Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, could be South America’s answer to Europe with its dated architecture, vibrant culture and blossoming population of almost three million people.
Buenos Aires, literally meaning ‘good airs’ in Spanish, mixes the best of the old and new world — as history is kept alive alongside a newer cosmopolitan diaspora. Located right at the mouth of Rio de la Plata, the city is soaked in beautiful graffiti and equally stunning porteños (Buenos Aires locals) which make it one of the most aesthetic spots in the world.
In San Telmo lies a part of your soul that prefers times past. Though the area has many museums and vintage shops, the market on Sundays is what you should really go for. Through the stalls in the square you find antique earrings, lockets, glasses, pocket mirrors and other trinkets to your hearts content. Books, used postcards and old journals of natives and travelers alike fill some stalls. Instead of wondering why you would buy used books you buy them to roll over the pages and feel what it was like to live in Buenos Aires 50 years ago.
Also on Sundays, outdoor tango takes place in the center of the square after the stalls start to close. Old gentlemen who you can only assume have tangoed their entire lives invite tourists to join in for free on-the-spot lessons. It is definitely a place for you to lose your inhibition.
Plaza de Mayo
Plaza de Mayo is a center of political life in Buenos Aires and subsequently the most famous plaza in the city. The famous Casa Rosada – the presidential palace and government house – is also located at this square, and has a museum during the daytime open to all. Other famous buildings close by include the national bank of Argentina, the metropolitan cathedral, the city hall as well the Secretariat of Intelligence – the Argentine intelligence agency.
In the 1970’s during a right-wing military regime, hundreds of men and women went missing across Argentina, all without a name or face. The ‘Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo’ is a famous movement of mothers whose children disappeared during the military era. Although their campaigning officially ended in 2006, some members still hold weekly marches on Thursday and important public holidays to remind people of the struggle against the regime. A white scarf is etched into the ground in the center of the plaza to commemorate them.
Around the plaza are plenty of age-old cafés that transport you back to the old times. Café Tortoni is one of the most famous cafés for its long history of famous diners and beautiful interior, but you could end up waiting an hour outside during busy times.
The area of Recoleta itself is a posh neighbourhood of Buenos Aires but it is mostly famous for its cemetery. This isn’t any ordinary cemetery though – the graves can be as high as two stories up. Known as the graveyard for the rich and famous, it is often referred to as the cemetery city as the lanes and rows of the rather large cemetery make you feel as if you are walking through a miniature city – of the dead.
Outside the cemetery however, a market arrives every weekend with stalls from local artisan. Not antiques, but new clothes, jewellery and paintings that you can haggle down to the lowest prices – just a note, Argentinians don’t haggle that much. Street music, acting and dance performances also fill the air. Sit outside with your maté – Argentinian tea that is sipped through a straw out of a full cup of leaves – to get the full Buenos Aires experience.
La Boca – ‘the mouth’ is famous for its colourful street and restaurants with more Tango dancing. Originally known as the areas where immigrants would arrive and settle as it was a small port, La Boca is not one of Buenos Aires’ top tourist sites as restaurants, shops and small museums fill the colourful streets. Street tango and on-the-spot painting also adds to the vibrant, bustling atmosphere. The colourful street known as the caminito is famous for its buildings bursting with all colours.
On one side of La Boca you see a hardened, shipping dock which highly contrasts the caminito. The dark side of La Boca is that among the colour, wall murals and graffiti, it is known for being one of the most unsafe areas of Buenos Aires because of petty crime. You infrequently see police, but it is not a place to go wandering outside the touristy areas also.
Another side of La Boca is football crazy. The neighbourhood is home to the Boca Juniors – a club where many players from the national Argentinian team come from. Much of the graffiti in the walls is football-related, remembering the greats who have passed through the club. Most famously, a Maradona look-alike will pose with you in pictures for a mere 20 pesos.
More must-do activities for the soul:
|Milonga – a milonga is a night of dinner and tango lessons. First you will wine and dine with some local Argentinian food –prepare yourself for a lot of red meat and potatoes. By the end of your meal, you take the stage (or a rather large dance hall) where you and your partner follow the leaders steps. You might also get a certificate by the end of it! They run frequently in various locations. More information about shows and timings is available at http://www.buenosairesmilongas.com/|
|La Bomba de Tiempo – on Monday night at Konex, this is one of Buenos Aires’ biggest weekly nights called The Time Bomb. The music for the entire night is a 20-piece drum band laying rhythmic beats into the crowd. Find out more at http://www.labombadetiempo.com/|
|Palermo – an artsy, hip and upcoming neighbourhood in Buenos Aires where you will find loads of restaurants and clubs. Be sure to dine at a parrilla, an Argentinian steakhouse which you will find on almost every corner.|
|Ecological Reserve – the reserve offers what most great cities in the world have – a leafy break from the cityscape. The reserve is located just by the river and has beautiful walking and cycling trails leading to the river along with tall trees and dozens of species of birds. Entry is free.|
|Teatro Colón – the Colón theatre is the most famous and extravagant and beautiful architecture. Shows are seasonal and not to cheap, check for the latest days and times online at http://www.teatrocolon.org.ar|
Edited & published article (with more pictures): http://tribune.com.pk/story/659068/travel-the-city-of-good-airs/