South America’s second largest city wouldn’t be out of place somewhere in Europe. It’s an arty, funky, energetic place well worth a few days to explore.
– There isn’t an obvious centre. Buenos Aires is a collection of quite varied barrios, from the buzzing markets of San Telmo to the stately buildings of Monserrat, the revitalised glamour of Puerto Madero to the refined parks of Palermo.
– It’s a big place. The centre where you’ll spend your time is just a fraction of an expansive city of fifteen and a half million people, but still takes a good hour to cross by foot from Recoleta to San Telmo. It’s completely flat though and surprisingly walkable despite the four and six lane roads to cross.
– It felt safer than expected. The obvious rules apply, particularly in the crowded markets of San Telmo or tourist hubs of Plaza de Mayo, but generally it felt perfectly safe to wander the city at most times of day or night.
– It is easy to get lost. Being a flat city with no notable landmarks on the horizon provides little to get your bearings from, but it is on a grid system so as long as you have a map you’ll be fine.
– There’s some crazy driving. Heading into town from the airport was an experience, with the taxi driver clearly not aware of the two second rule, and road lanes were closer to optional guidance. While on a highway the front right wheel of an old truck two cars ahead literally fell off the vehicle, thankfully not causing an accident. Generally though the cars were pretty modern, lots of distinctive yellow and black Fiat taxis about.
Floralis Generica, a huge metal flower that opens and closes with daylight, was an unexpected delight.
As was watching a music video being filmed in front of it. Two and half hours later they were still going on the steps of the neighbouring Law School.
San Telmo is one of the oldest parts of town, and home to some beautiful galleria, filled with antiques shops.
Given Argentina’s economic performance over the past hundred years it was somewhat ironic that the Economics Ministry building had golden doors.
Some of the more unusual statues to be found in the city…
There’s a huge range of architectural styles represented in Buenos Aires, making it an exciting place to wander around and take in the sights. Modernism is well represented by the Planetario Galileo Galilei and Biblioteca Nacional (oddly fronted by a statue of Pope John Paul II).
The Puente de la Mujer bridge is a striking slice of white cutting across the water of the former docks, buzzing at night.
Historical Buenos Aires is well represented by the famous Casa Rosada (the colour of blood and clay apparently), the impressive Parliament building, the grand Teatro Opera and nearby Teatro Colon, and the epic Facultad de Derecho (Law Faculty).
There are also plenty of shiny new glass buildings, if nothing particularly memorable, the majority of which are residential apartments rather than offices.
Buenos Aires has some excellent art galleries. Museo Nacional de Ballas Artes has the most extensive collection, of both local and international artists, including a good selection of Impressionists and Abstract Expressionists.
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires had an eclectic and entertaining art installation (replica of a 1965 event) which made you feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole…
Coleccion de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat didn’t allow photographs inside, but was testament to an impressive private art collection.
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) wasn’t huge but had a good representation of local artists, and I loved the giant egg.
Seen too many in my time but Cathedral Metropolitana and Basilica Nuestra Señora de Pilar were worth quick visits.
There is a surprising amount of green space, with lots of squares and parks scattered around the city. The biggest area is Parque 3 de Febrero, with the adjoining Jardin Japones and Jardin Botancio. Neither were particularly stunning but made for a pleasant stroll.
Costanera Sur was a failed land reclamation project, left to revert to a huge and welcome slice of nature.
Had been looking forward to visiting Museo Etnografico Juan Bautista Ambrosetti and Museo Historico Nacional, but both were shut, due respectively to renovation work, and a lack of water and power (and still had no power three weeks later!).
Museo del Bicentenario was worth a quick visit though knowing Spanish would help. The National Museum of Decorative Arts was a grand former private house, demonstrating how Argentina was one of the most unequal societies in the world.
Argentinians do love a good monument and there are plenty scattered around the city. Among the more notable are the Obelisco, Torre Monumental, Pirámide de Mayo, Monumento a La Carta Magna y las Cuatro Regiones Argentinas, and Juan Domingo Perón.
La Recoleta Cemetery is an epic monument to the dead, a true necropolis, particularly when seen from above. Full of impressive if generally very poorly maintained tombs, with a disturbing number of broken windows and evidence of fires.
By the water
Buenos Aires is on the vast Plate River though the domestic airport and Costanera Sur block easy access to it. Instead the closest bodies of water are the four huge Diques (docks) which stretch for over 3km. They’ve have been converted into bars, apartments and university buildings, and are home to the vintage ships Sarmiento and Uruguay, both built in Britain when relations were somewhat different.