Libertador 1902 - La Recoleta
Phone: 4801 8248
Open: Tues-Sun 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm (Free Guided Tours in English Sunday at 5:30 pm)
French neoclassic mansion that houses the National Museum of Decorative Art is as much a reason to visit as the period furnishings, porcelain and silver within it. Ornate wooden panelling in the Regency Ballroom, the imposing Louis XIV red-and-black marble dining room and a lofty Renaissance-style great hall are some of the highlights of the only house of its kind open to the public in Buenos Aires. There are excellent English descriptions of each room and they include gossipy details about the house's original inhabitants, the well-to-do Errazuriz Family.
The museum also contains some Chinese Art. Guided tours include the Zubov Collection of miniatures from Imperial Russia and one of the family bedrooms, otherwise off-limits to visitors.
- Museo Evita
Location: Lafinur 2988
Tel: 4807 0306
The exhibits here convey the extraordinary depth and pageantry (and the controversy) of the life of Eva Duarte de Perón, one of the most important figures in Argentine History.
Tax free shopping is available to Tourists. Please look for this sign. Only products that are made in Argentina attract this discount of 17.5%. You keep your receipts and at the Airport you receive your refund. You will find this sign in the Shop Fronts and they are required to give you the appropriate paper work.
Close to your hotel you have a great choice of shops perhaps all catering to the upper echelon of Tourists.
You will also find very exclusive shops, with the presence of big international designers such as Versace, Armani, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Prada, Cartier, Ralph Laurent and more. There are fine jewellery shops, antique dealers and home decor designers. Visit Galería Alvear, attached to the Alvear Palace Hotel, very trendy for small gifts and presents.
- Galerías Pacífico
Location: Florida and Córdoba Avenues
Architects: Francisco Seeber and Emilio Bunge
There are many malls in Buenos Aires catering for the higher end shopper and prices are obviously higher due to the rents, but they make for a relaxed shopping experience and the best one is Galerías Pacífico.
It is one of the most luxurious constructions in the city. It is located in the pedestrian street of Florida, one of the favorite walks of visitors. The building was constructed to host Au Bon Marché Argentina Stores, but due to financial problems the stores were never opened and many small shops were established.
On December 1896, the galleries turned into the first head office of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. In 1908, the Ferrocarril Buenos Aires al Pacífico obtained part of the land for its offices and it started to be called "Edificio Pacífico".
Architects Jorge Aslan and Héctor Ezcurra redesigned it in 1945. The commercial sector was separated from the office sector and it was crowned with a 450 square meters dome, covered with painted murals by some of the most prestigious artists from that moment: Spilimbergo, Berni, Castagnino, Colmeiro and Urruchúa. The twelve painted panels constitute one of the most important mural groups in Buenos Aires. The fresco by Antonio Berni (1905-1981) is one of the best renowned paintings.
- Calle Arenales
This famous street runs parallel to Avenida Santa Fe and in our mind represents one of the most upmarket streets in Buenos Aires for shopping, be that design, art or small boutique shops.
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
Tanninos Araoz 1235 Phone 011 47730228
Wine shop and next door they have a wonderful Deli with some hard to get cheeses too, great selection and knowledgeable staff. Little out of the way in Palermo close to Cordoba but worth it for prices and older vintages.
Le Choix des Vins Posadas 1166 Phone 11-4815-129
Situated right next to the Four Seasons. This is really one of the best, for wines you will not be able to get back home. This would be my choice.
Crand Cru Rodríguez Peña 1886. Phone 11 4816-3975
A formidable force in Argentine Wine export with their Brazilian operations being immensely powerful. If cost is of no relevance for and or you want a bottle of first growth Claret this is our only option in Buenos Aires. Well looked after wines.