Buenos Aires from a Local's Point of View-Downtown
February 15, 2019
by Santiago Comes
Buenos Aires is Argentina’s huge cosmopolitan capital city. Holding more than 15 million people, this city has varieties of cultures, people, traditions, and more. There is more than one reason why Buenos Aires is also known as the “Paris of South America”, for example, the European architecture that stands on every corner of the city. The moment you get off the plane you will immediately breathe in the traditions, the passion, the culture, and the astonishing urban buzz that Buenos Aires emanates. It has times, places, and activities for everyone. It is a vibrant city that never sleeps, and even if you are the laziest couch potato in humankind, you will not want to leave until you see it all; and to see it all, you won’t have time to sleep.
Plaza de Mayo and Congress Square
Plaza de Mayo is the most important square in the city. Tons of historical events took place here, and it is a very frequent meeting point for locals. It is surrounded by the Pink House, the Cathedral (a wonderful church) and the Cabildo, a historical building. A total of 11 streets emerge from the enormous square, 2 being the biggest avenues, that lead to the Congress square and the Plaza de la Republica
The Pink House
The pink house is where the executive power works. Unlike in America, the presidents only work here and live in another residence. It is said that its pink colour is that way because it was painted with a mixture of ox blood and lime. It is an architectural gem due to its mix of Italianate-Ecclesiastic-Neoclassical styles of architecture. The guided tours are a must since the history and beauty of this place is simply stunning. You can check all the information here.
Avenida de Mayo
Buenos Aires is a city In which you will frequently forget you are still in South America, and not wandering in the streets of Europe. Avenida de Mayo is a clear example that shows how much Buenos Aires looks like the old continent. You will find many attractions in this avenue, from typical coffee houses to Mazon architecture. Avenida de Mayo connects the Plaza de Mayo and the Congress square. The legislative power and the executive power buildings face each other. The Congress building is probably one of the most beautiful buildings in Buenos Aires, and visits are totally free! You can find all the information on the Government website.
This historic Café was founded by a French immigrant in 1858. It was inspired by various coffeehouses in Paris, and it was selected by UCityGuides as one of the 10 most beautiful cafes in the world. It was and is a frequent meeting point for various national and international artists, celebrities, politicians and scientists. Some of these characters include Jorge Luis Borges, Albert Einstein, Juan Carlos de Borbon, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Duvall.
Mario Palanti was commissioned to design a palace in accordance with the cosmology of Dante’s Divine Comedy. There are 22 floors, divided into three sections. The basement and ground floor represent hell, floors 1-14 are the purgatory, and 15-22 represent heaven. The building is 100 meters tall, one meter for each canto of the Divine Comedy. A lighted beacon at the top represents nine choirs of angels, and it is topped by a spire with an ornament depicting the southern cross constellation. Mazon and Illuminati symbols were designed on the floor and walls. The palace was originally built by Luis Barolo, an Italian immigrant who believed that “Europe was drifting towards collapse”. For this reason, He commanded Mario Palatini to build a palace where Dante’s ashes would remain, far away from Europe. The lobby receives you with Latin inscriptions, monstrous statues, and nine vaulted archways, representing the nine circles of hell. The guided tours are impressive. You can book them here.
Of the 48 ‘barrios’ of Buenos Aires, Recoleta is the most visited one, and in my opinion, the most alluring one. Its streets plagued with European architecture give Buenos Aires the title of “Paris of South America”. It is a neighbourhood with an identity of its own; incomparable to any other neighbourhood. There are touristic attractions everywhere, and no corner of Recoleta looks like less than a 9.
Plaza Francia or the ‘French square’ is one of the most dazzling squares in the city. Gigantic trees have stood on this square for decades, making it a stunning photography location. It is a perfect place to enjoy some mates and biscochitos like a true Argentinian. The square is flooded with local artisans that sell handcrafts you can buy as a souvenir for the family. The plaza is surrounded by many attractions. For example, the Iglesia del Pilar (a nice church) or the Centro Cultural Recoleta, which is a cultural centre that has fun activities for all ages all year long. If you’ve been walking too much you can stop for a break at La Panera Rosa. In the unlikely situation of a rainy day, you can spend some time at the Museo Bellas Artes, an Arts museum across the street where famous artists’ masterpieces are exhibited.
Cementerio de la Recoleta
You have probably never thought of visiting a cemetery while travelling. Surprisingly, in Buenos Aires, tons of tourists choose this location. This cemetery has all kinds of politicians, artists and celebrities buried in it, including various presidents of Argentina, Eva Perón, the granddaughter of Napoleon. There are a lot of urban legends about this place; from assassins to ghosts. So, if crime and mystery are your things, you must go. And even if you are not that much into it, this labyrinth city of the dead is 100% worth the visit.
The Colón theatre was named after Christopher Columbus; in Spanish, Cristóbal Colón. Its inauguration date -October 12th 1892- was the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. It was inaugurated with Guiseppe Verdi’s ‘Aida’. Nowadays, Teatro Colón regarded as one of the finest theatres in the world, renowned for its exceptional acoustics, architectural features, and the artistic value of its construction. It is ranked among theatres such as Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, the Paris Opera House, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Guided tours are strongly recommended to learn more about the history and mystery this theatre holds. The webpage of Teatro Colon contains more information about the theatre itself and the guided tours. The government of the city also provides tours to the theatre.
Ateneo Grand Splendid
Ranked as the best bookstore in the world by multiple sources such as National Geographic, The Guardian and Huffington Post, the Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires shows off all its unique character in the shape of a theatre. It was inaugurated as a theatre in 1919, and in the year 2000, it was turned into a magnificent bookstore containing more than 120.000 books, divided into 3 floors and a basement. The place has a bar in the stage of the theatre, in which you can grab a coffee while you read. Browsing books here is a real pleasure, given the fact that there are comfy chairs all around the shop. The bookstore preserves the splendour and elegance of the former Gran Splendid theatre/cinema, which was designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol. It is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 am to 10 pm; Fridays and Saturdays from 9 am till midnight, and Sundays from 12 noon till 10 pm.