Visiting Buenos Aires - Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel

Visiting Buenos Aires – A Photo Journey Through Argentina’s Capital City

There is so much to see in Buenos Aires that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Visiting Buenos Aires must be done slowly. It must be savored, neighborhood by neighborhood. I could write an epistle about everything I did in this most European of South American cities but sometimes, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Thus, this story is (mostly) a photo travelogue of the week I spent in this fascinating Argentinian capital.

Ornate mansions like this one can be seen throughout the city

Ornate mansions like this one can be seen throughout the city, but a preponderance of them are found in the historic Recoleta neighborhood

Begin in the Recoleta Neighborhood

I decided to stay in Recoleta, one of the most important neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. From its central location in the downtown residential area, I was able to walk to many of the neighborhoods I wanted to visit. Recoleta also offers “eye candy” for architecture aficionados. Not only is it home to some of the most stunning examples of Beaux-Arts mansions, it’s also the location of the famous Recoleta Cemetery, where the wealthy of Buenos Aires are entombed. Presidents of Argentina, politicians, generals, statesmen, diplomats, writers and journalists are among the many famous people who have been interred here, but perhaps none more famous than Eva Perón, the first lady of Argentina. The tombs are elaborately decorated with statues in styles ranging from Art Deco to Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic.

Recoleta Cemetery, in the center of one of the nicest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery, in the center of one of the nicest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery is a must see in Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery is a must see in Buenos Aires

Stunning tombs at Recoleta Cemetery

Stunning tombs at Recoleta Cemetery

Plaque on the tomb of Eva Peron in Recoleta Cemetery

Plaque on the tomb of Eva Peron in Recoleta Cemetery

The city’s second oldest church, Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, is located adjacent to Recoleta Cemetery. It also marks the location of the popular weekend craft market at Plaza Intendente Alvear (often mistakenly called the craft market at Plaza Francia, which is an adjacent park). The market is a popular destination for musicians who perform for free, and for families, who show up in their Sunday best to peruse the crafts and enjoy a meal in an alfresco cafe.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, located adjacent to Recoleta Cemetery, is the second-oldest church in Buenos Aires

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, located adjacent to Recoleta Cemetery, is the second-oldest church in Buenos Aires

Weekend craft market in Plaza Intendente Alvear

Weekend craft market in Plaza Intendente Alvear

Guitarist performs at Plaza Intendente Alvear, in the heart of the Recoleta neighborhood

Guitarist performs at Plaza Intendente Alvear, in the heart of the Recoleta neighborhood

The entire Recoleta neighborhood is surround by enormous parks, all of which are worth a visit. Plaza de las Naciones Unidas (United Nations Plaza) features an enormous steel and aluminum sculpture of a generic blossom that represents all the flowers in the world. The petals move, closing up at night and reopening in the morning when it is struck by the sun’s first rays. Not only is Bartolomo Mitre Plaza a popular place to picnic and soak up the sun, it is a favorite with skateboarders. They launch from the top of the hill and race down the semi-circular Republica del Libano Avenue.

Floralis Generica sculpture in United Nations Plaza begins as a closed bud...

Floralis Generica sculpture in United Nations Plaza begins as a closed bud…

...and gradually blooms each morning as the sun strikes it

…and gradually blooms each morning as the sun strikes it

Bartolomo Mitre Monument crowns Plaza Mitre, a popular place to picnic and lie in the sun

Bartolomo Mitre Monument crowns Plaza Mitre, a popular place to picnic and lie in the sun

Skateboarders take advantage of the downward slope of Republica del Libano Avenue in Plaza Mitre

Skateboarders take advantage of the downward slope of Republica del Libano Avenue in Plaza Mitre

In the midst of all these attractions are two museums that are worth a visit. Kids will love the Participatory Science Museum, where it is forbidden NOT to touch the displays. Adults will appreciate the Museum of Fine Arts, a converted drainage pumping station that holds one of the largest public art collections in all of Latin America.

The Museum of Fine Arts is also a must see in Buenos Aires

The Museum of Fine Arts is also a must see in Buenos Aires

Participatory Science Museum in Buenos Aires, where it is forbidden NOT to touch the displays

Participatory Science Museum in Buenos Aires, where it is forbidden NOT to touch the displays

Palermo and Palermo Soho Neighborhoods

The Palermo and Palermo Soho neighborhoods are just north of and within walking distance of Recoleta. The Palermo district, aside from being the preferred abode of the wealthy class, is best known for its parks. Notable among them are the Japanese Gardens and the Bosques de Palermo, a vast park that features four lakes and a large rose garden. Between them stands the magnificent Monument to the Carta Magna and Four Regions of Argentina. A bit further west is the 17-acre Carlos Thays Botanical Garden. In addition to sculptures, monuments, ponds, and five greenhouses, it features an indigenous Argentinean garden, as well as gardens designed in Oriental, Roman, and French landscaping styles.

Plaza Italia, which stands at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, delineates the border between the ritzy Palermo district and the trendy neighborhood that locals call Palermo Soho. Formerly a downtrodden area of the city, it is rapidly becoming gentrified. Artists, designers, and musicians moved in and infused the area with new life. Cafes, and bars soon followed. Today, a smattering of sex toy shops mingle with trendy designer shops. And art is plastered on every facade.

The Monument to the Carta Magna and Four Regions of Argentina in the ritzy Palermo neighborhood

The Monument to the Carta Magna and Four Regions of Argentina in the ritzy Palermo neighborhood

Plaza Italia marks the border between the ritzy neighborhood of Palermo and the newly trendy neighborhood of Palermo Soho

Plaza Italia marks the border between the ritzy neighborhood of Palermo and the newly trendy neighborhood of Palermo Soho

A mural commemorating a loved one who passed in the Palermo Soho neighborhood

A mural commemorating a loved one who passed in the Palermo Soho neighborhood

Artwork is plastered on everything in the neighborhood of Palermo Soho

Artwork is plastered on everything in the neighborhood of Palermo Soho

San Martín Neighborhood

To the southeast and also within walking distance of Recoleta is General San Martín Plaza. Old-growth trees create a shady canopy over this large, peaceful park, and the elevated hill upon which it sits offers a great view of The Monumental Clock Tower. It was formerly known as the English Clock Tower because it was a gift from the local British community to the city in commemoration of the centennial of the May Revolution of 1810. Be sure to leave a little time to wander around the San Martín neighborhood, with its shop lined pedestrian walking streets and gorgeous mansions.

Walkways are shaded by a canopy of trees at Plaza San Martin

Broad walkways are shaded by a canopy of old-growth trees at Plaza San Martin

Torre Monumental (the Monumental Clock Tower) was formerly known as the English Clock Tower

Torre Monumental (the Monumental Clock Tower) was formerly known as the English Clock Tower

Art in the Subte (Metro) Stations

The Buenos Aires attractions that are detailed below were further away from Recoleta, which meant I needed to use the Subte (Metro) rather than walking. Imagine my surprise when I discovered gorgeous artwork in the underground. Though I only saw a couple of different stations, I’ve since learned that many Subte stations feature such artwork.

The flourishing art scene in Buenos Aires includes the undergroud stations of the "Subte" - the Metro

The flourishing art scene in Buenos Aires includes the underground stations of the “Subte” – the Metro

Avenida 9 de Julio (9th of July Avenue) and Plaza de Mayo

Every list of things to see in Buenos Aires should include a walk down the broad, tree-lined Avenida 9 de Julio. This 1.9 mile long thoroughfare honors Argentina’s Independence Day, July 9, 1816. Begin at El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore, located slightly to the west of Avenida 9 de Julio. Originally an historic theater that was home to famous Tango artists, it was converted in 2000 to what National Geographic calls the most beautiful bookstore in the world. Continue on to Avenida 9 de Julio to check out the historic Teatro Colón, which hosts operas, classical music concerts, and ballet. Once at Teatro Colón, you can’t miss the Obelisk, which rises 221 feet high in the center of Plaza de la República. Finally, at the Obelisk, turn onto Avenida Diagonal Norte. If you’re hungry by now, you’re in luck! The famous Cafe Tortoni is just a couple of blocks off Diagonal. With a full tummy, you can easily continue on to Plaza de Mayo. This square is home to Casa Rosada, the pink mansion that serves as the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

The Obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires

The Obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires

Casa Rosada (Pink House) is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina

Casa Rosada (Pink House) is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina

The New Puerto Madero Neighborhood

Behind Plaza de Mayo and the Presidential Palace is the newly developed neighborhood of Puerto Madero. Two historic ships, the Frigate Presidente Saramiento and the Sloop Uruguay are moored in the river. Both offer tours for a small admission fee. Walk across the sleek Puente de la Mujer (Woman’s Bridge) and rest a while at the edge of the lagoons that sit between the coast and the La Plata River. Birders will especially appreciate this area. There’s good reason that two of the three lagoons in this area are named after birds.

If you’re ready for a late afternoon cool beverage by this point, once again you’re in luck. The historic Bar at the Hotel Faena is just a block away. Constructed in 1911 with red bricks shipped from Manchester, England, the building was originally one of the largest wheat mills in the country. With the closure of the nearby port in 1998, the mill was abandoned. Developers repurposed it into the five-star Hotel Faena, rescuing the historic structure from certain demolition. I spent an absolutely delightful two hours at the Library Lounge, surrounded by red velvet draperies and crystal chandeliers, comfortably sunk down in a tufted leather sofa, while servers doted on me.

Sloop Uruguay at Puerto Madero

Sloop Uruguay at Puerto Madero

Frigate Presidente Saramiento at Puerto Madero

Frigate Presidente Saramiento at Puerto Madero

Puente de la Mujer (Women's Bridge) in the Puerto Madero neighborhood in Buenos Aires

Puente de la Mujer (Woman’s Bridge) in the Puerto Madero neighborhood in Buenos Aires

Promenade alongside Laguna de los Coipos in the Puerto Madero neighborhood in Buenos Aires

Promenade alongside Laguna de los Coipos in the Puerto Madero neighborhood in Buenos Aires

Historic Faena Hotel Bar in the Puerto Madero neighborhood

Historic Faena Hotel Bar in the Puerto Madero neighborhood

La Boca Neighborhood

Finally, visiting Buenos Aires would not be complete without seeing the La Boca neighborhood. Located directly south of Puerto Madero, La Boca was built by Italian immigrants, many of whom emigrated from Genoa. Residents of La Boca always been known for their independent spirit. In 1882, they raised the Genoese flag and seceded from Argentina. Then President Julio Argentino Roca personally tore it down. Still today, the community often mounts protests against the government. Houses and shops in the barrio also reflect individuality. They are painted in bright colors and Tango artists perform in the pedestrianized streets for tips. Tango is an important influence here and La Boca is one of the best places in the city to attend a Tango show. But be aware that this is a poor neighborhood. Those who drink to excess or wander outside the main streets after dark risk becoming victims of petty crime.

Colorful La Boca neighborhood must be included on any list of things to do in Buenos Aires

Colorful La Boca neighborhood must be included on any list of things to do in Buenos Aires

One of the top things to do in Buenos Aires is visit the La Boca neighborhood

One of the top things to do in Buenos Aires is visit the La Boca neighborhood

The La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires is one of the best places to attend a Tango performance

The La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires is one of the best places to attend a Tango performance

La Boca neighborhood is among the top Buenos Aires attractions

La Boca neighborhood is among the top Buenos Aires attractions

More colorful buildings in the La Boca neighborhood

More colorful buildings in the La Boca neighborhood reflect the independent nature of its residents

Friendly People in Every Neighborhood…

I’ve focused on the attractions, but there is one more thing that makes Buenos Aires one of the best large cities I’ve ever visited. In every neighborhood, wherever I went, the Argentinian people were incredibly friendly. The photo below says it all. These women and their dog were delighted to pose for a photo, and it was the same wherever I went.

One of the pleasures of visiting Buenos are the friendly residents, like these two women in a park, who happily posed for me with their stately pooch

One of the pleasures of visiting Buenos are the friendly residents, like these two women in a park, who happily posed for me with their stately pooch

And, I’ve only Scratched the Surface…

Buenos Aires may be the best known destination in Argentina, but it’s hardly the only one worth visiting. I’ve only scratched the surface with my roundup of what to do in Buenos Aires, so for anyone considering an extended visit tI highly recommend reading this Argentina Travel Guide, which is crammed full of all the information you will need to make the most of your Argentine holiday.

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Visiting Buenos Aires - A Photo Journey Through Argentina\'s Capital CityVisiting Buenos Aires - A Photo Journey Through Argentina\'s Capital CityVisiting Buenos Aires - A Photo Journey Through Argentina\'s Capital City

10 Comments on “Visiting Buenos Aires – A Photo Journey Through Argentina’s Capital City

  1. Wow, Its amazing article you shared with beautiful photography and I loved viewing your beautiful photo of destinations, will surely visit after the pandemic situation. Thank you for such useful informative post keep it up.

  2. I loved reading and viewing your beautiful photo-log of Buenos Aires, Barbara. The architecture looks amazing. I know I could spend hours in that incredible book store, and probably not read anything, but soak up the beauty and immenseness of my surroundings! A definite must-visit future travel location!

  3. Where are you now? You mentioned your last residence in a posting some time ago, but I don’t recall. Not fun or safe to travel now with a virus affecting the whole world plus all the restrictions, is it?

    • Hello Nancy. I live in Thailand and have been home since the virus reared it’s ugly head. Initially, I suspended publishing of travel content, as I felt it was not what people wanted to read. However, so many of my readers have asked me to continue that I ultimately decided to do so. Because we are all trapped at the moment, I am striving to be inspiration for all my armchair travelers right now.

      I find it impossible to produce good quality content while I travel, so I am always weeks (sometimes months) behind, with a backlog of stories to write. What you are reading now are articles about places I visited from mid-2019 through January of 2020. Next up are stories about the Caucusus region (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). Once they are finished, I will be writing about domestic travel in Thailand until we can all travel again. We are very fortunate to have eliminated COVID-19 in Thailand, so domestic travel is quite safe here.

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